A few days ago, we published an indepth review of Leah Koenig’s The Jewish Cookbook, written by new guest poster, Sarah Cowen. Today, we are sharing the first of three recipes we’ve selected from the book, extracted with permission from publishers Phaidon Press. Enjoy this Moroccan Flaky Chicken and Almond Pie.
Moroccan Flaky Chicken and Almond Pie from The Jewish Cookbook.
This rich and flaky Moroccan pie, called b'stilla, is a showstopper. It pairs saffron- and spice-scented chicken with sweetened, ground almonds inside crispy phyllo dough. The pie is then dusted with powdered (icing) sugar and cinnamon, creating a pastry that delicately straddles the sweet-savory line. The pie was originally made with squab or pigeon, but is often made with chicken today. It is labor intensive, so typically saved for holidays like Sukkot and Hanukkah, or special occasions like weddings.
For the chicken layer:
- 3 tbs vegetable oil
- 1 large sweet onion , finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
- 1 tbs ras al hanout spice mix
- 1⁄2 tsp crushed pepper flakes
- 1⁄2 tsp saffron threads , crumbled
- 1.8 kg (4 lb) skin on chicken drumsticks and thighs , patted dry
- 710 ml (3 cups/ 24 fl oz) chicken stock
- 20 g (1⁄2 cup) fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves , chopped
- 3 eggs
For the almond layer:
- 120 g (1 cup) ground almonds (almond flour)
- 2 tbs sugar
- 1 tbs vegetable oil
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
For assembly and baking:
- 6 sheets frozen phyllo dough , thawed
- 75 ml (⅓ cup/ 2.5 fl oz) vegetable oil
- Icing sugar (powdered sugar) , for topping
- Ground cinnamon , for topping
Make the chicken layer:
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 6–8 minutes.
Add the ras el hanout, pepper flakes, and saffron and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the chicken, stock, and cilantro (coriander). Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the chicken is tender, about 45 minutes.
Remove the chicken pieces with tongs and transfer to a plate to cool.
Strain the cooking liquid through a fine- mesh sieve (discard the solids) and return the liquid to the pot. Set pot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often, until reduced to about 1 cup (240 ml/8 fl oz) thick gravy, 20–30 minutes.
Taste and add salt, if needed (it may not need any salt if the chicken stock used is salted), then remove from the heat and let cool.
Meanwhile, remove the chicken meat from the bones and shred into bite-size pieces (discard the skin and bones).
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together. Add the cooled reduced cooking liquid and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Make the almond layer:
In a bowl, stir together the almond flour, sugar, oil, and cinnamon.
Assemble and bake the pie:
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C/Gas Mark 6). Lightly grease a 9-inch (23 cm) round cake pan.
Place the phyllo dough on a flat surface and cover with a damp tea towel to avoid drying out. Take one piece of phyllo (leaving the rest covered) and fit it into the bottom and up the sides of the cake pan. (The phyllo will hang over the sides.) Brush the phyllo lightly and evenly with the oil.
Repeat with 4 more sheets of phyllo, draping them in different directions.
Spread about one-third of the egg mixture into the pan.
Mix another one-third with the shredded chicken and spoon into the pan.
Spread the remaining one-third egg mixture on top and sprinkle with the almond mixture.
Fold the overhanging pastry over the top of the pie and brush with oil.
Take the remaining piece of phyllo, fold it in half, and drape it over the top of the pie. Brush it with oil, tucking the edges into the sides of the pan.
Bake until golden brown and set, 20–25 minutes.
Let cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
Just before serving, use a fine-mesh sieve to lightly dust the top of the pie with powdered (icing) sugar, then carefully sprinkle lines of cinnamon in a decorative pattern on top.
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The Jewish Cookbook by Leah Koenig retails at £35. Recipe image courtesy of Phaidon Press.