One night when I was in college, I took my friend Austin to a birthday dinner at Fez in Philly. We had absolutely no idea what we were getting into when we entered the tented room. We ordered the set 8-course meal- and were like amazed by each course– so many new flavors. One dish was particularly memorable– a lamb pie, wrapped in phyllo dough and covered w. cinnamon and powdered sugar– which we destroyed ripping apart w. our hands. Obviously, this memory stuck for me– but not so much for Austin- who when I mentioned I wanted make the dish– had no idea what I was talking about… so, thanks man. Anyway, it took a bit of research to find what this dish might be called- and to find a recipe. I finally figured it is called B’Stilla- and all the recipes I could find were for chicken b’stilla. I took on of those chicken b’stilla recipes from Epicurious (Gourmet August 1994, ) and doctored it- so I could best recreate the dish I remembered. Yes, this dish is labor intensive- I did it over the course of two days- made the filling one- and assembled the pie the next. The most exciting part for me, was making my own spice blend. I bought the whole spice seeds etc- and used my coffee grinder to make this ral en hanout. Will definitely use the leftover spice in future dishes. And plus making my own spice blend made me feel legit. There are several separate parts to this recipe– but trust me– and ask Reed and Rachel- it was worth it. A note about phyllo dough- did not realize, you are supposed to take out of the freezer and move to the fridge overnight. I didn’t realize- moved to fridge only several hours in advance- but it worked out well.
3/4 cup blanched whole almonds, toasted and cooled
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
2 tablespoons hot water
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, cut into thin strips
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground lamb
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
3 1/2 teaspoons ras el hanout
3/4 cup golden raisins [optional]
For the pie
1 package phyllo dough
confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling
1 stick unsalted butter
8 x 8 square or round pan [ideally round, but I didn’t have]
Ras el hanout (moroccan spice blend)
1/2 teaspoon aniseed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
8 whole allspice berries
seeds from 8 cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
15 whole black peppercorns
1 stick cinnamon, broken in half
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cuminseed
a pinch dried red pepper flakes
a pinch ground mace
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
To make the almond sugar:
In a food processor or coffee grinder- grind fine almonds, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Almond sugar may be made 1 day ahead and kept covered in a cool dark place.
To make the ras el hanout:
In a spice grinder or coffee grinder grind fine aniseed, fennel seeds, allspice berries, cardamom seeds, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cuminseed, and red pepper flakes, In a small bowl stir together ground spice mixture, mace, ginger, and nutmeg until combine well. Ras el hanout may be stored in a tightly closed jar in a cool dark place up to 6 months. Makes about 1/4 cup.
To make the filling:
In a small bowl combine saffron with hot water and let stand 10 minutes.
In a heavy pot saute onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons butter over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to moderate and add ginger, ras el hanout, and pepper. Cook mixture, stirring, 3 minutes.
Add lamb, broth, and saffron mixture. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add raisins. Let lamb stand in cooking liquid off heat 30 minutes. Put lamb in colander and reserve cooking liquids. Return lamb to big pot.
Measure reserved cooking liquid and solids- then put in a saucepan- you should have around 1 3/4 cup (i definitely had less than this). If you have more than that, you can boil and reduce to that. Reduce heat to moderate and add eggs in a stream, whisking. Cook mixture, stirring, until eggs are set, about 3 minutes. Remove pot from heat and pour egg mixture into a coarse sieve set over a bowl. Let mixture drain undisturbed 10 minutes before discarding liquid. Transfer egg mixture to a bowl. Add egg mixture, parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste and chill. Filling may be made 1 day ahead and kept chilled, covered.
To make pie:
You want to work as quickly as you can here- so phyllo doesn’t dry out. So get everying in its place (mis en place) before you start. After you have opened the phyllo, put it in between two sheets of wax paper and put a slightly damp towel on top.
I wanted filling to be room temperature- so I microwaved 1 minute.
Preheat oven to 400 [Can follow instructions on phyllo box]
In a small saucepan melt 1 stick of butter and keep warm but not hot.
Take a pastry brush, and brush the phyllo w. butter. Lay so fits in pan. Sprinkle w. almond sugar. Repeat about 8-10 layers. [Yes, it is important to butter and sprinkle between each and every layer]. Add filling. Fold in excess layer overhang. Then continute to layer about 8 or so more layers [or until I got fed up]
Recipe says you can assemble 4 hours ahead of time and chill (but I feel like might as well assemble right before you bake). Bake b’stilla in oven until tops and ends are puffed and browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool b’stilla slightly on a rack. Flip out onto a serving dish. Generously sprinkle b’stilla with confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon and serve warm.