Sometime back, I went to a cooking expert to see if he could tell me about a pigeon dish that I'd tasted many years ago.  He could and did.  The recipe he sent is below for any who might care to try it.  It's absolutely delicious and worth the time involved in preparation.  I have tried to include metric equivalents for non-U.S. visitors. If you're in Australia or the U.K. and need other measurement conversions such as gas marks, etc., you can find them here: Cooking Conversions  

Moroccan Bastilla

PASTIYA (also BESTILA)  This is probably Morocco's most famous culinary preparation, world class, and deservedly so. although Muslims also have their version of this aromatically seasoned, slightly sweet pie. The original pie was made with pigeon, but it is gradually being converted to the more easily available chicken (outside Morocco), and, in the United States, the Cornish game hen.

The pastiya is a ceremonial dish served at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and occasions when the company is to be honored. But why wait for such a special time when it can be served at buffet parties or for the sheer pleasure of dining on Morocco's exotic classic.

It should be noted that the Muslim version is served sprinkled with confectioner's sugar and ground cinnamon.

1 Tbsps. (Tablespoon) = 15 ml spoon

1 tsps. (teaspoon) =  5 ml spoon

Moroccan Bastilla
(Pigeon Pie)

3 lbs ( 1.4 kg) onions, peeled and sliced thin 
2 Tbsps. (30 ml)   corn oil 
3 tsps. (15 ml ) salt, divided 
1/4 tsp (1.25 ml)  white pepper 
1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) , whole saffron, dissolved in 1/2 cup (100 ml + 1-15 ml spoon ) water, hot
5 lbs (2.3 kg ) pigeon pieces, with skin and fat discarded
2/3 cup (150 ml) Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
5 large eggs, beaten with 1 tsp ( 15 ml) salt
1/2 lb (0.2 kg ) almonds, blanched and toasted
1 1/2 Tbsps ( 22.5 ml) sugar
1 1/2 tsps (7.5 ml) ground cinnamon
1/2 lb (0.2 kg ) margarine, melted
1 lb (0.45 kg ) (Greek fillo sheets, about 12 by 17-ins ( 30.4 x 43.2 cm)
1 egg yolk plus 1 tsp ( 5 ml) egg white, beaten together

In a large pan, place the onions, oil, 2 teaspoons (10 ml ) of the salt, and the pepper. Stir-fry over moderate heat for several minutes. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and fry for about 15 minutes longer to reduce the bulk of the onions.

Pour in the saffron/water mixture. Mix well.

Place the pigeon pieces on top of the onions. Cover the pan and continue to cook for 1/2 hour more, or until the pigeon is tender. No liquid is added since the onions and pigeon will provide the moisture required. Remove the pigeon. Cut the meat off the bones and discard the bones. Cut the meat into small (about 1/2-inch (1.25 cm )  pieces. Set aside.

Stir the chopped parsley into the onions. Pour in the eggs and over very low heat stir the mixture until it is slightly cooked, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a processor, grind or chop the almonds to medium-fine consistency, leaving some texture. Mix the almonds, sugar, and cinnamon together. Set aside.

Coat the bottom and sides of a 14 by 10 by 3-inch (35.6 x 25.4 x 7.6 cm ) baking pan with the melted margarine. (A modern note, formerly vegetable oil was used.)

Open the package of fillo and spread the sheets out flat. Cover the sheets with a slightly damp kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out. Lay down 2 sheets over the pan bottom and coat the top sheet with the melted margarine, using a pastry brush. The excess inch or two of fillo around the sides may be trimmed with a sharp knife or folded in. Lay down 10 sheets in this way, coating every other sheet.

Spread out the cut up pigeon over the pastry and smooth out the surface from corner to corner. Lay down 8 more sheets of fillo, brushing every other sheet with the melted margarine. Spread out the ground almond mixture over the top.

Lay down 6 more fillo sheets and over these, spread out the onion/egg mixture. Cover with 8 more sheets of fillo, brushing each of the last 3 sheets with melted margarine. At this point, tuck in the fillo around the inner sides of the pan so that the top is a smooth surface.

Cut the completed pie into 3-inch (7.6 cm) squares , 4 strips down and 5 strips across, cutting through to the bottom of the pan. Brush each square with the beaten egg.

Bake in a preheated, 350 degree F. (175 deg. C.)(Gas Mark 4) oven for 1 hour. Remove the pan and recut through each square to the bottom of the pan.

Serve warm along with Moroccan salads and other dishes. Makes 20 servings.

NOTE: TO PREPARE THE ALMONDS: Blanch the almonds in boiling water. Cool them slightly and remove the skins. Dry the almonds. In a skillet, heat oil. Add the almonds and fry over low heat for several minutes, until the nuts reach a toasted, light tan color. Remove the almonds from the oil and toss them on paper towels to drain off any excess oil. (A Moroccan friend said that she puts the blanched almonds on a cookie sheet in a preheated, 350 degree F. ( 175 deg. C.)(Gas Mark 4)  oven and toasts the nuts for about 15 minutes.)

VARIATION: Individual pies are often the most convenient method of preparation for appetizers and cocktail parties. They are substantial portions with all the characteristic flavors of the large pies. The disadvantage of the large pie is that the fragments of filling do have a tendency to fall out. This is not important when served on a plate, but is inconvenient when standing up with a drink in one hand.

20 sheets fillo
margarine, melted
1 egg yolk
1 tsp egg white

Prepare all the steps taken for the large pie filling and set aside
as done previously. Mix the pigeon, onions, and almonds together,
the complete filling for the individual pies.

Butter 1 sheet of fillo and fold it in half lengthwise. Put 2
heaping tablespoons
(30-32 ml) filling at one end of the fillo sheet and fold
it over twice. Fold over each side toward the center so that the
individual bundle is about 5-inches
(12.7 cm) in width, and continue rolling
until you have reached the end of the sheet. You should have a
pie 2-inches
(5.1 cm) thick and 5-inches (12.7 cm) in length. Prepare all the pies
this way and place them on a cookie sheet brushed with margarine.
Paint the surface of each pie with the egg mixture.

Bake in a preheated, 350 degree F. (175 deg. C.) (Gas Mark 4) oven for about 45 minutes, somewhat less than the large pie.

Serve warm. Makes 20 individual pies.

Pete_Hanysz of gave this response on 8/18/2001:

If you're interested in finding out about squabbing pigeons and how to breed them, check out the links below. Pigeons have long been as a delicacy meat and were a preferred meal for many of the aristocracy in Europe for centuries.


Carpenter Squab Farm


Squab: The Delectable Bird


Squab rearing