Moroccan Chicken Pie

A traditional Moroccan chicken pie that is loaded with flavour and appears to be very labour intensive, but it’s not all that bad.

Moroccan Chicken Pastilla pie in a dish original

This savoury pie is a traditional Moroccan dish that is reserved mostly for celebrations and family gatherings. We are using chicken in this recipe, although in Morocco you might find that pigeon is used!

Serves: 4–6

Time: 2 1/2 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1kg onions, thinly sliced
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2–3 teaspoons honey
  • 4large eggs
  • 100g toasted blanched almonds, chopped
  • 100g dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra, to decorate
  • 1 teaspoon icing sugar, sifted, plus extra, for dusting
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 6 sheets filo pastry, thawed if frozen


Poached chicken

  • 1 chicken, cut into 6 portions
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 3cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced
  • good pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 bay leaves


Method

To poach the chicken, place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and add enough water to just cover. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and almost falling off the bone. Remove the chicken from the stock and leave to cool. Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a clean pan and simmer until reduced to about 100 ml. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool, then refrigerate until cold. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones and shred the meat with your fingers.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes or until just softened. Reduce the heat to low, season to taste and cook, stirring regularly, for 1 hour or until caramelised. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey, then set aside to cool completely.

Place the eggs in a small saucepan of boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes or until hard-boiled. Drain, then cool under cold running water. Peel and finely chop. Place the egg in a large bowl with the shredded chicken meat and 2-3 spoonfuls of the reduced stock or enough to moisten. Season to taste.

Preheat the oven to 180?C. Combine the almonds, dates, cinnamon and icing sugar in a small bowl.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then pour into a bowl, leaving any sediment behind.

To assemble the pastilla, place 3 overlapping sheets of pastry in a 23 cm ovenproof frying pan, leaving the sides overhanging, brushing with the melted butter as you go. Spoon the almond mixture over the base, then add the chicken and egg mixture and press firmly. Spread the caramelised onions over the top, then cover with the rest of the pastry sheets, again brushing with the melted butter as you go. Tuck under any excess pastry so that the top looks like a nice neat parcel. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 5 minutes, then dust with extra icing sugar and decorate with a little cinnamon if desired.

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