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B'stilla (Morocco)


B'stilla (or bastilla, or pastilla, or bastiya) is a prototypical Moroccan dish.  Sweet meets savory.  Flaky meats chunky.  All your taste buds working overtime to process the exquisite blend of flavors.  It seems really daunting, and maybe it is, but the results can be legendary.  It's traditionally a feast dish, like something you'd serve at a wedding, but you can do it at home too.  I searched all over for a reasonable recipe, and this seems to have the right blend of authentic + doable at home.

Traditionally, this uses pigeon, but chicken is more common now.  Moroccans uses their own type of pastry dough - warqa - but you probably won't find that, so phyllo will do the trick.  This is also a popular dish in Morocco's formerly large Jewish community: just substitute olive oil for the melted butter.

Makes twelve servings


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil for cooking + 1 tablespoon olive oil to roast the almonds

  • 2 kg (5 pound) whole chicken cut in pieces or 2 kg (5 pounds) chicken legs and thighs

  • 1 kg (2 pounds) sliced onions

  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

  • A small pinch saffron

  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 cups chopped fresh parsley, about 1 large bunch

  • 1 cup chopped fresh coriander, about half a large bunch

  • 400 gr (14 oz) blanched almonds

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • Ground cinnamon

  • Powdered sugar

  • 10 eggs, scrambled, plus 1 egg beaten for brushing 

  • 220 gr (8 oz) unsalted butter, divided 

  • 500 gr (1 pound) phyllo pastry  


  1. Preheat oven to 160 C (320 F).

  2. In a large casserole, heat the olive oil and add the chicken, onions, turmeric, ginger, saffron and salt and pepper. Leave over medium heat for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

  3. Add the parsley and coriander along with 1 cup water (about 240ml). Bring to the boil, lower the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Leave to simmer gently until the chicken is cooked, about 50 min. 

  4. Meanwhile, prepare the almonds. Place the blanched almonds in a baking tray and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bake in the oven until golden, about 18 minutes.

  5. Once the almonds are cold enough to handle, transfer them in a food processor or a nut grinder. Add 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon, 3 tablespoons powdered sugar to the roasted almonds and process until coarsely ground. Set aside until ready to assemble.

  6. When the chicken is cooked, take the casserole off the heat and remove the chicken pieces from the pan (leaving the cooked herbs and onions inside the pan).

  7. Add 1 tablespoon honey, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the onions and reduce the sauce to caramelize the onions. Leave over medium-low heat with no lid on top until all the liquid evaporates and the onions are golden brown, about 30 to 40 min. Stir occasionally to prevent the onions from sticking to the pan. No liquid should be left in the pan, except oil.  Add salt if necessary.

  8. Once the chicken has cooled down to room temperature, pull out the chicken meat and discard the skin and the bones. Chop the chicken into smaller chunks, (about 1 cm/0.4 inch). Place in the fridge until ready to assemble.

  9. In a small frying pan, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, crack the eggs and scramble them. Set aside until ready to assemble. Make sure that the scrambled eggs are not under cooked and runny because liquid can affect the pastry during the assembling process. 

Now for assembling the b'stilla:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 C (390 F).

  2. Unroll the phyllo pastry sheets, keeping them under a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.

  3. Use a large round shallow baking dish or pie tin (about 13 inch/33cm large and about 3 inch/7 cm deep). 

  4. Heat the remaining butter until melted. Place a phyllo sheet on a work surface, brush it with melted butter and top it with another phyllo sheet that you also brush with butter, then two more in the same way. Inside the dish, arrange the 4 large phyllo sheets (brushed with butter) in such a way that the bottom of the tin is covered and there is enough pastry hanging over the sides to cover the top of the pie (you might have to use more sheets depending on the size of your phyllo pastry).

  5. Inside the dish, place in this order: a layer of the chicken chunks (about 1 cm/0.4 inch), a layer of the caramelized onions (less than 0.5 cm/0.2 inch), a layer of the scrambled eggs (about 1 cm/0.4 inch) and finally, a layer of the coarse almonds (less than 0.5 cm/0.2 inch).

  6. Fold the overlapping leaves in over the top of the pie. Brush with butter and place 2 additional large filo buttered sheets over the pie and neatly tuck in the corners of the sheets under the pie.

  7. Brush the pies with the beaten egg and bake the pie until the top is golden brown, about 35 to 40 min. 

  8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon and serve hot like a pie or quiche.

Recipe adapted from

Photo by kochtopf

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