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February 27, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 1:12 am

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.


  1. Still, the camera looks good. Pity about the food.

    PS. Next time you are planning a visit to Borough on a Saturday, drop me an email and maybe we can all meet up down there, shop and have lunch. I’d enjoy that.

    Comment by Trig — February 27, 2007 @ 8:13 am

  2. Ros, Filo is notoriously iffy. Fortunatly, I actually rather enjoy it partially cooked (I know, I’m a freak too) so it doesn’t bother me. The meat element does look particularly delicious. Probably would have been a good idea to wrap them in some baking parchment and then uncover them for the last 10 mins to gently golden-fye them!
    p.s. The star wars thing is lost on me!

    Comment by Freya — February 27, 2007 @ 2:00 pm

  3. I would have LOVED a Star Wars reference!! These are not the bastillas you’re looking for etc etc etc. LOL

    OK, so now *I* look like a freak! :o )

    Hats off to you for trying something tricky - and the filling sounds heavenly, even if the pastry did not play the game. Thanks for an unusual contribution to WTSIM!

    And I second Trig about meeting up at Borough Market sometime :)

    Comment by Jeanne — February 27, 2007 @ 7:12 pm

  4. Oh that’s a shame. I think it’s really great that you post about things that don’t go right, as well as the things you do though.

    Comment by Julia — February 27, 2007 @ 8:27 pm

  5. Trig & Jeanne, yes we definitely should do a Borough market meet. Preferably when Goon isn’t around so we don’t get a repeat of the cheese fiasco. ;)

    Freya, I so should have asked around about phyllo. Thanks for the baking sheet tip - I’ll try that next time. Like you, I actually found I quite liked it uncooked!
    I guess I should explain myself with the Star Wars reference, shouldn’t I? Bastila was a character in the Star Wars extended universe (yes I am THAT much of a Star Wars geek) who turned to the dark side as they so often do.


    See, I’m not making it up.

    Julia, I’m not sure I’d have bothered if I hadn’t been so keen to make it for so long! I’m very determined to make it work next time.

    Comment by ros — February 27, 2007 @ 8:58 pm

  6. Sadly I never set foot in the Star Wars extended universe, but I did compile a 250 question quiz covering episodes 4, 5 and 6 - does that count? Never mind meeting at Borough Market - we have probably already MET at s Star Wars fanmeet, LOL!

    Comment by Jeanne — February 28, 2007 @ 6:57 pm

  7. Ros, I’ll be in London on the last two Saturday’s of march, 3/24 and 3/31, and I’m hoping for a food blogger meet up at Borough. Do either work for you? I admire your courage in tackling something with filo.

    Comment by Vanessa — March 1, 2007 @ 12:39 am

  8. Yeah, I get your Star Wars joke, but lucky you didn’t go through with it as it would have flown quite tragically over the heads of those non-adventure game nerds out there. I think I had some trouble with filo pastry too, but I can’t remember exactly what it was. I was trying to make some, well, I made some for a strudel but it didn’t come out all lovely and crispy like it was supposed to. Ah well.

    Comment by Steven — March 26, 2007 @ 11:15 pm

  9. hi! just found your blog through an old round-up. we used to make these, hundreds and hundreds of tiny little ones the size of two postage stamps. breasts cook faster but thighs come out much jucier so we tried slow-cooking guinea fowl and chicken thighs in duck fat for 2.5 hours which was really nice. also instead of phyllo we tried it with brik pastry. it’s thicker, much easier to work with and similarly only needs a quick brush of melted butter.

    Comment by cathy x. — January 15, 2009 @ 1:11 am

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