At some point, most folks have been to a Moroccan restaurant (even if it was the Moroccan place at Epcot Center in Disney World!) and have tasted that delicious dish called bastilla. It’s essentially a meat pie in a phyllo dough crust that is flavored with cinnamon, a bit of powdered sugar and some kind of nut. For some reason, I recently had a craving for a bastilla of savory chicken. I made it using a combo of a bunch of recipes I found, pulling the best from each, and ended up with a pretty awesome result. But I discovered that the basic recipe is really just a template that can be used for a ton of different combinations! Thus the 50 shades reference…
The chicken one I made had a filling of shredded chicken cooked with onion, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and a bit of saffron, with a some golden raisins and a bit of fresh cilantro and parsley added at the end. The trick is in the pastry shell. Essentially, you take 5 layers of phyllo dough, cut into rounds to fit your pie pan. One at a time, brush a layer with a bit of melted butter, then sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of ground almonds with some powdered sugar and cinnamon. Put all 5 layers in the bottom of the pan, put the filling on top, then do the same thing with 5 more layers on top, tucking in the edges. Cook for 40 minutes until the pastry is nice and brown and the filling is hot. That’s it!
Now let your imagination start going wild…the first thing that came to mind for me was ground lamb, pine nuts, onion and tomato filling. It was amazing, and that’s the recipe I have for you below. I’m thinking next up could be some roasted pork tenderloin or chicken with dried apricots, almonds, maybe some orange zest and parsley. Or lamb with olives and preserved lemons. Or grilled vegetables with feta cheese. Oh I could go on!!
So use your imagination and create your own filling for this delectable meat pie idea. Here is the recipe I created for the lamb with pine nuts filling and specifics on the proportions for sprinkling on the phyllo.
For the filling:
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 ¼ lb ground lamb
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup dry white wine
½ cup beef broth
½ cup cilantro, chopped, divided
2-3 scallions, finely chopped
2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped
¾ cup pine nuts
For assembling the pie:
10 sheets phyllo pastry
½ stick butter
¼ cup pine nuts
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 cup plain yogurt mixed with 1 Tbsp honey
Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Do not brown the onions (reduce the temperature if needed). Add the ground lamb and cook until meat is cooked through and no longer pink, and is broken up into small chunks.
Add the tomato paste and stir to mix well, then add the next 10 ingredients (cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, cayenne, paprika, sugar and cinnamon). Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes to let flavors blend.
Add the white wine and beef broth, mix well, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium or medium low (enough to keep the mixture at a low simmer) and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point, the vast majority of liquid should be evaporated and the mixture should be quite thick.
Add the cilantro, scallions, tomatoes and ¾ cup of pine nuts to the mixture and stir well. Allow to cook so that the tomatoes release their juices, about another 4-5 minutes, then remove from heat. Taste and season as needed. Allow mixture to cool to nearly room temperature.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. To assemble the pie, first grind the ¼ cup pine nuts with the powdered sugar, cinnamon and salt in a spice mill, mini food processor or mortar and pestle and set aside. Remove 10 sheets of the phyllo dough from their package and lay out flat, turn the pie pan you plan to use upside down and lay over the phyllo, then cut around the edges so the phyllo dough is the same size as the pie pan. Cover the sheets of phyllo with a damp kitchen towel to keep from drying out. Melt the butter in a small dish and have a pastry brush on hand.
Place one sheet of phyllo on the counter top or a work surface and brush with just a small amount of the melted butter, then sprinkle with a scant teaspoon of the pine nut, sugar, cinnamon, salt mixture. Repeat with 4 more sheets of phyllo for a total of 5, laid one atop the other so you have a stack. Brush the bottom of the pie pan with some melted butter, then place the pile of phyllo sheets in the bottom of the pan. Add the filling on top of the phyllo in the pie pan. Place another single sheet of phyllo on the counter or work surface and repeat the brushing with butter and sprinkling with the nut mixture with four layers. For the fifth and final layer of phyllo, just brush with butter (no nut mixture). Place the stack of phyllo on top of the filling in the pie pan, tucking in the edges. Make four knife cuts in the pastry to allow steam to escape while cooking.
Bake in the oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, until the pastry is nicely browned and the pie is hot throughout. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving, then serve with the honey/yogurt mixture on the side.