Let's go Morocco! (Project Food Blog Challenge #2)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

(Thank you! Thanks to your support I've made it through to the next step in Project Food Blog! Our next brief was to prepare a classic ethnic dish, preferably one we weren't familiar with. As you'd know from my last post, I'm actually away on holiday at the moment but luckily, the day before we left , I decided to cook an unfamiliar classic ethnic dish - just in case . Be prepared, eh ? So please excuse any spelling errors, or if any of the text makes no sense and excuse the dodgy photos taken at night. I prepped this post at an ungodly hour before our trip and I'm cooking it at an internet cafe while my mind is on the brilliant sunshine outside. Happy reading and I'll see you all real soon!) :)

Morocco - the very name conjures images of spices and souks, tangerine coloured scarves (I don't know, this is my fantasy ok?), mint tea and camels. So exotic, and so, so far removed from where I am now. It's one country I'd dearly love to visit, but since it doesn't look as if I'm going to get there anytime soon, at least my tummy can go on a little bit of a culinary odyssey.

I can't remember where I'd first heard about b'stilla (or bastilla, pastilla, or any other variation that sounds like it),  but when faced with the challenge of creating a classic dish, I knew immediately this is what I would make.

B'stilla is a type of pastry/ pie usually made with pigeon, but I just. cannot. go. there. (*cough* flying rats *cough*, sorry pigeon fanciers). Chicken was what I went with. And instead of the traditional warqa pastry, which I didn't have time to attempt, I used store-bought phyllo pastry.

 When I started looking for b'stilla recipes - I discovered that no two recipes are alike. However, most of them involved a filling of chicken (or pigeon), egg and spices, mixed with almonds, sugar and cinnamon.

Inside the bastilla - YUM!

So I picked the recipe from Epicurious to try, because it involved the added challenge of making the ras-el-hanout spice mix from scratch.

This is how my b'stilla making experience went:

Prepped spice mix ingredients, then discovered that mortar and pestle broken, resorted to processing the spices in food processor. Loooooooooong wait later, managed to sift enough ground bits to use in recipe. Stored the rest of the shardy spices in a jar to be ground later. Note to self - go get new mortar and pestle.

Spices ready to be ground for ras el hanout (cardamom, aniseed, fennel, allspice, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, cinnamon stick, sesame seeds) - I left out the red pepper flakes and added a tiny bit of paprika and pinch of cayenne pepper  instead. And forgot the pepercorns but just added more pepper when seasoning the dish. On the lower right is ground ginger to be added to the dish too.

Lightly dusted out the processor, made almond sugar using fried almonds, sugar (I subbed icing sugar for caster sugar) and cinnamon (as per Epicurious recipe linked above).

Fried almonds, ready to be turned into almond sugar

Next step: cook the chicken filling. I used 4 chicken legs with the skin removed. This part was actually very simple. It's a bit like making a spicy, wonderful smelling casserole. First some onion is browned, then garlic and spices added, then  the chicken, saffron liquid and a little stock are put in. The chicken is simmered until tender. Here, I deviated slightly from the given recipe. I removed the chicken to a bowl to cool, then shredded it and discarded the bones (rather than leaving it to steep in the stock - I'd cooked  it for longer than suggested so it was full of flavour).

The most expensive spice in the world

Then it was time to add the egg. Reading this part of the recipe confused me somewhat but after checking out this link, I knew that the eggs needed to be cooked until scrambled. At first I found it hard to judge how much liquid was left in the pan, and when I added the beaten eggs in, I panicked because it looked like soup! I turned the heat up and kept stirring and luckily it all came together. Phew!

After the egg was drained and cooled, it was mixed into the chicken, along with diced herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice.

The fillings, to be mixed together - cooked chicken, scrambled egg mixture, diced herbs

Now it was time to fold. After checking out these three links (photo essay of bastilla making,video of seafood bastilla,step by step cooking school photos it was actually quite easy. Make sure the phyllo pastry is completely at room temp or it will be brittle and crack. Don't skimp on the butter and don't overload the pastry, use only 3 or 4 sheets so the outside gets golden and wonderfully crispy.

