In Morocco b’stilla is just ‘pie’. You can fill it with whatever you like, and I have made a chicken and a pheasant version. But this one is for vegans and vegetarians. It’s one of those dishes that people eat, look quizzical and ask “oo, what’s in it”? It’s flavoured with a little cinnamon and spices. It’s rich and the flavour goes on and on. It looks impressive too. Especially if you drift just a little icing sugar over it. Yes! It is a classic combination of North African flavours that include sweet and savoury. The proportions are entirely up to you, however. This recipe feeds 8. Just make two if you have more guests!
First the filling. Sweat a large chopped onion with three chopped garlic cloves, a small de-seeded red or green chilli, a grated thumb of fresh ginger. Then add a large peeled and chopped sweet potato and some chopped carrot. Sweat these till they are soft too. Add a good grating of nutmeg and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, four large deseeded and chopped tomatoes, salt and black pepper. Stir these in and sweat for a further 10 minutes. Add a little more oil if necessary. Now you have a choice. If you have chard in the garden or can lay your hands on some, then chop about 5 large leaves and stalks and lay on top of the mixture in the pan. Alternatively you can use spinach or kale or broccoli. Add about 30ml water put the lid on the pan and cook again for 5 minutes to just cook the greens. Check the seasoning again. Add a good helping of chopped flatleaf parsley and coriander leaf. At this point you can, if you wish, add about 100g pine nuts and 100g Lexia raisins if you wish.
Now, take a packet of Filo pastry you purchased earlier. Either use individual tins (see picture) or a large springform cake tin, or just a baking tray on which you can make a parcel. Grease and shake some coarse semolina around the tins. Regular readers of this blog will know that semolina is my favourite ingredient when it comes to greasing and lining tins. It adds a bit of crunch and is better than dusting with flour in my opinion.
Lay squares of overlapping filo over the tins with lots of pastry hanging over the edge. Grease the filo sheets with a little oil as you go. Rotate the tin clockwise with every sheet of filo so the points of the pastry are in different places. Add the filling and push to the edges, sift a little icing sugar over the filling, then fold the pastry sheets over the top, scrunching them up a bit in a haphazard sort of way. Brush with oil and bake in the oven at 190C for about 35 minutes. If you are making a big pie, you can do this on a lined baking tray. Use the same method re the pastry except use whole sheets. Pile all the filling in the middle, flatten it out, then fold the pastry over the top. This one will take about 50 minutes to cook. Lining the tray makes it a) stop sticking and b) you can drag the whole thing off the baking tray and onto a flat plate!
If you like the idea of a sweet edge then very lightly dust with icing sugar when ready to serve. You could even, if you’re feeling fancy, scorch lines on the top with a hot skewer. Or not, if you have a life!