Moroccan pastilla can be described as a North African version of a pie, traditionally made with more unusual flavours than us Brits would have in a pie. This being said, they are no less satisfying to eat, with a flaky, golden casing of filo pastry. Filled with seafood and vermicelli noodles, with fragrant citrus notes from Chermoula, it is a showstopping centrepiece for a meal.
500g Skinless and boneless cod fillet, or similar white fish, cut into large chunks
250g Raw shelled prawns, or a mixture of prawns and squid
125g Vermicelli noodles
1 Beldi Preserved Lemon, cut into quarters, flesh removed, and skin finely chopped
2 Red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 Cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
200g Cherry tomatoes, stalk removed and cut into half
3 1/2tbsp Chermoula
40g Fresh chopped coriander
250g Filo pastry (approx. 1 packet)
50g Butter, melted or more olive oil
Salt and pepper
¼tsp Ground cumin
Place the cod and prawns in a bowl, season with a little salt, add 1 tbsp Chermoula and mix to coat. Place in the fridge to marinate for ideally 4 hours upwards.
Place a medium sized pan of water on a high heat, season with salt and when boiling, add the vermicelli noodles. Stir to break up the noodles then cook for 4 minutes (or to the instructions on the packet) so that they are only just cooked and retain a little bite. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Shake as much water off as possible then place in a bowl, add the preserved lemon, half the chopped coriander, 1 tbsp olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Mix with your hands to coat the noodles then set aside.
Place a medium frying pan on a medium to high heat, add the red onions, 1 tsp olive and a pinch salt. Fry quickly on a high heat for about 5 minutes, until the onions have softened and begun to darken and caramelise around the edges, then remove from the pan and add to the bowl with the seafood.
Place the pan back onto a medium heat and add the remaining olive oil to the pan. Add the garlic and fry gently till it becomes a light golden colour, then add the tomatoes. Allow the tomatoes to release some of their juice then add the remaining 2 ½ tbsp chermoula and stir to combine. Keep the heat on medium to high and cook for around 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened and the juice has reduced to a thick sauce. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if you feel necessary. Add this to seafood and onions, along with the remaining coriander and gently mix everything, taking care so as not to break up the fish.
You can make up the pastilla in a round pie or baking dish (as shown in the photo) but you can also make it on a baking tray. Have the melted butter and a pastry brush ready. Heat your oven to 180C fan/200C non-fan. You need to work quickly to avoid the filo pastry drying out
Take 1 sheet of filo and lightly brush it with melted butter and lay down on to a dish or tray. Take another, brush with butter and lay on top at a different angle, then do this with a third sheet so you have 3 pieces overlapping in the centre. Take half the noodles and arrange into a circle in the middle, then spread the seafood filling over the top of this. Spread the rest of the noodles on top of this, again in a circle. Fold up and over the filo sheets around the edges of the layers.
To make the top of the pastilla, you need to repeat what you did for the base, so again take 1 sheet, brush with butter and lay over the top, then repeat with remaining sheets of filo but positioned at different angles. Now tuck all the edges of the filo under the pastilla, trying to keep some tension and shape but don’t worry if it is a little loose as the pastry will turn flaky and crunchy when cooked.
Place in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until golden and crunchy all over. It looks like it is turning too dark then turn the heat down, but it does need to cook for a while to get the inner layers of pasty cooked. Check to make sure the inside of the pastilla is piping hot by inserting a skewer or small knife. Dust the top with the ground cumin and paprika then cut into wedges and serve.