Moor Please: Pastilla Pie and Harira Soup!

recipe

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

A couple of months ago I wrote about a young couple Mimansa and Karnik whose paths crossed with mine when Karnik emailed me to ask me to help me with his proposal to Mimansa. You see she is an NQN reader and he wanted to create her a custom newspaper and asked me for a review. I will do anything for a reader and I loved the idea of being involved in a proposal so I sent him an exclusive review and hoped for the best with the proposal (but secretly knew that he had it in the bag, I mean that's impressive).

Everyone that I spoke to about it and some readers asked if there would be a follow up story. Well the other day I went to the post office to collect my mail. Among the letters and packages was a large yellow envelope. In it Mimansa had sent me a copy of the newspaper as well as an invitation to the wedding! I got so excited I squealed in excitement and put the date aside. It is in February 2016 and I cannot wait because it is a traditional Hindu wedding and it has always been a dream of mine to attend a Hindu wedding! I know a bit about Hindu culture but there is so much more to learn about it and I cannot wait to be a part of such a special occasion!

Learning about other cultures through food is my favourite way of getting to know them and when Girl Next Door came back from a couple of months overseas she offered to come over and show me how to make two dishes that she had learned to make while in Morocco: pastilla (sometimes called bastilla or b'stilla) and Harira soup.

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

You may have heard of Pastilla or B'stilla before. It's a pigeon meat pie served in flaky pastry. I've had it at Moorish restaurants where it was liberally sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon and at first resembles a dessert pastry. Chicken is often used in place of pigeon if hard to find and you can also find other sorts of fillings. Filo dough can be used in place of the traditional werqa or warka dough which is thinner.

The version that Girl Next Door was taught in Morocco is straightforward to make although it is time consuming. It is finished with an array of pretty folds and is dusted with cinnamon and drizzled with honey. It's best made for a special meal to impress guests and the flavours of this pie are sublime. All I wanted to do was gobble up the chicken as it was cooking. The aroma of spices is very intoxicating and alluring. On the other end of the ease scale the harira soup is very easy to make. It is a tomato based soup with spices and using a roux to thicken it. It's the sort of soup you can make in between the steps of the pastilla. It's simple yet satisfying on its own for dinner.

In between eating donuts and cooking we filmed how to make the Pastilla on video too! I hope that you like it and I'd love to know what you think of it!

So tell me Dear Reader, have you been to many cultural weddings before? And is there a culture that you are particularly interested in? Have you ever eaten pigeon or squab?

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Pastilla

Makes 4 single serve pies

Preparation time:

Cooking time: 1 1/4 hours plus 25 minutes

  • 1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil, plus extra to grease and brush
  • 4 red onions, finely sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped coriander
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon each ras el hanout, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground coriander, ground black pepper, salt
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 chicken (about 1.7kgs/3.74lbs.), quartered
  • Cold water (to cover chicken)
  • 4 tablespoons/1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange blossom water
  • 12 sheets filo pastry, cut into 30cm/12inch - wide circles (make sure they're covered with a damp tea towel until you're ready to use them so they don't dry out)
  • 8 tablespoons almond meal
  • Honey and ground cinnamon, to serve

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Step 1 - Place the olive oil, onion, garlic, herbs and spices in a saucepan over high heat and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes until the onion has started to soften. Add the chicken, stirring to coat in the onion mixture, then cover and cook for 15 minutes. Give everything a quick stir, then add enough cold water to cover the chicken (about 1 litre). Reduce heat to medium-high, then cover again and cook for 1 hour, turning the chicken halfway, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the saucepan, reserving the stock, then set aside to cool.

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Step 2 - Bring the stock to a simmer over high heat until reduced and becoming thick, then stir in the sugar and orange blossom water. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and you're left with a lovely caramelised onion mixture.

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Step 3 - Meanwhile, using your hands, finely shred the chicken, discarding the skin and bones. Stir the chicken into the onion mixture. Stand for 5 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse, then remove the cinnamon sticks. Spread the chicken mixture onto a tray and allow to cool completely.

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Step 4 - Preheat the oven to 220°C/440°F and lightly oil a baking tray. Lay the 3 circles of pastry on top of each other. Place 2 heaped tablespoons chicken mixture in the centre of the pastry, then top with 1 tablespoon almond meal. Carefully bring up the edges of the top pastry sheet, folding in a pleated pattern to enclose. Top with another 2 heaped tablespoons chicken mixture, then another 1 tablespoon almond meal, and fold the second sheet of pastry in a pleated pattern to enclose. Repeat pleating with final pastry sheet. Repeat the whole process three more times with remaining pastry, chicken mixture and almond meal to make four pies in total.

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Step 5 - Place pastilla upside-down on the oiled baking tray, pressing down slightly with your hands to flatten. Brush the top with a little oil, then bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the filling is warmed through. Drizzle pastilla with honey, sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Harira (Moroccan soup)

Serves 4

Begin this recipe a day ahead

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon dried lentils (green or Puy-style)
  • 1 tablespoon dried chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon long grain rice (basmati, jasmine, Persian)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 celery stick (including leaves), very finely chopped {I used a mezaluna}
  • 2 teaspoons very finely chopped coriander
  • 2 teaspoons very finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon each ground turmeric, ground ginger and ground black pepper
  • Salt and sugar to taste
  • 1 litre/33 fl. ozs. cold water, plus a few extra tablespoons
  • 500ml/17.66fl ozs. tomato passata
  • 3 heaped tablespoons flour

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Step 1 - Place the lentils, chickpeas and rice in a bowl. Cover with water and soak overnight. Drain.

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Step 2 - Place lentil mixture in a saucepan with oil, celery, coriander, parsley, onion, turmeric, ginger, pepper, salt, water and 1 1/2 cups (375ml) passata. Place over high heat, cover, and cook for 30 minutes

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Moroccan Pastilla Harira

Step 3 - Meanwhile, place the flour in a bowl and stir in enough cold water to make a thick paste. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup (125ml) of tomato passata, stirring constantly to combine. Uncover the soup, then stir in the tomato juice mixture. Continue to cook over high heat, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until thickened. Then eat!

Moroccan Pastilla Harira