Little pigeon bisteeya

Little pigeon bisteeya

William Meppem

This Moroccan specialty is baked for special occasions. However, nearly all Moroccan restaurants serve it, along with the ubiquitous tagines and couscous. It is traditionally made as one large pie, from pigeon spiced with saffron and cinnamon and enriched with eggs. A more prosaic alternative to pigeon is chicken, which is often substituted, but duck legs might be a better choice, with their dark, gamier meat. In Morocco, the whole pie is dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar and can be far too sweet for western palates. These little pies are only small, as the saffron and scrambled eggs make them extremely rich. Serve them on their own as a starter or maybe with some lemon-sautéed spinach as a main course.


Quantity Ingredient
3 pigeons
salt and pepper
100ml olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
8 threads saffron, lightly roasted and crushed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bullet chilli, seeded and finely chopped
60ml sherry
600ml chicken stock
3 eggs
2/3 cup parsley leaves, chopped
2/3 cup fresh coriander, roots and most of stalks removed, chopped
11 sheets filo pastry
150g melted butter
100g flaked almonds, fried in vegetable oil and drained
100g icing sugar
20g cinnamon powder


  1. Wash the pigeons and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Remove the legs and breasts, and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat half the oil in a heavy pan and sauté the pigeon pieces until they are golden-brown. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, saffron, cinnamon, cumin and chilli, adding more oil if necessary. Stir so the pigeon is well coated with spices.
  3. Add the sherry and stock, bring to the boil, then lower heat and simmer for 45–50 minutes, or until the pigeon is tender. When it is cool enough, remove the meat from the pigeon, discarding skin and bones, and shred it finely.
  4. Reduce the poaching liquid by half and then add the eggs and whisk until they are well combined. Pour this mixture into a small saucepan, season and scramble over a gentle heat until it is creamy and nearly set. Stir in the parsley and fresh coriander, and check the seasonings. Allow the mixture to cool completely. Stir the meat into the egg mixture, taste for seasoning and refrigerate until it is ready to use.
  5. To make the pies, work with one sheet of pastry at a time. Lay two sheets on the work surface and brush it with melted butter. Fold each one in half and then cut into six equal squares. Put these to one side (you will need ten of them). Lay the remaining filo sheets on the work surface, one by one, and brush them with melted butter. Fold them in half and brush them with butter. Fold them in half again.
  6. Place a generous tablespoon of the meat–egg mixture in the centre of each filo square. Place one of the small pastry squares on top of the filling and scatter a teaspoon of fried almonds over the square. Brush around the filling with melted butter and then bring the surrounding pastry sides up and over the filling to form a ball. Turn the pie over and, with the palms of your hands, gently shape it into a raised circular pie. Flatten the top slightly and refrigerate the pie until you are ready to bake.
  7. Place the pies on a greased oven tray and bake in preheated 180°C oven for 10–15 minutes until they are golden-brown.
  8. Sift the icing sugar and cinnamon powder together. Remove the pies and sprinkle them with cinnamon dust. Brand a diamond pattern on the top of each pie with a heated skewer.
Middle East
Middle Eastern
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