Monday, 20 June 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Ok, I know Father's Day was yesterday, but I didn't have time to write this one up. I also know this isn't strictly speaking a 'sweet thing' or 'baked good', but it does have a significant pastry component and is just I too good not to share. I don't think I need anymore justification.

My dad and I had a lovely day together, we went to the gym (I managed to forget my tracksuit bottoms though so ended up having to wait til I got home for my work out. Good job Zoë) and then spent the afternoon cooking up this delicious pastilla.

It's a Moroccan dish that my dad said he tried in Paris and is absolutely delicious. It's a chicken pie type thing with a hint of sugar and cinnamon that gives a divine sweetness that cuts through the savoury, but not overpoweringly so. This was one of the yummiest things we've made in a long long time.

There are quite a few stages so it does take quite a long time, but while various ingredients are cooking off you can potter about doing other things. It's also very relaxing to make.

We found the best looking recipe here, on 'Taste Bud Travels', but we used a little more filo pastry than called for and altered some of the spice specifications and cooking time a little.

The recipe says 'serves 4', but you could definitely get 5 servings out of it. You could even squeeze 6 small portions out of it.

NB: An 8-inch spring form cake tin is an absolute must for this.

2 oz flaked almonds
1 oz butter, plus extra to melt later
3 very finely chopped white onions (or 2 ginormous ones)
1 large garlic clove, finely crushed
1 inch piece of finely grated fresh ginger, or approx 1 1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I put in about 3/4 tsp)
1/4-1/2 tsp turmeric
lots of salt and pepper to season
4 skinless chicken thighs
juice of 1/2 a lemon (we used the juice of 1 very small lemon)
2 tbsp caster sugar
4 lightly beaten eggs
handful of finely chopped coriander
handful of finely chopped parsley
6-8 sheets of filo pastry
icing sugar + extra cinnamon to dust

Firstly toast the almonds in a dry pan, being very careful to make sure they don't burn.
Melt the butter in a large, deep pan (God bless Le Creuset), and sweat the onions and garlic until they go all soft and almost caramely, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the pan.
Mix up all the spices, then stir into the onions with lots of seasoning. It'll turn the most gorgeous golden colour and the room will start smelling like a spice market.
Next, brown the skinless chicken pieces in this mixture. Pour over water to just cover the chicken.
Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer. Go do whatever you want for 30 minutes while the chicken poaches. After 1/2 an hour, stab one of the chicken pieces to see that it's deliciously succulent and tender and transfer to a separate plate with a slotted spoon (you want to keep all those lovely juices in the pan). If you think the chicken needs a few extra minutes then by all means leave it in. It really shouldn't take more than 35-40 minutes though.
Continue to simmer the onion and spice mix until it has reduced and thickened a little.
Meanwhile, shred the chicken. It should be tender enough to pretty much fall apart as you do so, therefore making it much easier to remove the bone than it would be if the chicken were raw.
Add the sugar and lemon juice to the oniony sauce you should now have. There's no harm in a little extra seasoning at this stage as well  if you think it needs it.
Pour the beaten eggs into this mixture, toss in the parsley and coriander. Stir continually for 4-5 minutes on a gentle heat, then remove from the heat. You should have a slightly odd looking scrambled eggs type mixture.

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F

Melt a good hunk of butter in the microwave. Use a little to grease the springform tin, then butter a sheet of filo pastry. Line the tin with this sheet, ensuring that a good corner is hang over the side of the tin - you need enough pastry to fold over the top of the pie later. Butter another sheet of filo, and layer this at a 90 degree angle to the first sheet, then continue layering up to 6 sheets of pastry in this way.

Lay the shredded chicken in the bottom of this pastry case, then scatter over half of the almonds.
Pour over the egg mixture, followed by the rest of the almonds.
Butter another two sheet of filo, place one on top of the other and lay them over the filling. Try to tuck them down in between the filo case and the filling. Finally, fold the overhanging filo corners over the top of the pie to make a kind of parcel. Brush the top generously with more butter, particularly on the edges of the filo, to make them go as crispy and crunchy as possible.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, then remove the ring of the tin, and bake for another 5-10 to ensure that all the pastry is as crispy as possible.

Remove from the oven and over some icing sugar so that it looks like you have a dusting of snow. You could always sprinkle over some extra cinnamon too if you like. Slice up and serve with a fresh and crunchy green salad.

Simply delicious!

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