Monday 18 August 2014

Turkey B'stilla - Arabian Nights with British Turkey

Orange and herb salad with pomegranate dressing
Since attending the British Turkey dinner back in March I can't actually say our turkey consumption has increased - we were already pretty regular eaters of it - but I have been more appreciative of the range of flavours it can take on. When I saw that British Turkey and Red Tractor were running a competition to develop turkey recipes with an Arabian Nights theme I realised that the flavours of North Africa and the Middle East would work extremely well with turkey and decided to have a go.

The challenge was to use British turkey and two Red Tractor branded non-meat products in a recipe inspired by the Arabian Nights. The prize, if I win, is £200 in supermarket vouchers and an invitation to the British Turkey Awards.

A few years ago I went to a very interesting talk at the National Portrait Gallery by Marina Warner on the origin of the stories known as One thousand and one nights, so I know that the origins of Shahrazad's stories are largely Persian, but I couldn't let go of the idea of a Moroccan-inspired B'stilla. Or bisteeya, pastilla or bastilla, depending on your transliteration of choice. With its icing sugar-dusted top it looks unexpected for a savoury dish but for me it is the quintessential dish of Orientalist fantasy.

 B'stilla is traditionally made with young pigeon or chicken, boiled in aromatics, then the meat is stripped from the bones and the eggs are scrambled in the stock before being layered with the meat and almonds and wrapped in warqa pastry. With the way turkey takes on flavours, turkey thigh mince is a perfect alternative. Using mince instead of meat on the bone also allows streamlining the recipe, so it isn't quite as elaborate a preparation. You end up with lots of different flavours and textures, with creamy, savoury, spiced, herb-flecked turkey and eggs, then the sweet and crunchy almonds, all wrapped in layers of delicious buttery filo pastry and that enticing dusting of icing sugar. The accompanying herb salad brings more flavours and textures to the party.

As well as the turkey thigh mince, I used British butter and some local rapeseed oil. The rapeseed oil was particularly interesting to me. I've heard people touting it as a British-grown alternative to olive oil, but I've also heard people complaining about the taste. This cold-pressed oil, with a bright golden colour and delicious, almost peanutty flavour, had none of the rumoured bitter or rancid aftertaste. And it has a higher smoke point than olive oil, so it was the perfect thing for me to use both for frying the b'stilla filling and for dressing the accompanying orange and herb salad.

The ingredients list looks really long and off-putting, but instead of the individual ground spices you could use a bought ras el hanout blend to make life easier. You can also make it ahead of time, either making the filling the day before, or making the whole pie in the morning and baking it just before serving time. Even so, this really is a dish for weekends and celebrations, rather than something to knock up for supper after work. The flavours are rich, complex and delicious, and no one could ever accuse this turkey of being dry.     
Lining the dish with layers of filo pastry and British butter
The herbed and spiced turkey and egg filling
The almond and sugar layer - the sugar tempers the spices rather than making it taste sweet
Turkey B'stilla with Orange and Herb Salad (serves 4)

2tbs cold pressed British rapeseed oil
1 small onion, finely diced
500g British turkey thigh mince
2tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2tsp ground mace
1/2tsp ground nutmeg
1/4tsp ground cloves
1tsp ground white pepper
1 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
6 cardamom pods, seeds only
150ml well-flavoured chicken stock
Good pinch saffron
4 eggs
Juice of 1 lemon
1 small preserved lemon, skin only, finely shredded
Handful chopped flatleaf parsley (about half a supermarket bunch)
Handful chopped coriander (about half a supermarket bunch)
salt, if required
100g blanched sliced almonds
2tbs light brown sugar
75g British butter, melted
6 sheets filo pastry, thawed if frozen
1tsp icing sugar

Orange and Herb salad

1tbs pomegranate molasses
1tsp dijon mustard
1tbs cold pressed rapeseed oil
2 oranges, peeled and cut into neat suprême
Arils from 1/2 a pomegranate
2-3 radishes, thinly sliced
Handful flatleaf parsley leaves (the other half of the bunch)
Handful coriander leaves (the other half of the bunch)
Handful mint leaves
Handful dill sprigs
2 spring onions, sliced

Steep the saffron in the chicken stock. Heat the rapeseed oil in a saute pan, then add the onion and cook over a medium high heat until golden. Add the turkey mince and brown well, breaking it up with a spoon. When the mince is almost cooked, add the grated ginger and spices (instead of the dried spices you could substitute 2tbs of bought ras el hanout spice blend). Mix in the saffrony chicken stock - there shouldn't be a lot of sauce. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Beat the eggs in the lemon juice and add to the turkey mixture. Stir in the preserved lemon rind and chopped herbs. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens and becomes a bit curdy, but not dry. Taste for seasoning and add a little extra salt if necessary. The spicing might seem a bit aggressive, but it mellows during the baking. At this point you can refrigerate the mixture over night.

Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake at 160C, watching like a hawk, until the nuts are brown. It takes longer than you think it will and then turns in a flash. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the sugar. Allow to cool.

Take a heavy-based 10" round shallow casserole dish and line the bottom with a circle of baking parchment and brush lightly with melted butter. With 5 of the sheets of filo, line the dish so that the sheets overlap, and about half of each overlaps the edge of the dish, brushing each layer with butter as you go. I laid mine out in a star shape to make sure I had good coverage. If you work fast you don't need to worry so much about the pastry drying out, but do keep a damp tea-towel to hand to cover it in case you get distracted. When the 5 sheets have been laid in the tin, heap up the turkey filling in the middle. Press it down a little but don't pack it to the edges of the dish, you need to leave some room for tucking in the pastry. Sprinkle the toasted almonds and sugar evenly over the turkey mixture.

Tuck the overlapped pastry over and around the filling, brushing each sheet with butter again as you go. Try to give the pie a round shape by patting and tucking the edges. The top will look pretty messy, so cut the last sheet of filo in half and tuck that smoothly over the top, to give a tidy finish. Brush with the remaining melted butter.

Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 45 - 55 minutes or until dark golden brown and crisp. Dust liberally with sifted icing sugar before serving, cut into wedges, with the herb salad.
Ready to serve
For the salad, whisk the mustard, pomegranate molasses and rapeseed oil in a salad bowl. Add the other ingredients and toss gently to coat in the dressing.
 I was reimbursed for the cost of the turkey and Red Tractor ingredients by British Turkey.


Bettina Douglas said...

I have had Greg Malouf's b'stilla and this would hold its own (and be easier to eat for the pigeon-squeamish. Looks good.

Alicia Foodycat said...

That is high praise indeed! Even Mr I-don't-have-a-sweet-tooth enjoyed it, and he often finds Moroccan food a bit much.

Suelle said...

The b'stilla sounds delicious, and the salad is really beautiful!

Joanne said...

What a fun play on this Middle Eastern dish! I love how you've turkey-ed it up.

Pam said...

It all sounds and looks delicious! Love the colorful salad!

grace said...

this is super unique and i think it sounds delicious! love middle eastern cuisine. :)

Alison said...

I had never heard of this but it looks delicious. May have to give it a try


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