Bstilla is the Moroccan version of the meat pie, featuring pigeon meat – absolutely superb texture and flavor!
Traditionally, Bstilla (pronounced B’stilla, and also called Pastilla, bastilla, bisteeya) is made with “Squab”, which is fledgling pigeon, treasured for its extreme tenderness and succulent flavor. Unless you have squab available at your local market, or can hunt for it, it is very expensive. You can get squab here.
If you can’t get or afford squab (or even adult pigeon), then quail is the next best thing, at less than one-tenth the price of squab, and use good old Cornish Hens, also much cheaper, with perfectly fine Bstilla results as long as all the other ingredients are as specified and the cooking method adhered to strictly. Just do not use regular chicken – it will not be the same as true Moroccan Bstilla at all.
- 3 lb. squab, quail, or Cornish hens
- ½ cup blanched, fine ground almonds
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 3 eggs
- 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 6 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and minced
- 1 tbsp. ras el hanout seasoning (definitely a must have ingredient, for authentic Moroccan Bstilla)
- 1 tsp. crushed red chili pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp. mehr saffron threads, mixed with 1 tsp. water (different than regular saffron, another must ingredient)
- 4 tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced
- 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black peppercorns, to taste
- 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus more
- 8 phyllo dough pastry sheets
- ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, for garnish
- Preheat your oven to 400F.
- Toast the ground almonds in a saucepan with 1 tsp. of olive oil over medium high heat, until nicely browned; set aside.
- Combine the ras el hanout, moistened mehr saffron threads, and chili flakes in a mixing bowl, to create one seasoning mixture.
- Place your poultry in a large cooking pot, with just enough water to barely cover the meat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cook, covered, until poultry is cooked through, about 40–45 minutes.
- Transfer poultry to a cutting board, but leave the juice infused water in the pot, simmering, uncovered.
- Allow the meat to cool, then remove skins and bones and shred the meat.
- After the simmering juiced water is reduced to 1 cup (usually 30 minutes will do it), turn the heat off and allow to cool, then whisk in the 3 eggs, and set aside.
- Wipe your pot clean and add more olive oil, turn the heat up to medium-high. Add in the garlic and onion and cook about 8 minutes, until very fragrant and turning golden brown.
- Now add in the seasoning mixture, cook 1–1/2 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat.
- Stir in the toasted ground almonds, the shredded meat, sauce, cilantro, parsley, salt, and pepper. This is your pie filling. Set aside for now.
- Grease a 9″ springform pan with butter. Lay 1 phyllo sheet on a work surface and brush with melted butter. Place into the springform pan, if the edges hang over, that’s okay—you actually want that, a considerable amount of dough hanging over the sides. Repeat with another sheet phyllo. Spread one third of the filling over the dough. Repeat this process of layering two more times.
- Now fold the corners of phyllo over the top layer of filling, then top the whole dish with the two remaining sheets of buttered phyllo. Tuck and fold the hanging over corners of phyllo up and over the dish, making a covered casing for the filling.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is set, 30–35 minutes.
- Allow to cool some, then remove it from the pan. Garnish the pie with a light dusting of cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar before serving your traditional Moroccan Bstilla.