B’stilla (Moroccan Chicken Pie with Dates)

I love to cook. I can happily spend hours in the kitchen playing with recipes and random ingredients to create a meal. I experiment and use friends and family as my tasters. Sometimes my experiments don’t work out, but generally (and judging from the feedback of my rather honest and blunt testers), I think I do pretty well and tweak recipes according to taste and comments. Since I spend so much time cooking, I figured I might as well start sharing my creations!

I haven’t made B’stilla in a long time and was craving it today so this is the first recipe I am sharing!

I remember the first time I had this dish. It was at a lovely little Moroccan restaurant in Ottawa and I was having dinner with our Model United Nations (CANIMUM) team, from Laurentian University, after a very successful (and slightly scandalous) conference.

From my very first bite, I fell in love with the delightful and delicious combination of both savoury and sweet flavours.  In addition to the fantastic flavour, this dish looks really beautiful when served. It works great as a dinner combined with sautéed vegetables (beans and carrots) or, alternatively, with mixed greens, pomegranate seeds and orange slices (my personal favourite way to serve and eat it).

Ingredients:

2 tsp vegetable oil

3 chicken breasts, bone in

2 ½ cups onions, finely chopped

1 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped

1 Tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cloves

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp chili flakes

½ tsp turmeric

1 cup chicken stock

salt

pepper

3 large eggs

1 cup dates, coarsely chopped

¼ cup golden raisins (optional)

½ cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

½ cup slivered almonds, toasted

8 sheets phyllo pastry

½ cup unsalted butter, melted

icing sugar and ground cinnamon for garnish

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

2. In a Dutch oven, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Sauté chicken breasts until browned on both sides and then remove from pot. Chicken will not be fully cooked at this point, just browned.

3. In the same pot, add onions and cook until golden (should take about 10 minutes). Add garlic, cumin, ginger, cloves cinnamon, chili flakes and turmeric. Stir.

4. Put chicken back in pot with onions and spices, add chicken stock and season with salt and pepper. Cover with lid, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

5. Remove chicken from pot and let cool. Shred the meat off the bone into bite-size pieces.

6. Stir chicken together with the contents of the pot, add eggs, dates, raisins, cilantro and almonds. Combined well and season to taste.

7. Place 1 sheet phyllo pastry lengthwise on your work surface, brush lightly with melted butter. It does not have to be completely covered. Place second sheet on top of this, sideways to form a plus sign. Repeat this process until the 8 sheets have been layered; the last sheet does not need to be buttered.

8. Place sheets in a buttered 9-inch cake or springform pan. Fill pastry with chicken mixture and spread out evenly. Enclose by pulling the overhanging pastry up and over chicken mixture. Brush the top with melted butter.

9. Bake pie for 40 minutes or until pastry is golden and chicken mixture is heated through.

10. Serve hot with sifted icing sugar and ground cinnamon overtop.

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