Bisteeya is a savoury, sweet and cinnamony Moroccan meat pie that is usually made only for special occasions because it's a lot of work. Cooks start by making warka sheets from a very soft dough that's difficult to handle. Some recipes suggest substituting them with filo sheets, but warka is more resilient and doesn't dry out as quickly. Fortunately, Great, in Pacific Place, sells warka - it's called "feuille de brick" and can be found in the refrigerated section, along with other types of dough.
This recipe gives instructions for individual, triangular bisteeya but, if you prefer, make one or two larger pies - butter each sheet of warka/brick pastry, then overlap and fan them out in a round pan before layering in first the meat, then the egg mixture and, finally, the almond/sugar/cinnamon. Fold the pastry tightly over the top to enclose the filling, and add another buttered sheet to completely seal it, tucking the excess into the sides of the pan so the surface is smooth. For larger pies, you'll probably only need six to eight sheets of brick pastry, rather than the 10 to 12 called for in this recipe.
3 pigeons, about 400 grams each, thawed, if frozen
About 130ml cooking oil, divided
1 onion (about 200 grams), finely chopped
2 medium-sized garlic cloves, minced
A 15 gram piece of fresh ginger, peeled then grated
10 grams cinnamon sticks
1 ½ tsp ground ras el hanout
A small pinch of saffron threads
15 grams honey
6 large eggs, divided
200 grams peeled (blanched) almonds
25 grams granulated sugar
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
Fine sea salt
About 100 grams ghee or clarified butter
10-12 brick sheets (two packs)
Cut off and discard the pigeon heads. Over a medium flame, heat 30ml of oil in a pan large enough to hold the pigeons in one layer. When the oil is hot, brown the pigeons on all sides. Remove the pigeons from the pan, add the onion and garlic and cook until soft. Mix in the ginger, cinnamon sticks, ras el hanout and saffron threads and stir over a medium flame for about 30 seconds. Stir in one teaspoon of salt, the honey and 500ml of water and bring to the boil. Put the pigeons back in the pan then lower the heat, cover the pan with the lid and simmer until the birds are tender (about one hour). Turn the pigeons over halfway through.
When the pigeons are tender, take them from the pan. As soon as they're cool enough to handle, strip all the meat from the carcass. Finely shred the meat and put it in a bowl. Continue to simmer the cooking liquid until it's reduced to about 200ml. Taste the liquid and add salt, if needed. Whisk five of the eggs and add them to the simmering liquid. Cook them over a low flame, stirring often, until the eggs are scrambled with small curds. Continue to cook until the eggs are almost dry, then put them in a colander to drain off any remaining liquid.
Heat 100ml of cooking oil in a pan and when it's hot, add the almonds and fry them until golden and crisp. Drain them on paper towels. When the almonds are cool, put them in a food processor, add the sugar and ground cinnamon, then process until the nuts are roughly chopped - do not reduce them to a powder.
Melt the ghee or butter. Use scissors to cut the brick sheets in half, then stack them. Mix the pigeon meat with the eggs (for large pies, keep them separate).
Take a half sheet of brick pastry and lay it on the work surface. Brush it lightly with ghee/butter, then fold the rounded side towards the centre, to create a sheet that's about 10cm wide. Brush the folded-over part with ghee/butter. Put a generous amount of the pigeon/egg filling on the pastry strip, about 4cm from the bottom edge. Top generously with some of the almond/sugar/cinnamon mixture. Fold the bottom of the pastry over the filling then fold the strip flag-style, until you reach the other side (it should look like an isosceles right triangle, and the filling should be completely enclosed). Put the filled triangle on a tray lined with baking paper. Make more triangles to use up the brick pastry, the pigeon/egg filling and the almond/sugar/cinnamon mixture; you should have 20 to 24 pies. Whisk the last egg and brush it over the triangles.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Bake the bisteeya for 10 minutes, then turn the heat to 180 degrees and continue to bake until they're medium brown and flaky (five to 10 more minutes). Let them cool slightly, then dust the surface with icing sugar and sprinkle with ground cinnamon.
Serve the bisteeya warm.
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