Pigeon bistilla

Pigeon bistilla

A Month in Marrakesh
David Loftus

This is one of the most famous dishes from Morocco. Traditionally, it is made with pigeon, although many restaurants make it with chicken these days to cater for more squeamish tourist tastes.


Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
garlic, finely sliced
5 pigeons, quartered
400ml chicken stock or water
2 eggs, beaten
80g almonds, chopped
8 sheets warkha pastry
or 12 sheets filo pastry
150g butter, melted, (if using filo pastry
butter, for brushing
icing sugar, for dusting
ground cinnamon, for dusting


Quantity Ingredient
1 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened. Add the pigeon and all the chermoula ingredients, and cook for 3–5 minutes, stirring continuously.
  2. Add the chicken stock or water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 50–60 minutes, or until the pigeon is tender and the sauce is beginning to thicken. Transfer the pigeon pieces to a plate with a slotted spoon. Allow to cool, then remove the bones and roughly shred the pigeon meat into a large bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the sauce over a high heat until it reduces by about half and thickens. Allow to cool, then add the shredded pigeon meat, eggs and almonds. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir until well combined.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease a 26cm pie dish. If using filo pastry, brush the pastry sheets with melted butter and stack them on top of each other with the edges overlapping. Place four sheets of overlapping warkha pastry, or six sheets of filo pastry, on the bottom of the prepared pie dish, making sure the edges overhang the rim. Spoon in half the pigeon mixture, then layer the centre of the pie dish with the remaining warkha or filo pastry sheets. Add the remaining pigeon mixture, and then fold the overhanging pastry neatly into the centre. Brush the top of the bistilla with melted butter. Bake in the oven for 20–30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool for 3 minutes before transferring to a serving plate. Dust with icing sugar and cinnamon and serve sliced.
North African
A Month in Marrakesh
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