Singapore Noodles

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My daughters recently met in Austin, Texas for a fun-filled extended weekend. They stayed an an adorable motel, and worked their way to bars and eateries in Austin for serious sister bonding.

For what was “probably one of the best meals ever,” was lunch at Elizabeth Street Cafe, which opened in South Austin in 2011. It’s a “little restaurant boasts sunny dining rooms and a shady garden patio and serves fresh breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as takeout.”

What’s interesting is that it’s a Vietnamese cafe and French bakery/boulangerie, so while you enjoy your ba´hn mi, you can order baguettes and macarons.

In anticipation of their mama’s upcoming birthday, my girls purchased the Elizabeth Street Cafe cookbook, and boy did I have trouble picking the first dish I’d make out of it. Except the macarons; I always leave those to the experts.

Finally I chose Singapore Noodles with shrimp and roasted pork, and it turns out that it was the first dish on the Elizabeth Street Cafe menu. It remains a best seller. The same noodles show up on their breakfast menu without the shrimp, but with sunny-side-up eggs on top.

I happened to have rice vermicelli noodles in my pantry. And they’re from Singapore!

Singapore Noodles with Gulf Shrimp and Roasted Pork

For the pork:
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons annatto seeds
1 pound pork shoulder or butt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

For the curry slurry:
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sriracha
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

For the noodles:
1/2 pound rice vermicelli
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 large white onion
1 jalapeño, stemmed, thinly sliced
1 Fresno or other red chile, stemmed, thinly sliced
12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 eggs
2 large handfuls cilantro
6 scallions, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
1 large handful watercress
1 lime, cut into wedges
Sriracha, for serving

In a small pot set over low heat, warm the oil, add the annatto seeds, and cook, stirring twice, until the seeds are fragrant and sizzling and the oil is brick red, about 5 minutes. Strain the oil through a sieve into a small bowl and discard the seeds. Cool the oil to room temperature.


Season the pork all over with the sugar and salt. Put the pork in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in the annatto oil. Squeeze all the air out of the bag so the oil completely covers the pork. Refrigerate and let marinate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set a roasting rack over a sheet pan. Put the pork on the rack and drizzle whatever oil remains in the bag over the pork.

Roast until the pork is browned and tender, about 2 1/2 hours, turning it halfway through roasting. Remove the pork from the oven and let cool to room temperature; then cut into large bite-size pieces – discarding any large pieces of fat – and reserve. Reserve the bright red fat in the sheet pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the curry powder, turmeric, fish sauce, sriracha, and ginger with 1/4 cup water. Let sit for 1 hour at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Line a plate with a clean cotton dish towel. Put the noodles in a large bowl of hot tap water and soak until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and transfer to the lined plate. Place a second clean cotton dish towel on top of the noodles, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

In a large wok set over high heat warm the oil until smoking. Then add the reserved pork and cook until the meat is crisp on one side, about 3 minutes.

Add the onion, jalapeño, and Fresno chile and cook, stirring until the vegetables pick up some color, about 5 minutes.

Add the shrimp and cook until browned on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Add the reserved pork fat from the roasting pan and the noodles and stir rapidly to combine the ingredients in the pan. (If your pan is small, cook the noodles in 2 batches.)

Move the stir-fry to one side of the pan and crack the eggs into the pan, stirring with a wooden stpoon or chopsticks scramble the eggs and to incorporate them into the noodles.

Then stir the curry slurry and pour it over the noodles. Continue to stir and toss the noodles to evenly distribute the slurry. Stir in most of the cilantro and scallions and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed.

Transfer the stir-fry to a serving platter, and place some of the shrimp on top of the noodles.

Top with the remaining cilantro and scallions and the watercress.

Serve immediately with the lime wedges and sriracha.

Oh my goodness, I could eat this dish every day. Probably for all three meals. I can’t really describe how good it is, but you can tell from the ingredient list.

The one thing I did differently was to roast the pork at a higher temperature for about 30 minutes. I think this was preferable to pork “baked” at only 350 degrees. Otherwise I wouldn’t change a thing!!!

Spicy Scrambled Eggs

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In spite of owning Plenty, a wonderful Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook, I just had to purchase Plenty More, published in 2014. And I’m certainly glad I did.

