“One morning, I met a young guide called Siham at a tea shop deep in the heart of the vast Medina of Fez. She played here as a child and knew the little alleys inside out, so she was the perfect guide. As we sipped sweet mint tea, Siham told me about her all-time favourite Moroccan dish: pastilla. It’s a savoury pie, reserved solely for celebrations, such as weddings or family get-togethers, made with sheets of warka pastry and filled with shredded cooked pigeon and spices. However, I’m using filo and chicken in this recipe, but by all means use warka if you can find it. This is one of those dishes that looks as though you spent days making it, but it’s not difficult and the flavours are well worth the effort.” Ainsley Harriott, Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 kg onions, thinly sliced
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2-3 tsp honey
- 4 large eggs
- 100 g toasted blanched almonds, chopped
- 100 g medjool dates, pitted and chopped
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra, to decorate
- 1 tsp icing sugar, sifted, plus extra, for dusting
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 6 sheets filo warka or filo pastry (see note), thawed if frozen
- 1 chicken, cut into 6 portions
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 3 cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced
- good pinch of saffron threads
- 2 bay leaves
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
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.
• Warka pastry is also sold as ‘brik’ pastry and is available from Middle Eastern delicatessens or specialist food stores.
Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food starts Thursday 6 August 2015 at 8.30pm on SBS and finishes 1 October 2015. Visit the Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food program page to catch-up on episodes online, scroll through recipes and read our interview with Ainsley.