Morrocan Chicken and Almond Pie – Bastilla بسطيلة بالدجاج

Bastila is a sumptuous Morrocan pie with layers of crushed almonds, cinnamon, egg and fowl, a heavenly mix of sweet and savory flavors. It is a dish fit for a Caliph’s court, and popular history has it that it was brought to Morocco by the Muslim refugees from Andalusia. Traditionally, this pie is made with pigeon, but this cheaper version (adapted from a modern Moroccan Cookbook) uses chicken and omits the saffron.The authentic pastry used should also be home-maded waraqa, but in this recipe phyllo pastry is used instead. This pie is so rich that it is served as a meal in itself
Serves 8

20-25 sheets of phyllo pastry 
Chicken Layer
1 1/2 kilo chicken
3  cup finely chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup finely chopped coriander (cilantro) 
8 large eggs
200g butter
2 tsp cinnamon   
1 tsp of each, freshly grated nutmeg, ground ginger, black pepper, turmeric, ground saffron (optional)
Almond Layer 
4 tsp sugar
2tbsp cinnamon
250 g almonds, 
Powdered sugar and Cinnamon 

10 halved almonds

Skin the chicken, wash and cut into pieces, sprinkle with about 2tbsp lemon juice or vinegar set aside for 15 minutes, then wash and drain. Chop the onion finely. Put the chicken in a pot with the onion, and add all the spices.

Add a 1/2 litre of water and 100g of butter, and the fresh parsley and cilantro. Bring to boil, reduce the heat and cook for 45 minutes.

Remove and debone the chicken, then shred to small pieces set aside.

Reduce the chicken broth over high heat until you have a thick sauce. Beat 7 eggs into the broth mix well until the eggs are cooked and absorb any remaining liquid and set aside. 

Fry the almonds in hot oil until golden, set 10 almonds aside for decoration and process the rest with all the sugar and 2 tablespoons of cinnamon until the almonds are roughly crushed but not reduced to a powder.

Melt the remaining 100g of butter. Now begin working with the phyllo dough. Keep the dough wrapped in a  towel while you work so it doesn’t dry out.

Preheat the oven to 220°C degrees and grease the bottom of an oven-proof dish, about 30 cm in diameter. Cover the bottom with about 6 sheets of phyllo, brushing the layers with the melted butter and overlapping so a little less than half of the sheets drape over the edge of the dish.

Sprinkle a third of the crushed almonds mix over the pastry, then cover with a sheet of phyllo followed by the egg mixture. Press down then cover with a sheet of phyllo, follow with the chicken, press down with the palms of your hands then cover with a sheet of phyllo, and then finally add the remaining almond mixture, dust with cinnamon. 

Now carefully fold in the edges of the phyllo dough towards the center, brushing each corner with egg yolk before overlapping. 

Cover with the remaining phyllo dough for a neat finish (about 4 sheets). Tuck the edges into and under the pie, lifting gently with a butter knife. Brush the top with melted butter.

Bake until lightly browned. Carefully turn upside down, then return to the oven until the top is also golden brown.

Sift confectioner’s sugar over the top.

Decorate with cinnamon and the 10 browned and halved almonds. Let the pie rest before serving.

Serve warm.