Pastillas are crispy filo pastry cigars, and the best possible use of leftover roast lamb. Or chicken. Or duck, Or...
What's a pastilla?
Pastilla is a kind of pie. Moroccan, or Moorish in origin (everything Moorish is so moreish! Excuse the pathetic pun), it's meat-filled, filo, brik or werqa pastry covered cigar shape. It's usually flavoured sweet and salty which means heaven in taste.
That's not what we imagine when thinking of pie in the UK - I'll leave American's alone this time not to create pie confusion. A delicate, elegant and crisp pastilla is quite different to a stodgy steak and kidney pie! Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with a steak and kidney, when you’re in need of a bit of stodge.
Cigar - the only pastilla shape?
The pastilla should classically be baked as a round large pie, then sliced into wedges. Very often though you see recipes for, or are served individual pastillas, rolled and shaped like cigars. It is much easier, I guess. And you get more pastry.
Pastilla filling for a frugal chef
It's an absolutely great way to use leftover roast. Chicken, beef or pork can be happily eaten cold the following day or made into sandwiches. Lamb – not as much, especially fattier cuts like the shoulder. So unless you’re very dedicated and want to embark on a project to use the roast meat, by making dumplings or ravioli, pastilla is the way to go.
Lamb is not the only filling
Lamb, chicken, pork, game, duck – anything goes happilly into the filo pastry wrapper. I wouldn’t cook the meat specially for the pastillas though, unless to make them is your heart’s desire and you don’t have leftover meat. It's the typical 'waste not, want not' dish.
How to make the pastilla lamb filling
It couldn't be easier. Simply shred your meat or chop it up roughly, removing very fatty or gristly bits. Sweat a little onion, a little garlic, spices and herbs and toast the meat in the mix. Add some cooked couscous, crumble in some feta cheese and drop in a few sultanas, just to feel decadent.
How to handle filo pastry
It dries out as you look so it always needs to be covered with a tea towel, except for the sheet you're currently working with. And working means brushing with fat, be it melted butter or oil. I prefer butter personally because it makes the pastry crisper. But if you want to make the pastillas vegan, use oil. Haha! Bad joke.
The filling is lined up at the shorter end of a sheet, and you roll up the filo over it, folding the sides over a third of the way up. Like old fashioned butchers wrapping the mince.
The already rolled pastillas need to be covered with a cloth while waiting for the remaining mates to join them on the tray, and then it's done, ready for the oven. By no means skip the cinnamon sugar dusting! It makes the pastillas heavenly, not merely delicious.
My recipe borrows heavily from Matty, who borrowed from Jamie Oliver. Matty’s website is nicer.