Preparation time: 30-40 minutes
Cooking time: About 30 minutes
The pride of Moroccan cuisine, pastilla is a sweet and savory flaky pastry filled with a subtle mixture of onion, pigeon (or chicken), hard-boiled eggs and almonds, and spiced with cinnamon.
There are a number of modern variations containing fish, seafood or offal, but this is the classic version. It is a festive dish that is served at the beginning of special meals.
The Art of Entertaining
Place the pastilla on a large platter with icing sugar and cinnamon served in small saucers.
Making the filling
- Place the pigeons into a large pot with the parsley, onion, butter, salt, pepper, saffron, cinnamon and a little sugar. Cook covered over low heat, adding a little water if necessary.
- Remove the pigeons when they are cooked and reduce the sauce, stirring constantly, until the liquid has almost evaporated.
- Bone the pigeons and place the meat in a bowl; combine the almonds and the remaining sugar in another bowl.
- Cut the hardboiled eggs into small pieces and place in a third bowl.
Assembling the pastilla
- Butter the pastilla mold (a large pie plate) and lay a first layer of pastry sheets in the mold (smooth side down), overlapping them and letting them hang over the edge of the plate by one-third. Place a few sheets in the centre for reinforcement.
- Spread a layer of sauce over the pastry, followed by a layer of pigeon meat. Sprinkle with the almond-sugar mixture and pieces of egg. Cover with more pastry sheets.
- Repeat the process until you have used all the filling. Fold the overhanging edges of the pastry back over the filling, brush them with beaten egg and cover with another layer of pastry sheets (smooth side up), overlapping them and letting them hang over the edge of the mold.
- Tuck the overhanging edges underneath (like making a bed). Brush with soft butter and glaze with egg wash. Bake in a moderate oven for 20 minutes.
- Turn the pastilla gently out onto a platter and slide it back into the mold after adding a few small pieces of butter to the mold. Return it to the oven to brown for a few more minutes.
- Gently slide the pastilla onto a serving platter; decorate with a lattice pattern of icing sugar and cinnamon.
Illustration: Painting by Jean-Baptiste Oudry, 1686-1755
Hints & Tips