This party piece – a deliciously aromatic fusion of flavours – isn’t a true Moroccan bastilla, but it is inspired by those I have eaten there, and less laborious to make. I serve it with a green salad – with fennel slivers and coriander and mint leaves added – and a bowl of yogurt to spoon onto your plate beside the pie. The filling can be made ahead.
12 pigeon breast fillets, skinned
350g red onions
3 large cloves garlic
generous walnut-sized piece fresh root ginger
75g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 rounded teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 rounded teaspoon paprika
finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
2 level teaspoons caster sugar
150g blanched almonds
6 medium free-range eggs
4 tablespoons whole milk
1 rounded teaspoon turmeric
large handful of flat-leafed parsley
350g filo or strudel pastry
1 level tablespoon icing sugar
sea salt, cayenne pepper
Cut the pigeon breasts into small pieces. Peel, halve and finely slice the onions. Peel and finely chop the garlic and ginger. Melt 15g of the butter with the olive oil in a wide flameproof casserole dish or large, deep frying pan (with a lid) over a medium heat. Stir in the garlic, ginger, cinnamon and paprika, followed by the pigeon. Stir for a minute or two, then add the onions and the lemon rind and juice. Cover the pan and cook over a low heat for about 40 minutes, stirring now and then, until the pigeon is tender. Then remove the lid, stir in the sugar and bubble to reduce the juices down. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, brown the almonds in a dry frying pan and then whiz briefly in a food processor to chop. Whisk the eggs in a bowl with the milk, turmeric and a little salt. Melt a knob of butter in a saucepan over a low heat, add the egg mixture and scramble slowly and lightly, stirring only once or twice. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.
Pull the leaves off the parsley stems and chop them roughly. Stir into the cooled pigeon mixture with the almonds. Melt the remaining butter. Brush a loose-based deep cake tin, about 18cm in diameter, thinly with butter. Line the tin with a sheet of filo, bringing it up the sides and allowing the excess to overhang the rim; keep the rest of the filo covered with a damp cloth so it doesn’t dry out. Then lay another sheet of filo across the first one (at a 90° angle) and continue like this, buttering the sheets between each layer, and reserving two sheets.
Now spoon half the pigeon mixture into the filo-lined tin and level the surface. Spread the scrambled egg evenly on top and cover with the remaining pigeon mixture. Fold the overhanging filo over the filling and then lay the remaining filo sheets on top. Press the excess pastry down inside the edge of the tin and butter the top.
Cook the pie in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes until well browned. Push the pie up so it is just on the tin base, then using a wide spatula, lever it carefully off the base onto an ovenproof serving plate. Put back in the oven for about 20 minutes to crisp the sides. Before serving, sift icing sugar over the top. Use a very sharp knife to cut into slices.
Taken from ORCHARDS IN THE OASIS by JOSCELINE DIMBLEBY, published by Quadrille (£25, hardback)
Photography JASON LOWE
What to drink: I'd like an aged Spanish red like a Rioja Reserva or Gran Reserva with this or an old vintage of Chateau Musar.