Chicken Pastilla

For a meal to remember try Antony Worrall Thompson's recipe for a splendid, spiced, savoury-sweet Moroccan chicken pie
Chicken Pastilla
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 12
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes plus 1 hr marinating
  • Effort: medium



  • 1.3 kg chicken thighs, boned
  • 5 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • salt
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 Spanish onion, grated
  • pinch of saffron, pounded in a mortar and pestle
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 115 g unsalted butter
  • 900 ml water
  • 350 g toasted flaked almonds
  • 115 g icing sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
  • large bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • a small bunch of coriander, leaves chopped
  • 10 large eggs
  • 225-340g filo pastry
  • 115 g clarified butter, (ghee)


1. Wash the chicken thighs, removing as much fat as possible.

2. Mix together the crushed garlic with 2 tablespoons salt and the juice of 1 lemon to make a paste.

3. Rub the chicken with the garlic paste, place in a bowl and marinate it in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

4. Place the chickens in a large casserole dish with the onion, saffron, turmeric, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon sticks, unsalted butter, a pinch of salt and the water.

5. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.

6. Place the toasted almonds in a food processor and pulse until ground. Combine the ground almonds with the icing sugar and ground cinnamon. Set aside.

7. Remove the chicken from the casserole dish, strain the liquid and place the strained liquor back into the dish with the parsley and coriander.

8. Bring the liquor to the boil and allow to boil rapidly, until the sauce has reduced to about 500ml. Add in the remaining lemon juice.

9. Beat the eggs until frothy in a large bowl, then pour the beaten egg into the simmering sauce, stirring as you do so, and stir continuously until the eggs cook and congeal. Taste and adjust the saltiness as required, drain well and set aside.

10. Shred the chicken into small pieces, using two forks.

11. Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas 7.

12. Fold 4 filo pastry leaves in half, place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30 seconds, or until crisp but not too browned.

13. Unroll the remaining filo pastry sheets, keeping them under a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.

14. Brush some of the clarified butter over the bottom and sides of a 30cm shallow cake tin, or a deep, ovenproof, non-stick frying pan then cover the bottom with 2 filo pastry leaves.

15. Arrange 6 more leaves so that they entirely cover the bottom of the tin and half hang over the sides. Brush the extended leaves with clarified butter so they do not dry out.

16. Place the shredded chicken around the inner edge of the tin, then work toward the centre so that the pastry is covered with a layer of shredded chicken.

17. Cover this layer with the well-drained egg mixture and the four baked filo leaves.

18. Sprinkle the almond-sugar mixture over the pastry.

19. Cover with all but 2 of the remaining pastry leaves, brushing each very lightly with clarified butter.

20. Fold the overlapping leaves in over the top to cover the pie. Brush lightly with butter. Put the remaining 2 leaves over the top, lightly buttering each, and tuck the overlap neatly down the sides of the pie, like tucking in sheets.

21. Brush the entire pie again with clarified butter and pour any remaining butter around the edge.

22. Bake the pie in the oven until the top pastry leaves are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

23. Shake the pan to loosen the pie and run a spatula around the edges. If necessary, tilt the pan to pour off any excess butter.

24. Invert the pie on to a large, buttered baking-sheet.

25. Brush the pie with the reserved butter and return to the oven to continue baking another 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

26. Remove the bisteeya from the oven. Tilt to pour off any excess butter. Put a serving plate over the pie and holding it firmly, invert.

27. Dot the top of the pie with a little icing sugar and criss-crossing lines of cinnamon over the top. Serve immediately.

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