Pigeon bisteeya

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Bisteeya (or pastilla) is a common Moroccan pie dish that toes the line between sweet and savoury. Here, Greg Malouf uses pigeon as a filling but shredded chicken, fish or offal make good alternatives. Serve this bisteeya at a large celebration or gathering, as per tradition. This recipe has been adapted from Greg Malouf's book, Arabesque.

First published in 2015





For dusting


  • Pastry brush
  • 6 x 12cm pans


Wash the pigeons and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Remove the legs and breasts, and season with salt and pepper
Heat 50ml of olive oil in a heavy pan and pan-fry the pigeon legs and breasts until golden brown (you may need to do this in batches)
  • 50ml of olive oil
Add the onions, garlic, ginger, saffron, cinnamon, cumin and chilli, adding more oil if necessary. Stir to coat the pigeon in the spices
Add the sherry and stock and bring to the boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and gently simmer for 45-50 minutes, or until the pigeon is tender. Remove from the heat and allow the pigeon to cool in the liquid
  • 60ml of dry sherry
  • 800ml of chicken stock
Strain the poaching liquid using a fine strainer and return to the heat. Cook until reduced by half
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. When cool enough, remove the meat from the pigeon, discarding skin and bones, and shred it finely
Allow the reduction to cool, add the egg yolks and whisk until well combined. Pour this mixture into a small saucepan, season and scramble over a gentle heat until creamy and nearly set
Stir in the parsley and fresh coriander, and adjust the seasoning with salt and remove from the heat. Stir the meat into the egg mixture and refrigerate until ready to use
For the crispy almonds, add the rapeseed oil to a pan on a medium heat. Once hot, add the flaked almonds and cook until light golden in colour. Drain on absorbent towel and allow to cool
To make the pies, work with one sheet of pastry at a time, you will need 2 sheets per pie. Lay one sheet on the work surface and brush one half with melted butter and fold in half lengthways. Repeat with the second sheet. Brush the centre of one sheet with butter and lay the other sheet over to form a cross. Place the filo cross in the base of a small pan pushing the filo into the sides. Repeat for the other 5 pies
Scatter 2 tsp of fried almonds over the base of the pies then spoon on the meat-egg mixture until it is level with the top of the pan. Brush the top of the filo with melted butter and then bring the surrounding pastry sides up and over the filling to make a flat surface on each. Refrigerate until ready to bake
Place the pies into the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown
Remove from the oven and turn out the pies from the pans and onto plates. Sprinkle with cinnamon and icing sugar and serve immediately
First published in 2015

Born in Melbourne to Lebanese parents, Greg Malouf is a recognised authority on Middle Eastern cuisine.

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