Scrumptious Moroccan Chicken Pie

This Moroccan Chicken Pie was so delicious and if this is the kind of quality tried and tested recipes I can expect to find in Jane-Anne”s new cookbook, I certainly cannot wait for its arrival on our shelves mid 2012. I have yet to meet another cook, who is more meticulous with measurements and writing down a recipe…..
I met Jane-Anne at the first Foodbloggers Indaba where she was a co-speaker and I remember her talk as if it was yesterday and then already she emphasized the importance of testing and testing a recipe to make sure it is correct. After all, people trust your recipe when they go out and buy the ingredients, so we as  bloggers, authors and recipe developers have a responsibility not to break that trust.
Enough preaching…..Jane made this delightfully different chicken pie when she came to cook in my kitchen with two other bloggers, The Foodfox and Food and the Fabulous.
I was fascinated by the way she cooked the chicken, but all the trouble and effort was so worth it, the pie was so scrumptious with hints of the Middle East with the last sprinkling of cinnamon on the top. So next time you want to try something special for dinner, give this Moroccan Chicken Pie a go!

Moroccan-Spiced Chicken Pie
From Scrumptious South Africa

12 skinless, deboned chicken breasts
5 sheets of fresh phyllo pastry
melted butter for brushing
a little ground cinnamon for dusting

For the marinade:
1 cup (250 ml) plain white yogurt
the juice of 2 lemons
2 tsp (10 ml) finely grated lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 tsp (20 ml) powdered cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) chili powder
a pinch of saffron threads

For the sauce:
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 T (30 ml) sunflower oil
one 8-cm stick cinnamon
8 large, ripe tomatoes
80 ml ground almonds
2 tsp (10 ml) ground ginger
2 tsp (10 ml) ground coriander
3 tsp (15 ml) mild paprika
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
salt and freshly milled black pepper
75g cold butter, cubed [optional]
24 green olives, pitted
3 T (45 ml) preserved lemon peel, finely chopped
½ cup (125 ml) chopped fresh coriander (loosely packed)
½ cup (125 ml) chopped fresh parsley (loosely packed)

Cut the chicken into strips as big as your little finger (or into large cubes, if you prefer). Place all the marinade ingredients into a large plastic or glass bowl and mix well. Stir in the chicken strips. Cover and set aside in the fridge for two hours.

Heat the olive oil in a large, shallow pan and add the chopped onion and cinnamon stick. Cook, over a medium flame, until the onions have softened. In the meantime, quarter the tomatoes and put them in a liquidizer or a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Process at high speed until you have a pale pink, mushy liquid. Pour this into the pan containing the onions and add the almonds, ginger, coriander, paprika and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook at a fairly brisk bubble for 15 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly.  To check whether it’s ready, draw a wooden spoon across the base of the pan. If the channel created by the spoon closes reluctantly, the sauce is thick enough.

Turn the heat to its lowest setting. Tip the chicken and its marinade into the pan and stir. Cook very gently (the mixture should barely bubble) for 10 or so minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through. Add the butter and toss gently. Stir in the olives, preserved lemon, coriander and parsley, and set aside to cool. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary. (At this point, the mixture can go into the fridge overnight, but add the coriander and parsley only just before you assemble the pie).

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Unroll the phyllo pastry and remove five sheets. Place a sheet of pastry on a piece of greaseproof paper or a clean tea towel (cover the remaining sheets with a damp cloth) and brush all over with melted butter.  Place another sheet on top, and brush with butter again. Continue until you’ve used up all five sheets.

Grease a rectangular pie dish that’s a little smaller than the phyllo pastry. Remove the cinnamon stick from the chicken mixture. Pile the filling into the dish and carefully place the layered phyllo on top. Tuck the excess pastry down along the edges, or crimp it neatly, as shown in the photograph below. Brush melted butter over the top of the pie and dust with a little ground cinnamon.

More of Jane-Anne’s Scrumptious recipes