A Recipe for a Celebratory Moroccan Dish That Mixes Sweet and Savory

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Traditionally served on celebratory occasions such as weddings – or, perhaps, upset World Cup victories by the Moroccan national soccer team – the Moroccan dish chicken bastilla is an elaborate pie containing cooked chicken, eggs and marzipan. Irving Park Shokran restaurant, one of the only Moroccan restaurants in Chicago, serves it as an appetizer, and owner Khalid Kamal shared his recipe with us. (Read our profile from Kamal and Shokran.) “It’s genius, the process – it’s a long process – but to find it…” Kamal said of bastilla. “They mix things that you don’t think they mix.”


For the chicken:
1 (3 to 4 pounds) whole chicken
2 ounces olive oil
2 ounces unsalted butter
2 large sweet onions, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon saffron threads
2 to 3 cinnamon sticks

For the egg layer:
2 oz coarsely chopped fresh parsley
8 large eggs, beaten

For the marzipan:
2 ounces vegetable oil
2 cups whole blanched almonds
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Store-bought phyllo dough
Egg yolk, beaten for gilding

For garnish:
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Roasted almonds


1. For the chicken: Cut the skinless chicken into pieces. Add butter and oil to a large heavy duty saucepan and heat over medium heat until butter melts. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the spices and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Add the chicken pieces and stir until completely coated. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour or until chicken is very tender. Do not add water and be careful not to burn the chicken or the sauce.

2. Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate and reduce the sauce in the pan until most of the liquids have evaporated. Stir occasionally and adjust the heat as needed to avoid burning. Remove and discard the cinnamon sticks.

3. Meanwhile, while the chicken is still hot, remove the meat from the bones by breaking it into small pieces. Place the shredded meat in a bowl and stir in several spoonfuls of the onion from the sauce; cover chicken and set aside.

4. For the eggs: Transfer the remaining reduced sauce and oil to a large non-stick skillet. Add the parsley and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add the beaten eggs and cook like scrambled eggs. It will take up to 10 minutes for the eggs to set. Reserve the cooked eggs.

5.For marzipan: Roast the almonds in the oven at 350 degrees until they are golden brown. When the almonds have completely cooled, process them in a food processor until they are finely ground. Put them in a bowl and mix in the powdered sugar, orange blossom water and softened butter. Put aside.

6. To assemble: Oil a round dish of 14 inches or more. Brush melted butter on each sheet of phyllo dough as you work. Be sure to keep it covered in plastic as it dries very quickly. Use your pan as a guide. Use double layers of phyllo dough, in a circular fashion, so that the inner halves of the pastry dough overlap in the center and the excess dough covers the edges of the pan. Butter each layer of dough.

7. Place two 12-inch buttered phyllo circles in center of pan. This forms the bottom of the pie. Cover the 12 inch circle with the chicken, then layer the eggs over the chicken.

8. Top the eggs with two more buttered 12-inch phyllo circles. Spread the almond mixture on top.

9. Fold the excess dough up and over the almonds to enclose the pie. Flatten and smooth bulky areas. Brush the folded edges of the pastry with butter and cover with 3 more overlapping sheets of filo pastry, brushing each layer with butter. Carefully fold and tuck the edges of the dough under the bastilla, shaping the bastilla as you go.

10. Lightly oil and brush the top and sides of the bastilla with egg yolk.

11. The bastilla is now ready for cooking. Covered in plastic, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 day or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

12. Bake: Place your rack in the center of the oven preheated to 350 F. Oil a flat baking sheet. Place the bastilla on an oiled baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown. If frozen, the Bastilla will take up to 1 hour to cook. The internal temperature should reach 165 F.

13. Garnish and serve: Coat the bastilla with sifted icing sugar according to your taste. Use cinnamon and almonds to decorate the bastilla. Serve immediately.

As Morocco defies World Cup expectations, experience one of Chicago’s only Moroccan restaurants

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