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Duck pastilla

Sat, 27 February, 2021

Moroccan pastilla filled with shredded duck meat, caramelised onions and red peppers, the outer crisp filo layers dusted lightly with cinnamon and icing sugar.

duck pastilla

Pastilla is a North African pie made with filo, warka or brik pastry, with meat filling, usually poultry. It is generally considered to be a Moroccan specialty but actually is probably of Spanish provenience, having migrated to Morocco with the Moorish cooks leaving Andalusia after ten centuries of rule.

Traditional Moroccan pastilla

It should be a lavish preparation, with the meat freshly cooked specially for the purpose of encasing it in pastry and making a centrepiece of a banquet, or an entrée served at a wedding. But I always make it with leftover roast meat, and it’s the anticipated leftover feast.

I actually think the pastilla made with remnants of the roast duck or chicken beats the original roast, and I get anxious if it looks like the roast is going to be devoured without leaving much over. No! I want to yell. No more, don’t have another slice and DON’T TOUCH THOSE DRUMSTICKS!

Perhaps after all it is a good idea to prepare the pastilla from scratch and cook the meat with that intention instead of hovering like a vulture over diners, trying to snatch and save chunks of the roast for later. Confit duck legs would work gorgeously, I'm guessing.

That’s chalked up for the next time. For now, it will be discussed still as a wonderful way to use leftovers.

moroccan pie with duck filling

Dinner dusted with sugar?

If you squeam at the thought of putting sugar over your main course, you need to learn to be more open minded. There is nothing wrong with seasoning a meat pie, especially poultry-based, with a little sweetness.

The traditional Moroccan variants of pastilla are very cleverly distinguishing between the poultry type which gets sprinkled with cinnamon, almonds and powdered sugar like it was a cake, and the seafood type which is spicily seasoned and topped with lemon slices. It all makes sense: you wouldn’t sweeten fish or shrimp.

moroccan duck pastilla pie

Perfect leftover duck recipe

I use duck here, or the remnants thereof that I managed to retrieve from my hungry family. They did abide, cajoled with the promise of pastilla on the following day.

Preparing the duck mixture is a breeze: depending on the quantity you have at your disposal, add more onions and peppers. I also like to mix some plant food in, in order to make the dish lighter.

The onions and peppers should be gently sweated until really soft and jammy, with the fragrant spices of cinnamon, Baharat and coriander. Then the duck meat, shredded or chopped goes in and cooks together some more – it does not need to soften but to infuse with the flavours.

Berries, cran- or barberries are optional but I can never resist adding them in for some internal sweetness in the filling.

filo pastry pie with leftover duck

Baharat substitute

Baharat is a blend of spices and its content varies depending on the region. In my view the closest mix to substitute the original will be equal parts of smoked paprika, ground cumin and cinnamon/nutmeg/cardamom. Alternatively use ras el hanout if it is more available in your locality.

How to handle filo pastry

Quickly and briskly, that’s how; although it is reasonably resilient and does not quite dry out as you watch. It’s good to work with one sheet at a time and once it is brushed with butter (or olive oil), it gains some immunity from dryness so you can relax.

north african pastilla with shredded duck

Pastilla or pastillas

Make individual pastries, like hand pies, if you like. But there’s an awesomness about turning out the whole pie onto a plate, showering it in sugar and spice and cutting wedges while shards of crunchy filo spray out from the knife.

You can then grab your wedge and eat it with your fingers, by all means – in fact that’s how pastilla should traditionally be tackled.

I have made both individual pastries and one huge pie and another argument for the latter is: you get more filling. Bravely salvaged from the dinner the day before.

Duck pastilla

Servings: 2Time: 2 hours


  • 200g (7 oz.) roasted duck meat
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tbsp. duck fat or butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp Baharat spice
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 2 tbsp. dried cranberries
  • 3 tbsp. almond flakes
  • 70g (5 tbsp.) unsalted butter
  • 5 sheets filo pastry
  • icing sugar, for dusting


1. Pick the duck meat off the bone and shred or chop roughly. Set aside.

2. Finely slice the onion. In a medium skillet melt the duck fat and add the onion. Season with salt and pepper, cover the skillet and cook for about 10 mins until the onion softens. Stir in the spices.

3. Core the pepper and cut it into thin strips. Add to the skillet with onion and a pinch of salt and cook together for 10-15 minutes until the pepper is really soft and onion is jammy and caramelised.

cooking peppers and onions

4. Add the duck meat to the skillet with the cranberries and 1 tbsp. almond flakes. Mix well and cook for 5 more minutes. Set aside to cool.

how to cook duck mixture for pastilla

5. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5. Melt the butter in a small pan. Prepare a gratin dish or cake tin about 20cm in diameter and brush the bottom with butter.

6. Stack the filo pastry sheets on a chopping board and cut in half to get 10 square-ish sheets. Place one sheet in the middle of the dish and brush with butter. Now brush another sheet and arrange it in the dish, half in and half overhanging. Place 7 more buttered sheet so they fan around the dish.

layering filo pastry

7. Spoon the duck filling onto the pastry, packing it into the dish and pressing down. Cover the filling with the one remaining filo sheet. Fold the overhanging sheets over to close the pastilla and brush with remaining butter.

how to shape pastilla

8. Bake for 40-45 minutes until deep golden brown.

baked pastilla before turning over

9. While the pastilla is baking, toast the remaining almond flakes in a dry skillet.

10. Remove pastilla from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes to settle, then invert it onto a plate. Lightly dust with cinnamon, icing sugar and scatter toasted almond flakes. Cut into wedges and serve with green salad. It can also be served at room temperature.

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Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Mary! I'm very pleased my recipe has turned out useful. Baharat is indeed a mix of coriander and cumin with the pumpkin spice-type spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg so what you suggest will be entirely appropriate.
7 months ago
Hello! I'm trying to build a repetoire of wild duck dishes for my duck hunter husband. Planning to make this tomorrow with puff pastry as it's impossible to find gluten free filo. The baharat is a little confusing. Would I mix 1t. Smoked paprika, 1 t. ground cumin and 1 t. of a mix of cinnamon/nutmeg/cardamom? Keeping my fingers crossed. Thx for the inspiration!
7 months ago

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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