During my recent culinary spotlight at Ninive, I had the pleasure of learning the process behind Chef Gilles Bosquet’s version of a classic Moroccan pastlla – a delicate pastry that brings sweetness into a savory dish. Chef Gilles prepares his pastilla in individual portions, which gives it a serious “crunch factor” the moment your teeth rip into the cinnamon-dusted pastry. Instead of using pigeon as in the traditional Moroccan dish, this version is filled with shredded chicken, eggs, and ground almonds. Kissed with orange blossom water and a touch of honey, it’s the ultimate marriage of sweet and salty that is wrapped up in the simplicity of the perfect pastry package.
Chicken Pastilla – makes 4 portions
Ingredients for chicken:
- 1 kg chicken thigh
- 4 sweet medium onions
- 5 tbsp butter
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 1 tsp umeric powder
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp stick cinnamon
- 6 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper
Ingredients for almond mixture:
- 140 g blanched almonds
- 20 ml orange blossom water
- 35 g honey
- 20 g cinnamon powder
- 20 g sugar
- 20 g icing sugar
- 10 to 15 phyllo dough sheets
Get all the ingredients ready.
Chop the onion and parsley. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200 °C.
Spread almonds in one layer on a shallow baking pan.
Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden.
Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in a large pot. Add the chicken pieces, and braise on all sides for a few minutes, then remove.
Add the onions with the spices — ginger, cinnamon, saffron.
Return the chicken to the pot, add ½ cup chopped parsley, season with salt and pepper, cover and gently simmer over low heat for about an hour.
Remove the chicken.
Reduce the chicken sauce until there is almost no liquid remaining.
Add the eggs to the sauce and stir constantly on low heat until it reaches a creamy consistency. Remove from heat.
Remove the meat from the bones and shred it with your fingers.
Set both the shredded chicken and the creamy egg “sauce” aside until you are ready to prepare the pastilla.
Assemble the pastilla
Thaw the frozen phyllo completely in the refrigerator for 24 hours and bring to room temperature before using it. Note that the dough can be gummy if thawed too quickly outside the refrigerator. Make sure that your hands are dry when handling the phyllo dough.
For the Stuffing
Cut the phyllo sheets with a pair of scissors in half. Wrap one half well with plastic wrap and then into a zip-lock plastic bag.
Lay one phyllo sheet on a flat surface (chef suggests using a silicone liner under the phyllo) and brush with a line of melted butter.
Fold it in half and brush the two sides.
Use a sharp knife to cut off a 2 to 3 inch wide strip of phyllo dough from one end.
Line a baking sheet with silicone liner or parchment paper and place a buttered ring on top (chef uses various sizes, from 2 to 6 inch diameter). You can also do this free form without the tart ring, as pictured below.
Lay one strip of the phyllo on a tart ring, repeat the process 3 to 6 times times, each time laying the strips at different rotation points.
Add a spoonful of the almond mixture to the phyllo. Fill with a few tablespoons of the chicken and egg mixture.
Sealing the pastry
Fold the pastilla into a triangle – fold the dough over the filling to form a triangle.
Continue folding in triangles until all the edges are sealed (it is like folding a flag).
Brush some melted butter over the end strip so that when you give it the final fold it stays shut.
*At this stage, you can freeze the wrapped pastilla in a plastic wrap.
Preheat the oven to 400 °F / 205 °C.
Heat a pan until hot (this will ensure that the pastilla stays crispy once baked).
Place the pastilla in the oven for 20 minutes, remove the tart ring, then flip it over and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden.
To serve, turn the pastilla out onto a plate and dust with icing sugar and cinnamon.
Chef suggests eating it while it is warm and the phyllo dough is still crispy. Serve either on it’s own or with a simple green salad.
Shot on Location at Ninive in Emirates Towers Dubai
Photography by Tara Atkinson Photography
Special thanks to:
Dress – Eschel
Jewelry – Bil Arabi by Nadine Kanso
Hair and Makeup by Maria Doyle
Special thanks to the brilliant team at Ninive and La Cantine du Faubourg