I suppose that, if I will insist on experimenting like this, I should expect things to go a bit wrong sometimes.
When Jeanne (of Cook Sister!) announced that the subject for this month’s Waiter, Waiter…. I was delighted. It gave me the perfect excuse to try out something I had never made before but had had enjoyed several times in restaurants. I was set on making bastilla.
If you haven’t yet tried bastilla, you should as soon as you get the chance. It is a great invention. It is a slightly sweet but spicy pie from Morocco. Traditionally it is made with pigeon but over here it tends to be replaced with chicken . I suppose thet is because pigeon is a bit expensive. The pie filling is flavoured with cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, garlic and rosewater and is encased in phyllo pastry topped with flaked almonds, sugar and cinnamon.
Apparently the pie is traditionally made by slow cooking whole pigeons until the meat is tender. I could only get my hands on pigeon breast so I had to formulate a different plan. I decided I would slow cook the pigeon in duck stock with the traditional spices, softened onion and rosewater, then shred the meat for the pie filling. After that I would wrap the filling up into a filo pastry pasty , coat it with cinnamon sugar and flaked almonds then brush with beaten egg before baking it.
At least that is how it SHOULD have happened.
Things weren’t really working in my favour last night. My student turned up forty minutes late for our lesson, which meant that, subsequently, everything ran late. This isn’t great when you’re planning on a 3 hour slow-cook dinner
Also, Goon got back from his working weekend at 11:30pm, which meant that I was functioning without my sous-chef (or as I think of it, menial-job-monkey). So everything took twice as long to prepare as it would otherwise have done. The end result was that I took the pigeon off the heat at 11:30pm, after 2nrs 15 cooking instead of 3 hours.
Fortunately the meat was tender, although it wasn’t quite shreddable. I cut it into little pieces instead, tasted, adjusted spice balance .
Then came my major failing of the evening. I hadn’t worked with phyllo pastry before and no one had warned me about it. I suppose we all have to learn somehow.
I wrapped the mixture in a couple of phyllo sheets, topped with the sweet seasoning and baked. I had no idea how quickly the outer layer would cook, nor that the inner layer would not cook at all in that time. Whoops.
Well, if you ignored the pastry disaster, this would have been good. The filling was tasty and moist, although shredded meat would be much more authentic (assuming Moroccan restaurants do authentic bastilla) than my finely chopped bird was. The vegetable cous-cous accompaniment was great (although that isn’t exactly difficult is it?), as was the sauce, which I made by reducing the cooking liquid of the pigeon and adding a good dollop of harissa.
so there you have it- a not entirely successful entry to Waiter Waiter. I will make this again and next time it will work!
P.S This is the first time my shiny new camera has been used for the blog. I think it is making a significant difference to photo quality.
P.P.S For any you Star Wars geeks reading this, I was tempted to do some Bastilla turning to the dark side reference thing in the titile but I figured that only about four people would get it. Plus I’d look like a freak. I’m noping that no one apart from Star Wars geeks have read past the first line of this paragraph. Otherwise I’m going to look like a freak anyway.