My first bite of a bastilla was in Marakesh over 30 years ago but I remember the moment vividly. It was a traditional pigeon bastilla stuffed with apricots and nuts and dusted lightly with sugar. The crisp filo, the spicy meat and the sweet came together beautifully. Later I had the dish at Mourad's famed Aziza restaurant in San Francisco and fell in love with the dish again. It has taken me a long time to bring this recipe to my blog. mainly because I am intimidated working with filo.
Bastilla can be translated to "pigeon pie" and is thought to have originated in the 10th century in Andalusia, or as another theory goes, it was taken to North Africa by the Moors when they were expelled from Andalusia. The word is derived from the Spanish, pastilla, with the "p" substituted for "b" as the Arab language does not have the letter p.
In Morocco traditional bastilla is made using an extremely thin pastry called the warqa, or "leaf", that is even thinner than filo. It is made by using liquid dough on a hot pan for an extremely thin, crisper and tastier pastry. See this amazing video here. However, I do use filo to skip this very technical step.
This bastilla was bursting with flavours. the roasted vegetables had bloomed with spices and paired wonderfully with the sweet apricots and nuts. The thin filo pastry was crunchy and had the perfect texture for the soft stuffing. The light drizzle of honey completed the dish, this is a bastilla I should have made more of.
I have several cookbooks from Sabrina Ghayour and cook from them often. This one in particular is one of my favourites as the flavours pop off the page. The recipes range from her core Middle Eastern to the Far East, but all of them are easy and delicious. She plays with a range of flavours, ingredients and cooking styles in this book which makes it fun to cook from.
For more recipes from this cookbook click here.
For the filling:
1/2 lb celery root or sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 lb butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled, cored and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 lb carrots, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 lb turnips or parsnips, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
7-8 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin seeds
Salt, to taste
A few generous glugs of olive oil
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into quarters
1 cup parsley, minced
A generous drizzle of honey
Filo pastry sheets
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Add all the ingredients for the filling to a bowl and toss well. You want to use your hands and coat the vegetables well with the spice and oil mixture.
Layer the spiced vegetables on a lined baking tray and bake for about 45-60 minutes, toss them every 10 minutes or so so they roast evenly. They should turn soft and start to char in spots. Remove and cool down.
When the vegetables are cooled add the rest of the ingredients except for the filo, butter and honey. Toss well.
Melt the butter in a small pan till just liquid, do not brown.
Use a round or square container, any size from a small ramekin to a large pyrex dish or pie dish.
Layer with 3 sheets of filo pastry each at a 90° angle so that the base of the dish is covered and the ends are folded over the dish. Spoon in the roasted vegetable filling and flatten till you have about 3/4 inch depth. Cover the top with the extra filo to create a tight packet. Brush the top of the pastry with melted butter.
Place a baking tray lined with parchment paper on top of the dish and flip the pastry over onto the baking sheet. Brush the bottom and sides of the pastry with melted butter. Repeat with as many pastries as you need.
Bake for 18-25 minutes depending on the sizes of your pastries till they are well browned. Remove and rest on a wire rack for 2-3 minutes.
Serve hot drizzled with a touch of honey.