So I should admit from the outset that I am to Moroccan cuisine what “Hey Hey it’s Saturday” was to quality television. But just like Darryl and Ozzie and that crazy crew of pranksters with their wacky hijinx… I just refuse to quit. So this post is my homage to not being particularly good, but giving it a bloody good go anyway.
If you’re thinking that this should possibly be called bstilla, or bisteeya, or b’steeyilla, or cheryl… then you are right (unless you said cheryl). Bstilla is indeed the dish I had in mind when I started making this, but then i got half way through and towards the end I realised I had no almonds, no icing sugar, no ground ginger, and little desire to intricately layer 500 sheets of filo pastry on top of each other to make it properly… hence I give you… Moroccan Chicken Pie !
The dish was based loosely on a combination of versions made by Jules of Stone Soup and Melissa of Travellers Lunchbox. Both excellent sites and great recipes. Sadly, I had neither the time nor the patience to follow the directions set out by either of these ladies, and so the resultant dish is suitably less refined.
Moroccan Chicken Pie
- Chicken (the ladies used thighs, I used 2 large breasts… no really)
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 stick of cinnamon crushed
- Tablespoon or two of fresh ginger, minced
- 150g butter
- 300 ml chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1/2 teaspoon cayene pepper
- 4 eggs
- handful of chopped coriander
- juice of half a lemon
- 2 sheets of puff pastry
How i fooled the Moroccans
Basically I cooked the onion and garlic together in the butter, until they were soft and breaking down. Then added the ginger and other spices. At this stage it could be the basis for an interesting Moroccan Risotto… but i’ll save that for another day. I added the chicken breasts whole, and when they were mostly browned all over, poured in the chicken stock and stirred it all around.
Once the chicken was completely cooked, I took it out of the mixture and let it cool, then shredded it into little bite sized chunks, before turning up the heat on the stock mixture and letting it reduce right down.
When the stock had reduced to about a third of its original volume, I added the eggs, which had been beaten together with the coriander and the lemon juice. This creates a kind of thick spicey egg slurry, that could quite easily turn into scrambled eggs if you wanted it to… but I keep stirring it over a low heat until it had just come together and then took it off the heat.
Now in a pie dish, butter up some sheets of pastry and lay one in the bottom of the dish. Add the shredded chicken first, and then spoon over the cooled egg mixture. Now add the other sheet on top, fold it all in nicely so it’s looking like a pie, and pop it in the oven on 180C for about 25 minutes or so.
If you were really making a bstilla, you would have used flat filo pastry instead of puff pastry, and layered many levels on the bottom along with blanched almonds and ground ginger… and then folded the pastry over the top of the mixture, and then decorated the top with more almonds and icing sugar… Of course we weren’t doing that, so the jury will disregard everything I just said…
Now onto the bean salad.
Three Bean Salad
- 1 cup kidney beans
- 1 cup haricot beans
- 1 cup broad beans
- Lots of olive oil
- 1/2 diced red onion
- handful or two of spinach
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2 teaspoons crushed cumin
- salt and cracked pepper
How I overcame bean adversity
I have to admit that beans and me do not sit well together. I think it all stems from the fact that when I was growing up, my sisters were always given baked beans on toast, and my brothers and I were given spaghetti on toast. I think I honestly believed for a long time that girls were supposed to eat beans and boys were supposed to eat spaghetti… But gender alignment issues aside, I thought it was time to give them a go, and not from a can for once.
So having procured a few different varieties of dried beans, I had to find out how to prepare them. There were 3 options as I saw it.
- 1) Soak the beans overnight in cold water in the fridge
- 2) Boil the beans in hot water for 10 minutes and then leave to sit in hot water for a few hours
- 3) Boil the beans in hot water for as long as they bloody well take to soften up, regardless of how much they split in the process
Clearly I chose option 3. Into a pot of salted water with enough to cover the beans by an inch or two, and then onto the low heat
for what was probably an hour or so in the end. I forget exactly but I was testing each type of bean every 10 minutes or so for softness, and eventually I got to the point where I really didn’t care if they were soft enough anymore. Which fortunately coincided with the exact right time to stop.
The rest was simple. Into a bowl goes the beans, the diced onion and spinach, a healthy glug or three of extra virgin olive oil, a few good pinches of sea salt and a couple of cracks of black pepper. The juice of half a lemon (or a whole one if you’re feeling feisty), and a couple of teaspoons of that quintessentially Moroccan essence, cumin.
Stir it all up and serve.
And there you go… Invite your friends around and impress them to no end with your faux-Moroccan cuisine. If that doesn’t work, just drop the word Ras El Hanout a few times, as long as you’re not pronouncing it Rass Al Hannut, then you’re on your way to instant North African popularity.