Updated: Jun 3, 2020
If you like Tagine, you will absolutely love Morocco's other national dish.
Bastilla (also known as pastila or b'stilla) is a sweet-and-savory Moroccan meat pie traditionally served with squab, chicken, or lamb wrapped in phyllo dough and topped with powdered sugar and sometimes cinnamon. This might sound odd, but after just one bite you won't be able to get enough of the exotic flavors and myriad textures. This recipe calls for ground lamb, which makes the preparation much less time-consuming but no less flavorful or delicious. Baked in small springform pans, the bastilla is individually served over wilted greens and a light and lovely saffron-yogurt sauce. About those wilted greens, that's another don't-knock-it-until-you-try-it element. And don't fear the phyllo! It's all about technique, not torture!
Equipment: cutting board; chef's knife; dry and wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; sauté pan; wooden spoon; potato masher (optional); slotted spoon; 4, 5-inch springform pans; pastry brush; small mixing bowls; whisk; plastic wrap; 2 clean dish towels;
2 tablespoons olive oil 1 medium onion, finely diced 1 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon raz al hanout (or garam masala)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon honey ¼ cup golden raisins ¼ cup toasted pine nuts (or almonds)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon mint, chiffonade
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 sheets phyllo dough
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 heads Romaine lettuce, wide chiffonade ¼ cup plain yogurt ¼ cup water
1 teaspoon turmeric pinch of saffron threads
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Swirl to coat the pan and add the onion, and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. Sauté for 4-5 minutes until softened and translucent, but not at all brown.
3. Add the ground lamb to the pan, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle with the raz al hanout, cinnamon, and coriander. Sauté until no longer pink, about 3-4 minutes.
ILOC tip: use a potato masher to break up the meat into small bits, if necessary.
4. Add the honey, golden raisins, and pine nuts. Then stir in the cilantro and mint. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
5. Using a slotted spoon, remove the lamb mixture to a mixing bowl to cool, pressing down on each spoonful with a wooden spoon to drain the mixture of excess fat. Set aside to cool while you prepare the springform pans and the phyllo. Also set aside the pan with the remaining lamb fat.
"Lamb fat is copious and watery, so you don't want any excess in the bastilla. However, this watery fat is ideal for quickly sautéing and flavoring the Romaine chiffonade. It's all about technique, not torture!"
6. Brush each springform pan with melted butter and set aside. Remove the phyllo dough from the refrigerator and carefully unwrap and unroll the dough onto a clean dish towel. Immediately cover the dough with a large sheet of plastic wrap, and then cover that with another clean dish towel.
7. Lift the dish towel and plastic wrap to remove carefully one piece of phyllo dough to place on your cutting board. Immediately recover the stack of phyllo dough with the plastic wrap and dish towel. Working swiftly, slice the phyllo dough vertically into four equal rectangles. Brush each rectangle with butter, then stack each piece on phyllo on top of the other, butter side-up.
8. Place the stacked rectangle of buttered dough butter side-down in the prepared springform pan, tucking the dough into the edges of the pan to make room for the filling. Repeat Step 7 and overlap that stacked rectangle of buttered dough butter side-down on the dough already in the pan.
9. Fill the dough with ¼ of the lamb mixture. Close the pie by folding over one side of the top stacked phyllo layer. Brush with butter and repeat with the other side. Repeat with the remaining two sides from the bottom stacked phyllo layer.
10. Tuck in any protruding corners of phyllo. Brush the top with butter. Repeat Steps 7-9 for the remaining three prepared springform pans. Place the four springform pans on a rimmed sheet pan and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.
11. Meanwhile, prepare the lettuce and the yogurt sauce. Return to the heat the sauté pan in which the lamb mixture was prepared. Once the watery fat is warm, add the lettuce chiffonade to the pan and cook the lettuce, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with kosher salt and set aside.
12. To make the yogurt sauce, combine the yogurt, water, turmeric, and saffron in a bowl and whisk vigorously until well combined. Set aside (on the counter, not refrigerated).
13. Once the bastillas are golden brown, remove from the oven and set aside to cool for five minutes before removing from their springform pans. Once removed, dust the tops with powdered sugar.
14. Place a spoonful of the wilted lettuce each in the center of four plates plate. Top each with a bastilla. Pour the sauce all around the lettuce to fill the plates, or spoon a lesser amount with a spoon. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.