In last week’s blog we discussed how Moroccan cuisine – despite being widely considered a leading international gastronomy – remains esoteric and exotic to the average Briton. And yet, one prominent aspect of our cooking has penetrated the British imagination – the tagine. Britons now cook delicious tagines at home thanks to a wealth of both authentic and Europeanised recipes that are widespread on the internet and in cookery books. Beyond that, the actual terracotta ‘tagine’ cooking apparatus is the kind of ‘middle class’ accessory that comfortably sits alongside a Nespresso machine and NutriBullet on both wedding registries and fancy kitchen counters to signal ‘health conscious, open-minded foodie’.
As tireless advocates of Moroccan cuisine in London, both Joe and I think the seamless incorporation of Morocco into British culture is brilliant, but we still want to make sure that our unique and deeply pleasing flavours and aromas remain at the fore when people think about our food.
To achieve this, one dish comes to mind – bastilla, the dish to try in Morocco and at my restaurant, Zayane.
In my humble view, bastilla (or as it is also spelled, pastilla) is the epitome of Moroccan cuisine’s virtues and is the gateway to experiencing the wonder of our food. Despite being among Morocco’s more prominent national dishes, not that many people in Britain have ever heard of it. In plain and simple language,
I’d define bastilla as a ‘chicken pie’ – but anyone even vaguely familiar with the dish will quickly realise how inadequate such a description is.
Bastilla begins with a chicken that is slow cooked with love and then shredded and combined with a delicious Moroccan-spiced sauce. This is layered into ultra-thin brick or warqa pastry, covered with roasted almonds, sealed and baked. Once golden brown, it is topped with icing sugar and cinnamon, et voila, it is ready to be savoured!
Bastilla is uniquely sweet and savoury and is extremely satisfying. Its aroma is seductive and its delicate flavours melt in your mouth. It may just be the most delicious thing… ever (but I’m biased!). And yet we don’t eat it everyday – it is a serious dish in Morocco, which means it is only reserved for the most special occasions like weddings, big celebrations or very important guests. My mother’s version of bastilla is particularly exquisite – thankfully for Zayane’s guests her recipe is the inspiration for my own!
At this point, your mouth is watering and you’re desperate to taste and cherish the Moroccan delicacy bastilla. But where can you enjoy it?
Well, at Zayane, of course! Bastilla is currently on our a la carte menu, and it will remain so for the foreseeable eternity. But what if you’re not in London? What if trekking down to Notting Hill is neither possible nor convenient in the moment in which you are reading this blog? Don’t worry – we have you covered with the recipe so you can make your own tempting, yummy bastilla at home! Don’t forget to watch the video made by our friends at the BBC so you can see me make it first!
Zayane’s Recipe for Bastilla
- 1 whole chicken
- 2 medium onions finely chopped
- garlic as desired finely chopped
- 1 bunch of parsley and coriander finely chopped
- lemon juice as desired
- 1 tbsp freshly ginger grated
- saffron (put in hot water before use) or
- turmeric if saffron is not available
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 preserved lemons (use skin only)
- olives red or green as desired
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 1 pack of brick pastry
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup of roughly ground roast almonds
- 1 tsp or 2 of icing sugar plus 1 tsp cinnamon to mix with the almonds
- Before cooking, marinate chicken in the spices and garlic for at least 2 hours in the fridge.
- Place onions, chicken, marinade juices and herbs in the tagine (or pan) and add olives, preserved lemons and 1 cup of water.
- Cook on low heat for one hour.
- Remove chicken from tagine and its sauce. Reserve the sauce.
- Shed the chicken.
- Reduce the sauce then crack the eggs into it and stir. Cook until the sauce reduces even further.
- Combine the sauce with the shredded chicken.
- In an ovenproof dish, add a layer of brick pastry. Brush with egg white.
- Add the chicken mixture and make sure it is spread evenly.
- Add the roast almonds on top and make sure it is spread evenly.
- Seal by tucking in another layer of brick pastry to cover the top and brush with egg white.
- Put into a pre-heated 180-degree oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Spring with icing sugar and cinnamon.
- Serve and enjoy!