Middle Eastern classics including Honey & Cos chicken pastilla, Yosmas lamb-filled manti and Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimis delicious hummus kawarmapart 4 launches tomorrow morning20 best Middle Eastern recipes: part 120 best Middle Eastern recipes: part 2
Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovichs chicken pastilla
Serve this with a big plate of orange slices and rocket drizzled in lemon juice and olive oil, and with great pride.
To serve 4 shameless or 6 polite guests
chicken thighs 6, with skin and bones (about 800g)
salt 1 tsp, plus 1 tsp
pepper 1 tsp
pitted dates 100g
onions 3, peeled and sliced thinly (about 300g)
cinnamon stick 1
dried red chilli 1 (you can remove the seeds if you prefer milder flavours)
ras el hanout spice mix 2 tbsp
filo pastry 1 packet (about 250-270g)
melted butter 60g (or oil/other fat if avoiding dairy)
Heat your oven to 200C/gas mark 6.
Put a large frying pan on a medium heat. Place the chicken thighs skin-side down in it and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. You wont need to add any oil to cook it in, as the skin will render a lot of fat. Keep it on a medium heat and allow the skin to crisp and colour. This will take about 1015 minutes. Once the skin is all crisp and golden, flip the thighs and cook on the other side for 5 minutes, then use tongs to remove them to an ovenproof pan that is large enough contain them all in one layer. Add the pitted dates.
Keep the fat in the frying pan and add the sliced onions and the other teaspoon of salt. Cook the onions until they are soft and starting to go golden. Add the cinnamon stick, dried chilli and ras el hanout spice and mix well. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, pour over the chicken thighs in the ovenproof pan. Cover the pan and place in the centre of the oven to cook for 1 hour.
Open the lid carefully and check whether the chicken is fully cooked it should just fall off the bone. If it is still a little tough, cook for a further 1015 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
Carefully pour the contents of the pan into a sieve over a bowl. Retain the cooking liquid. Pull the chicken from the bones, discarding them along with any cartilage.
Remove the chilli and the cinnamon stick. Mix the chicken meat together with the cooked dates and onions, along with just enough liquid to bind the mixture well any remaining liquid can be kept to warm through and use as extra sauce when serving. You can prepare this chicken-date-onion mixture up to 2 days in advance. Store in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the pastilla.
Heat your oven to 200C/gas mark 6.
Lay the opened packet of filo pastry on the table. Carefully peel off the first sheet and use a brush to butter it, then fold into four and set aside (this folded square will give a thicker base to the pastilla). Peel off the next sheet and butter it, cover with another sheet and set aside. Repeat with two more sheets, so that you have two sheets of double thickness.
Place one doubled sheet lengthways on the table, put the folded square in the centre of it and lay the other doubled sheet on top at 90 degrees to the first sheet, to make a cross shape that is thickest in the middle.
Carefully lift the pastry cross off the table and place in a 2224cm ovenproof frying pan or cake tin. Let it line the tin or pan with the sides of the pastry hanging over the edge. Fill with the chicken mixture and fold the corners over to cover it. We like to make the top a little crumpled so it looks natural. Brush the top of the pastry with the remaining butter and place in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. After this time, turn the tin around so that the pastilla cooks evenly, and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is all golden and crisp.
Serve immediately, with a jug of the warm cooking liquid as sauce and a fresh green salad on the side.
From Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich (Hodder & Stoughton, 25)