The traditional way of making b'stilla seems to be to fry it. I tried one fried, and one baked. The fried one went a little oopsie, I didn't judge the temperature of the oil well (rushing remember?), and accidentally overdid the outside a bit, then had to pop it in the oven to make sure the filling was warmed through. To check for filling doneness, stick the tip of a knife in and test the temperature - this explains the slashes in my pastry.

Fried bastilla -oopsie

The baked version came out with a slightly soggy base at first, but I tipped it out onto a baking tray and put it back into the oven to rebake - ahh, perfection! Crisp and golden outside, moist, fragrant filling, with a surprising yet pleasant taste from the sweet almond and sugar topping. I was very impressed with the b'stilla, and although I have not had the "authentic" version to compare it to, one bite into it and I was indeed transported to the Morocco of my mind. We managed to polish off both the pastries for dinner.

Baked bastilla

Inside the bastilla - YUM!

It's a dish I'd definitely make again but I think I'll leave the cinnamon patterning on top to the experts:)

Thanks for reading!

(Hi again! Voting is now open for Project Food Blog round 2. Thanks very much for helping get through and I'd love your vote again. You can follow this link or click on the widget at the top left of my blog. Thanks heaps!)


Joudie's Mood Food said...

This looks so interesting. I would love to make this. Looks full of flavour!

Beth said...

What a gorgeous post! I think your b'stillas look wonderful. Morocco is an amazing country -- hope you get there someday!

ravenrider said...

Moroccan food is great, I still remember the mystery meat on sticks I got in Tangiers that was served with mint tea....yummmm

Barbara Bakes said...

I love that you're writing this on vacation and that when faced with a soggy crust you didn't despair, but just crisped it up to perfect. Well done!

Jeannie said...

Congrats on advancing to Round 2! This can't get any more exotic! Everytime I read Morocco, I see flying carpets, I don't know why lol! Pretty good pastry! Not an easy one to make too! Good job!

Hungry Dog said...

Wow! This sounds great to me (with chicken not pigeon). But it seems like a lot of work. I'll have to live vicariously through you, shaz!

♥LOVE2COOK♥ said...

Hi Shaz, how U been? Been quite some time since my last visit here! ;)

Take care!

sadaf said...

great I want to try this for a long time. once i tasted at my morrocan friends place since then i am in love with bastilla.

shaz said...

Thanks folks, we just got bck and I'm exhausted, but your comments have perked me up :)

Barbara said...

Congratulations on making it to the next level, Shaz!
Amazing effort with your bastilla! I am so impressed...it looks fabulous. So much work and so rewarding when you tasted the results!

Desperate Housewife said...

Ok... what time do I need to come over for dinner???? THis is so up my alley, I LOVE moroccan food, and I think that bastilla is just divine.
Congrats to you on getting to the second round daaaaahling! I hope you win.
*kisses* HH

Amy (Sing For Your Supper) said...

Wow, what a great post- this really looks wonderful! Best of luck- I voted for you!

Lori said...

Uh, no pigeons for me either. If I was really hungry and I had nothing left...

It looks good. I have never had bastilla, or pastilla.

Anh said...

Congrats Shaz!!

And this dish is totally new to me!! Now I want to try :)

obparker said...

this looks delicious! i love this dish at aziza in sf. have you tried it there? thanks for the recipe.

shaz said...

Thanks Barbara, it was indeed worth the effort.

Desperate Housewife/ HH - have you got an alter ego? I'm confused. Anyway, you're definitely welcome for dinner.

Amy - thank you! Appreciate the vote.

Lori - heh, I suppose we could close our eyes and pretend it's chicken!

Anh - thanks dear. Def. worth a try.

obparker - thank you, unfortunately never been to SF but when I get there, I'll go look for aziza :)

Jeanne said...

I wouldn't have used the pigeon, either. ;) This looks fabulous, I am craving a bite of that pastry crust!

Peter said...

Good job pulling this off right before holiday! We're going to be gone next weekend and have to do the same thing! Looks lovely, and good luck -- you have our vote!

(We also did Moroccan: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/957 )

Amelia PS said...

I also did bisteeya. The patterning was indeed the hardest part!!!
I voted you (see my post here: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/869)

shaz said...

Thanks Jeanne, peter and amelia! Voted too, yee ha!

sweet swallows said...

Looks amazing! I'm glad you didn't use pigeon, I don't know if I would have recovered from that. Placing my vote now!