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Making Sweet and Savory Pigeon Pie in Fez, Morocco

This centuries-old dish can be both dinner and dessert.

To see how pigeon pie, or bastilla, is made, we paid a visit to a traditional Moroccan house, or riad, while in the country’s capital of Fez. Bastilla comes from the Spanish word pastilla, since the dish goes back to the 13th century when many Hispano-Muslims moved from Spain to Morocco.

Young pigeon meat is most tender, so the ideal bird for this pie would be less than a month old. It should be boiled for 30 minutes with water, chopped onions, salt, pepper, ginger, and turmeric.

The filling will eventually be wrapped in a thin, flaky dough called warqa, which means leaf in Arabic. In a pinch, a phyllo dough would work too.

Warqa is a simple mixture of white flour, water, and salt. Experts spread it on a non-stick pan with their bare hands. (To get a sense of how hard this is, watch British chef Jamie Oliver try to make this dough in Marrakesh.)

After the pigeon is boiled and fried, it’s shredded and layered on the warqa with the gravy and cinnamon sugar almonds.

Once filled, more layers of warqa are wrapped on top and the pie is baked until golden brown.

To finish it off, powdered sugar and cinnamon are sprinkled on top, and the pie is served warm in the riad’s airy dining room.


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