Celebrate the shorter, cooler days of autumn by cranking up the oven and baking this hearty, delicious pie. A Moroccan classic, this pie is well worth the effort. I particularly love its sweet 'n' savoury nature. To complete, serve with my carrot salad and and with cous-cous or rice.
6 x 175g chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
2 good pinches saffron soaked in 3 tbsp hot water
1 tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp grated nutmeg sea salt
2 cinnamon sticks ½ large red onion, finely chopped
30g parsley leaves, chopped
15g coriander leaves, chopped
115g clarified butter
375g whole blanched almonds
4 tbsp vegetable oil
40g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
1½ tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
9 medium eggs
300g filo pastry
1 egg yolk
1. Place the chicken thighs in a casserole dish. Mix the saffron water with the ginger, pepper, turmeric, nutmeg and one teaspoon sea salt. Pour over the chicken and marinate for 10 minutes. Add the cinnamon sticks, onion, parsley, coriander, half the butter and 400ml water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
2. Lightly fry the almonds in a pan with the oil, drain and cool. Set aside 20 almonds for the pie top and coarsely grind the rest in a food processor. Combine the ground almonds with the icing sugar and ground cinnamon.
3. Remove the chicken from the casserole dish and discard the cinnamon sticks. When the chicken is cool, remove all the meat from the bones and roughly shred it. Discard the skin. Bring the cooking liquid back to the boil and reduce to about 300ml. Lower the heat until the liquid is simmering, then add the lemon juice. Beat the eggs, then slowly pour them into the simmering sauce, stirring continuously in one direction, until the eggs cook and set. Remove from heat, then transfer egg mixture to a bowl.
4. About an hour before serving time, preheat oven to 220°C. Fold 4 filo sheets in half, place on a baking tray and bake until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes. Unroll the remaining filo sheets and place under a damp tea towel to prevent them from drying out.
5. Melt remaining clarified butter and brush the bottom and sides of a 30cm pie tin. Cover the bottom of the tin with one pastry leaf. Arrange six or seven more uncooked filo sheets so each sheet covers a portion of the bottom of the pan and hangs over the sides; make sure the entire base of the tin is covered. Place another leaf in the centre of the pan and brush the overhanging filo with butter.
6. Place some of the shredded chicken around the edges of the pan, then work towards the centre so the pastry is covered with an even layer of meat. Cover chicken with the egg mix and then the baked pastry.
7. Sprinkle the almond and sugar mixture over the pastry. Cover with all but two of the remaining filo sheets. Brush every sheet with the melted butter. Fold the overlapping sheets over the top to envelop the pie. Lightly brush the edges with some of the beaten egg yolk and place the remaining two sheets, overlapping, on top. Fold the edges under the pie. Brush filo pastry with butter and remaining egg yolk. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.
8. Remove the pie from the oven and run a knife around the edges, then tilt the tin to pour off any excess butter, which should be reserved. Carefully invert the pie and turn it out, upside down, onto a buttered 35cm round baking tray. Brush with any reserved butter and bake for a further 10 minutes to crisp up the pastry.
9. Remove the pie from the oven. Put a large serving platter over it and turn once more, so it's the right way up again. Dust the top of the pie with a little icing sugar, then run lines of ground cinnamon over the top. Decorate with the reserved whole almonds and serve very hot.
Suggestion: Serve with Neil's carrot and sultana salad.