Moroccan cuisine is really popular these days - with all extensive use of spices, many of which were originally imported to Morocco from the Arabs. Ras el hanout is their famous spice combo made with 27 spices.
Whilst we tend to associate tagines and cous cous with Moroccan cuisine, they have a number of other dishes which are very traditional to their culture - including the Pastilla (sometimes spelt Basteeya or Bestilla).
A traditional Pastilla is filled with pigeon and apricots. This recipe is a vegetarian version of the Pastilla, which can be made without the feta cheese as a vegan dish. Delicious either way!
750g sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 x 260g pack young spinach
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 red peppers, deseeded and diced
1 x 250g pack precooked brown rice
handful of dried apricots, chopped
1 x 220g pack fresh filo pastry
100g butter, melted (or sunflower spread if cooking vegan)
100g feta cheese, crumbled
a large pinch of poppy seeds or sesame seeds
Pre-heat the oven to 200C, fan 180C, gas mark 6.
Mix the sweet potato with 1 tablespoon of oil, the cumin seeds and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Season and tip onto a shallow baking tray. Roast for 30-35 minutes until tender and lightly golden. Leave to cool.
Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain well. Tip into a colander and press out the liquid using the back of a spoon. Put in a clean tea towel and squeeze out any excess liquid. Leave to cool and then chop it up.
Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a frying pan and fry the onion for 10 minutes until soft, but not golden. Add the garlic, apricots and peppers, and cook for another 6-8 minutes until soft. Stir in the rice, remaining cinnamon and seasoning. Remove from the heat and leave it to cool.
On a large work surface, lay out one of the filo sheets. Brush with some of the melted butter, then layer a second layer of filo pastry on top of it. Brush this with melted butter, and layer a third layer of filo pastry on top.
Grease an oven proof dish (round or rectangular). Layer the peppers, then the sweet potato, then the spinach and then the feta (if using) on top. Top with the pastry layers, and tuck the pastry in down the sides of the dish.
Brush the top with the last of the melted butter, and sprinkle over the poppy or sesame seeds. Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden and crisp. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before slicing an serving.
Inspired by: Sainsbury's magazine