Chef Dave Haman and I have known each other for years. He helped open Sopra, the dining room that was above Mistura, after having worked throughout Europe. Not long after I opened Sanagan’s Meat locker, Dave opened the Woodlot, a Canadian restaurant tucked away on a leafy side street in Toronto. It was a perfect gem of a restaurant with a giant wood-burning oven which was used for bread, roasts, vegetables, and more. The Woodlot was so special to my wife and I that we decided to get married there. Guests recollect that it was one of the best weddings they have been to, especially because of the delicious food! Dave has since moved on to his dream job – a professor of baking and pastry arts at George Brown – and we have stayed in touch throughout the years. He is still one of my favourite chefs in Toronto, and a genuine, authentically nice person as well, which are the reasons why I reached out to him to ask what he’s been cooking at home during the pandemic. I highly recommend you trying out this recipe, his flavours are spot-on.
Moroccan Spiced Chicken Pie with Apricot and Pistachio by David Haman
My vision here was an adapted and lightened up version of a Pastilla, which is a celebratory dish prepared in variations across Morocco. In light of the lockdown I’ve had time to prepare dishes that have multiple steps and can be made in stages as I can pop down into the kitchen for a little bit of time between tasks, working from home. The Instant Pot makes this especially easy as it is so self-contained. The recipe can be done without it but the braising of the chicken will take about an hour and a half in a covered pot in a 350°F oven. Until the chicken legs are falling apart nicely.
I thought of the “Pastilla” as I wanted to present something that is a little special and celebratory. At home, I love cooking with and exploring exciting spice blends and bold flavours like those from North Africa. I was also thinking about something that can travel well too and would work in a picnic setting as I suspect that the first few meals we’ll have with people outside our households will likely be in parks or backyards. That will certainly be something to celebrate!
The pies can be made small and individual or as 1 pie and sliced like I did. I always double up the recipe and freeze half the filling so that the next time, I just prepare the phyllo shell, fill it and bake.
250 ml + 2 tbsp olive oil
750 gr chicken legs (approx. 3 legs, split)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
150 gr diced onion (1 large onion)
5 gr fresh ginger, minced (1 cm pc)
5 gr garlic, minced (2 cloves)
1 dry bay leaf
1 tbsp ras el hanout*
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp saffron (soaked in a tbsp warm water)
125 ml water (1/2 cup)
125 gr russet potato, peeled and grated (1 lg potato)
75 gr diced tomato (1 medium Tomato)
75 gr dried apricots (1/2 cup)
50 gr pistachios (1/4 cup)
1 tsp chopped loomi**
200 gr kale (1 bunch)
2 tbsp honey
1 box phyllo pastry sheets
- Using the “High” “Sauté” function on the Instant Pot heat the 2 tbsp of olive oil. Season the chicken legs with salt and sear in the oil until lightly golden all over. 5-6 minutes. Remove the chicken legs to a plate.
- Reduce the “Sauté” to “Low” and add the butter, onions, garlic, bay leaf and ginger with a pinch of salt. Sauté lightly until the onions are translucent and everything is aromatic. 5-7 minutes. Add the ras el hanout, cinnamon, cumin, pepper and sauté 1 more minute. Turn the “Sauté” function off.
- Add the saffron and its soaking water. Return the chicken to the pot and pour in the ½ cup of water.
Lock the lid of the Instant Pot in place and set it to cook 25 minutes under low pressure. Once the cooking timer has gone off, allow everything to cool and the pressure to release itself by just leaving it alone for a further 30 minutes. This process will take about an hour start to finish; just let the instant Pot do all the work.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil, add a pinch of salt and blanch your kale for 2-3 minutes until just tender. Remove from the water and let cool. Squeeze all the excess liquid from the kale, really squeeze it, forming a tight ball. Finely chop the kale and save it for later.
- Once you’ve let the pressure release naturally from the Instant Pot (at least 20 minutes after the cooking is done) remove the lid and lift the chicken legs out of the pot. Allow them to cool enough to handle. Just leave everything else in the pot.
- While they are cooling, peel and grate your potato. Don’t do this in advance as the potato will oxidize quickly. I just grate the potato on a classic cheese grater…. nothing fancy.
- Add the grated potato, tomato, apricot and pistachios to the spiced onion-y liquid in the instant pot. Turn the ”Sauté” function back on “Low” and bring everything to a simmer. Check the seasoning and add a little salt if required. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. The potatoes will dissolve and thicken everything up. Stir from time to time to prevent the bottom from burning.
- Pick the chicken off the bone, discard the bones and skins (or save for bone broth)
- Once the sauce has thickened up nicely, turn the heat off and fold in the honey, followed by the chicken and kale. Adjust the seasoning if required and balance it with a little bit of lime juice to taste. Transfer to a container and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavours to develop.
- The next day, remove the phyllo pastry from the fridge and reserve between two damp towels while you’re working with it. You can make small individual pies if you like and have small ring moulds or pie plates (disposable plates work). I made 1 large pie in a 9” spring-form pan. The spring form makes it easier to remove after but isn’t necessary. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Brush your pie plate or mould with olive oil. Brush 1 sheet of phyllo with oil and lay it so that the oiled side is down and covers the entire bottom and then drape it over one side (see photos below). Brush the side facing up with oil too. Lay another sheet over the bottom and offset the remainder of the sheet draping over the side next to the first. Brush the top side of this sheet with oil too.
- Continue to lay sheets in this manner going around the mould until you have created a star pattern with the phyllo and all the sides are covered with lots of phyllo draped to cover over the top too. The base should be layered about 6 sheets.
- Fill the pie with the chilled filling. Now start to drape the overhang from each sheet over the top of the pie, brush each with olive oil after you lay it over the top. You should have enough overhang to easily enclose all the filling and make a top layer about 6 layers deep as well, if you need to you can add another sheet or two on top to cover……. This is difficult to explain in words, but not actually difficult. See the attached photos or YouTube “Making a Pastilla” for clarity if required.
- Once the pie is fully enclosed, transfer to the preheated oven and bake until the pie is crisp and golden. Approx. 35 – 40 minutes.
- Let the pie cool about 5-10 minutes then transfer from the mould by flipping it out onto a plate or opening the springform. Garnish with chopped pistachios and loomi. Let cool at least 30 more minutes before serving. It will stay crisp for 3-4 hours. If you want you can pop it back into a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes before serving and it will crisp right back up.
* Ras el Hanout is a special blend of spices that differs from shop to shop. I am smitten with the blend made by The Spice Trader and Olive Pit on Queen St. West.
** Loomi are dried limes. Available at shops carrying Middle Eastern ingredients and some specialty food shops.