Guided by master Chef Bahija, we learned to make a traditional Moroccan chicken pastilla during our culinary adventure to Morocco. The recipe below uses filo dough to form the crust of the pastilla. Traditionally, Moroccan pastilla is made with warka, a slightly less-flaky, more malleable pastry sheet. In the United States, warka can be found in many Middle Eastern groceries, but filo dough also makes a suitable substitution.
1 pound of filo dough
5 T melted butter
2 egg yolks
14 oz white fish, cut in pieces
14 oz. shrimp
14 oz squid
2 diced onions
4 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons parsley
5 oz. vermicelli
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper
1 teaspoon saffron
1 teaspoon harrissa (spicy tomato paste)
1 preserved lemon, quartered and pulped
juice of one lemon
Sauté fish in a skillet with 1 teaspoon of butter for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Sauté shrimp for 5 minutes, separately, add salt and pepper. Sauté squid with salt and 1teaspoon harissa. Sauté onion in a little butter until translucent. Soften vermicelli in hot water, drain and set aside.
Melt a little more butter and add half the of the fish (you will save the other half) to the pan, together with all of the shrimp and squid. Add parsley, vermicelli, garlic, cumin, paprika, preserved lemon, lemon juice, saffron, salt and pepper. Mix and simmer in the pan for 10 minutes (or a bit longer if necessary, to ensure that the vermicelli is cooked.)
Butter pan for the pastilla. Place 5 leaves of filo around in a fan, starting from the center (like we did in class with the warka) and brush with butter. Add one more in the center and brush again with melter butter.
Add filling, spreading evenly. Add the fish pieces that you saved and place them around the top of the filling. Brush outer leaves with butter and beaten egg. Fold the leaves of filo over the filling, trying to keep it round. Brush again with butter. Add one or two sheets of filo on top. Tuck in well. Brush again with butter and remaining egg yolk. Cook at 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes or until golden.
Decorate with lemon slices and cilantro. Slice into wedges like a pie. Serve hot!
Bahija crushes almonds for her chicken pastilla by hand, a method she
laughingly refers to as the “Berber food processor.”