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The flavours in this little Middle Eastern pie are stunning. You can make the filling up to a couple of days ahead and keep it in the fridge, the problem with this is trying to resist eating it. If your filo pastry is frozen you should defrost it in the fridge overnight, defrosting in haste causes the sheets to stick together. You can also re-freeze any sheets that you don’t use. Sarit and Itamar suggest serving with a rocket and orange salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. We had a green salad which worked fine too.

Wine Suggestion: we chose the Manciat-Poncet Pouilly Vinzelles which is a classic Chardonnay with good weight and a delightful balance of perfectly ripe fruit, vibrant freshness and judiciously handled oak. Aromatically broad and rich to counter the rich chicken flavours and natural minerality giving it all lift and vitality.

Chicken pastilla – serves 4-6

  • 6 chicken thighs (about 800g)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 100g pitted dates
  • 3 onions (about 300g), sliced thinly
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 dried chilli
  • 2 tbsp ras el hanout
  • 240ml water
  • 1 packet of filo pastry (250g-270g)
  • 60g melted butter

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Put a large frying pan over a medium heat. Put the chicken thighs into the pan, skin-side down, then season with 1 tsp of the salt and the pepper. After about 10-15 minutes the skin should be crisp and nicely coloured. Turn the thighs over and cook on the other side for about 5 minutes, then transfer to an oven-proof pan that can fit them all in one layer. Add the dates.

Add the sliced onions to the fat in the frying pan and add another tsp of salt. Cook until soft and starting to turn golden, then add the cinnamon stick, dried chilli and ras el hanout. Mix well together and cook for 30 seconds, then add the water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, pour over the chicken thighs, then cover the pan and put in the centre of the oven for 1 hour.

Check that the chicken is cooked, it should just fall off the bone. If not, return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Set the chicken aside until cool enough to handle.

Pour the contents of the pan into a sieve over a bowl, keep the cooking liquid. Pull the chicken from the bones and discard the skin, bones and any gristly bits. Remove the chilli and cinnamon stick. Mix the chicken with the cooked dates and onions, then add just enough of the liquid to bind it all together. You can prepare this part up to 2 days in advance and keep in the fridge until needed. Keep the extra liquid too and serve as a sauce on the side.

Preheat the oven to 200C/180 fan/gas 6.

Open the filo pastry packet and lay it out on a surface.

Carefully peel off the first sheet and brush with the melted butter, then fold into four and set aside (this will form the base of the pastilla).

Peel of the next sheet and butter it, then cover with another sheet and set aside. Repeat with two more sheets, so you have two sheets of double thickness.

Place one doubled sheet lengthways on the table, put the folded square in the centre of it, then lay the other doubled sheet on top at 90° to the first sheet, so you have a cross shape that is thickest in the middle.

Carefully lift the pastry and place in a 22-24cm ovenproof frying pan letting the sides hang over the edge. Fill with the chicken mixture and fold the corners over to cover it. It looks nice if its a bit crumpled so no need to be to neat about it. Brush the top of the pie with the rest of the melted butter and put into the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Turn the pan around so it all crisps evenly, then cook for another 10-15 minutes until crisp and golden.

Meanwhile, heat the cooking liquid in a small pan.

Serve immediately with a jug of the sauce to pour over and a salad on the side.

(Original recipe from Honey & Co. by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich, Saltyard Books, 2014.)

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