Cuisine Fiend

lamb pastillas

Updated: Fri, 15 January, 2021

Pastillas are crispy filo pastry cigars, and the best possible use of leftover roast lamb. Or chicken. Or duck, Or...

lamb pastillas

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.

jamie olivers moroccan lamb pastillas

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.

ingredients for lamb pastillas

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.

how to make filo and lamb pastillas

My recipe borrows heavily from Matty, who borrowed from Jamie Oliver. Matty’s website is nicer.

lamb pastillas

Servings: 4 pastillas, to serve 2Time: 1 hour 30 minutes


  • 50g (13 cup) couscous
  • 50ml (13 cup) boiling water
  • a drizzle of olive oil, for frying
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 130-150g (5-6 oz.) leftover cooked lamb, shredded finely
  • 30g (2 tbsp.) feta cheese
  • 30g (2 tbsp.) sultanas
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 sheets of filo pastry
  • olive oil or melted butter, for brushing
  • For the topping:
  • flaked almonds
  • sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp icing sugar mixed with 12 tsp ground cinnamon
  • For the dip:
  • 4 tbsp. Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp. rose harissa
  • a drizzle of olive oil


1. Pour the boiling water over the couscous, cover with cling film and leave for 10 minutes.

2. In the meantime, heat up the olive oil in a pan large enough to fit the onion, garlic and the lamb. Add the spices and garlic and cook gently until it only just starts to sizzle and swirl. Add the onion and cook for 10-15 minutes until soft. Add the lamb and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

4. Transfer the lamb mixture to a large bowl or use the pan you cooked it in, if large enough. Crumble in the feta cheese, add the couscous fluffed up with a fork, the sultanas and season very well with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Leftover lamb filling

5. Place a sheet of filo on a wooden board, keep the other sheets rolled up and covered with a tea towel to stop from drying out. Brush the pastry sheet with olive oil or butter (the latter makes it more crispy).

6. Place a quarter of the filling alongside the shorter, bottom edge which should be closest to you (turn the board around if it isn’t). Roll it up a third way up, fold the sides over the filling and continue rolling up like a cigar.

7. Place the pastilla, seam side down, on the prepared tray and cover with another tea towel while you roll up the remaining ones.

how to roll up pastillas

8. When ready to bake, brush the pastillas on the tray with more oil or butter, sprinkle with almond flakes and sesame, and sift the cinnamon icing sugar over each one.

9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until crispy and golden.

10. In the meantime prepare the dip: place the yoghurt in a small bowl, drizzle with olive oil and spoon the harissa into the middle. Swirl into a ripple with a small spoon, without mixing it through.

11. Serve with green or Greek salad, the pastillas are also delishhh cold.

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Your comments

Edith-Kerrie Halprin
@Edith-Kerrie Halprin
Thank you!
3 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Kerrie - I'm not so sure about freezing them before baking as I've never tried to cook filo pastry from frozen but you certainly can freeze them after baking. When you want to serve, just heat them them up in warm oven.
3 years ago
Can I freeze them before or after baking?
3 years ago

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