I want to start this post by thanking everyone who voted for my first entry in the Project Food Blog Challenge! I've advanced to the next round! The second challenge they've given us was to tackle a classic dish from a foreign country - the French & Italian classics eschewed in favor of more "challenging" cuisines. (For the record, I think French and Italian are plenty challenging).
I picked this B'stilla dish to make for many reasons. First, it is considered one of the national dishes of Morocco, and I have pretty much zero experience making Moroccan cuisine, unless you count couscous, which requires nothing more complicated than boiling water. Second, I was completely intrigued by the sweet and savory combination of ingredients in this dish. As you may know, I'm a big fan of sweet & savory combos: peanut butter & jelly, fig jam & tempeh bacon, mock duck & lychees... so of course I wanted to try this savory pie that is traditionally topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. And third, this dish is most often made with poultry (chicken or squab) and eggs. In other words, just the kind of dish to veganize. And lastly, I needed to make this dish to conquer my fear of phyllo dough. I've had a package of it in my freezer for months, just mocking me, waiting for me to make something with it. And so I finally did.
This is definitely one of the more challenging recipes I've made, in no small part because of that phyllo dough. The filling requires a few steps, and then you have the challenge of buttering all those sheets of dough, trying desperately to be gentle so that you don't tear them apart. I may or may not have taken a nap in the middle of making this recipe. But the results were well worth the effort. This was truly an exotic dish, I can honestly say that it didn't taste like anything that I had had before. The spices, the flaky dough, it all comes together beautifully and has you dreaming of days in Casablanca and Marrakech. The only ingredient that may be hard to find is the ras el hanout, a spice mixture used across North Africa. In NY, I found mine at Sahadi's, but if you have a hard time finding any you can make your own or order it here.
Vegan B'stilla (adapted from this recipe for Squab B'stilla)
makes 6 servings
1/4 tsp. saffron threads, crumbled
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth (I like the No Chicken Broth for this)
16 oz. vegan chicken, cut into strips
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3-4 fresh seeded jalapenos, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. + 1 tsp. ground cinnamon (divided)
1 Tbsp. ras el hanout
1/4 cup dry Sherry
1 cup water
8 oz. soft tofu, drained
2 Tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup sliced almonds
6 Tbsp. vegan butter, melted
6 (17 x 12-inch) phyllo sheets, thawed & unrolled
1 1/2 tsp. confectioner's sugar
1. Bring vegetable broth to a boil. Remove from heat and steep saffron threads in broth for at least 10 minutes.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add "chicken" pieces and saute until browned, 6-8 minutes. Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, ginger, ras el hanout, and 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, then saute for 2 minutes.
3. Add Sherry to chicken mixture and boil for 30 seconds. Add saffron broth and water, bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chick'n pieces to a plate. You will inevitably scoop up some of the onions & peppers with the chick'n, but try to leave as much of them as you can in the skillet. Set chick'n pieces aside.
5. Bring remaining cooking liquid to a boil, then add the tofu. Cook over medium-high heat 13-15 minutes, trying to keep the tofu in fairly large chunks while the liquid reduces. You are replicating a soft scrambled egg mixture, so cook this until almost all the liquid has boiled off and the mixture has the consistency of oatmeal. Transfer the tofu mixture to a large bowl and stir in parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, and raisins. Cool to room temperature.
1. Preheat oven to 375. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat, then fry almonds, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Drain almonds and cool on a paper towel-lined plate.
2. Brush a 9-inch cake pan with some of the melted butter. Cover stack of phyllo dough with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel. Keeping remaining phyllo covered, place 1 sheet on your work surface and brush with butter. Fold in half crosswise and butter again. Repeat with another sheet, buttering, folding, and buttering, then place over first sheet crosswise. Repeat with 2 more sheets, placing each sheet on top of the previous one in a star pattern to form a round. (Sheets should not align.) Lift stacked phyllo (4 sheets total) and gently fit into bottom of cake pan and halfway up side.
3. Sprinkle almonds over phyllo, then stir chick'n mixture into tofu mixture and spread evenly over almond layer. (Note: you will probably have some filling mixture left over. Use this to make another pie, or eat over couscous, or freeze for another time.)
4. Put 1 of remaining sheets of phyllo on work surface and brush with butter. Fold in half crosswise, butter, then fold in half again (to quarter) and butter. Repeat with remaining sheet and lay over first sheet crosswise. Place over center of filling. Bring edges of phyllo from side of pan over the filling top sheets and seal up so that it makes a closed package.
5. Bake b'stilla until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then invert onto a platter and let stand 5 minutes. Sift confectioner's sugar and remaining cinnamon over top and serve, cut into wedges.