This Week: Bisteeya

Savory baking, edible birds, pie…when I triangulated those three things on a map, my finger landed squarely on Morocco. Specifically on Morocco’s most famous dish: bisteeya, also spelled b’steeya, bistella, pastilla, pastella, the list goes on. Interestingly, the only time I’ve heard a real Moroccan pronounce the word it sounded like pas-TEL-ah. So I’m all kinds of confused on the name.

However a rose by any other name would still taste like Moroccan pigeon pie. Actually more of a pastry than a pie, it’s a delicate, spicy, savory-sweet combo that works great in either a conventional home or outdoor brick oven (and a lot of you have been bugging me for more brick oven recipes). Let’s make it!

10 thoughts on “This Week: Bisteeya”

  1. Yay! This is surprisingly difficult to find a good recipe for. VERY excited for this one. Most places I’ve had it do an almond/chicken filling but one place, oh man was it good, they did theirs with these super soft spicy cooked veggies (carrots I remember most) The powdered sugar and cinnamon made it taste SO good.

    1. I’ll do my best Jessica! Glad you’re interested…because I am too! 😉

      – Joe

  2. Now you’re talking. I’ll even forgo dessert on this one!

    “B” and “P” are often confused — I think in Arabic there is no “p” sound, so I don’t know how it made its way in there, although I suppose English speakers could be merging it with the word “pastry.” The double-el pronunciation has always confused me — it’s pronounced like a “y” in Spanish, but I’m not sure how that transferred to Arabic. (Although I suppose a historical look at Spain might answer that one.)

    But really, I don’t care how you pronounce it!!

    1. I leave all that pronunciation stuff to my wife, the linguist. But yeah, I’d rather just eat!

  3. Hey there.

    What timing:) I just made one for my hosts last week and it was very well received.

    I look forward to reading your results to consider what, if any, differences there might be between our recipes:)


      1. Here you go:)

        1 teaspoon saffron syrup (from The Spanish Table)
        Oil for deep frying
        1 cup blanched almonds
        1 teaspoon powdered sugar
        1/3 cup oil
        2 pounds chicken – thighs, breasts, boneless or with bones – it doesn’t matter.
        1 teaspoon ground ginger
        1 teaspoon cinnamon
        Salt and freshly ground pepper
        1/4 teaspoon turmeric
        3 cups water
        1 onion, finely chopped
        1 cup coriander, chopped
        6 eggs, whisked
        1 cup butter
        12 phyllo sheets (or 25 warka leaves)
        1 teaspoon cinnamon
        2 teaspoons sugar
        9 x 13 pan
        Fry the almonds in oil until golden, set aside on paper towel to absorb excess oil. Roughly grind and add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar.
        Fry the pieces of the chicken until golden brown, add the spices, saffron, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, turmeric and salt and pepper. Add the 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes until soft and barely cooked through. Because, of course, it cooks further in the pie. Take the chicken out of the pot with a slotted spoon. Let cool. Remove bones and skin and cut the meat into small pieces.
        While the chicken is cooking fry the onions until golden (they lose much of their volume in this step).
        Add the coriander to the pot and reduce the liquid until there is only 2 cups and the sauce is thick. Whisk the eggs into the sauce and cook until set. Remove from heat and let cool.
        Turn on the oven to 350 F. Melt the butter and brush the baking pan. Add two layers of phyllo dough so that only one edge is covering the bottom and the other falls over the sides of the pan. Brush melted butter or margarine over the sheet and continue to covering the sides and bottom of the pan with the phyllo, overlapping. About 6 sheets of phyllo should be used.
        Add the chopped chicken to the baking dish and the onions on top of that, spreading it evenly. Add the egg sauce and finally the ground almond mixture. Close the phyllo sheets above the filling and then add 6 sheets to the top, brushing between each layer and tucking the sides into the pan.
        Bake for about 45 minutes until golden brown. Decorate with powdered sugar and cinnamon in a crisscrossing pattern..

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