For the blog, I’ve made zucchini Baba Ghanoush, and I’m especially intrigued by a membrillo and Stilton quiche, made with butternut squash, so that will be next.

But one recipe I bookmarked on the first read-through is Spicy Scrambled Eggs. Nothing exceptional except, well, it is. There are spices, herbs, eggs, tomatoes, a chile pepper and did I mention spices?!!


From Ottolenghi: Many of my brunch dishes were devised BC (before children), so food-meets-the-need-to-soothe was often in mind when cooking on a Sunday morning. A few dishes have remained part of the weekend breakfast repertoire since we started turning in early on a Saturday night. This is one of them.

Spicy Scrambled Eggs
Serves 4

2 tablespoons sunflower oil
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 small onion, finely diced
1 1/4″ piece fresh ginger, peeled, finely chopped
1 medium red chile, seeded, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4″ dice
8 eggs, beaten
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Urfa chile flakes

Put a large, preferably nonstick sauté pan over medium heat and add the oil, cumin, caraway, onion, ginger, and chile. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.


Add the ground spices, tomato paste, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and for and stir for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 8 to 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.


Add the eggs, turn down the heat to medium-low, and continuously, but very gently, scrape the base of the pan with a wooden spatula.

You want to end up with large, curd-like folds and you want the eggs to be soft and very moist.

Cook the mixture for a total of about 3 minutes.

Sprinkle with the green onions, cilantro, and chile flakes.

Serve at once.


Enjoy!

Golden Cauliflower and Carrot Rice

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I’m pretty sure you all know that I’m not fond of food trends. I’ve probably mentioned this numerous times. So if something becomes popular and trendy, I completely ignore it.

Sure, I’m old(er) and old-fashioned, but it’s just my personality. I never wore white metallic lipstick in the 60’s, either.

The dumb thing is, sometimes when you’re too stubborn, you can really miss out. Like the bowl trend. Is there one on my blog? No! But they do look lovely.

And in the 80’s, when I really started cooking, I looked down my nose at both sun-dried tomatoes and basil pesto because they were everywhere. I have no idea how many years I lost not indulging in those two fabulous foods. I’ll never forgive myself for that.

Which leads me to… cauliflower rice. Nope.

Then, thanks to the lovely Serena from her blog, Domesticate Me, I saw a recipe that I couldn’t ignore. It was a cauliflower and carrot rice with almonds and golden raisins.

If you don’t know Serena, you must check her blog out and her just-published cookbook, The Dude Diet.

She’s a doll, she’s funny, and she swears. Oh, and she’s a professionally-trained chef. What’s not to love?!! But also, and this is important to me, if I comment, she responds to my comment.

Now this may seem a bit silly, but I will stop following blogs if the authors have no time for me. It’s not that I’m so great, it’s because the best thing about blogging in my four-plus years of doing so, is the interaction. It’s like this virtual, giant group of foodie friends that you get to know around the world.

Plus, on some of those fancy blogs, you can tell that the author responds to nobody’s comment. They’re just too important and busy. I just don’t get that.

Serena has been on her book tour around the U.S., but she is still responding to comments. And I know how much time it takes, because I follow many blogs. It’s just part of the dedication one should have to one’s blog. And Serena’s blog is also one of those fancy ones!

I promised Serena that I would make her “rice” dish because it really sounded lovely. She assured me it would not disappoint.

Golden Cauliflower and Carrot Rice
Adapted slightly from Domesticate Me!

1 medium head cauliflower, florets only, about 1 lb. 6 ounces
Baby carrots, 8 ounces
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt
Juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup chopped parsley leaves
½ cup golden raisins (I used figs)
½ cup chopped raw almonds (I used hazelnuts)
Lemon wedges for serving (optional)

Add about half of the cauliflower florets to a food processor and pulse until a “rice” forms. Place in a large bowl, then process the remaining cauliflower.

Process the carrots the same way, and add the riced carrots to the cauliflower.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the cauliflower and carrot rice, turmeric, cayenne, cumin, and a good pinch of salt.

Cook for 2-3 minutes until the rice is just tender.

Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.


Fold in the parsley, dried fruits, and toasted nuts. Taste, and add salt if necessary.


I served this “rice” with some grilled chicken that was marinated in a garlic-parsley marinade.

What’s really fun is changing up the dried fruits and nuts according to your taste and the season. Imagine this dish with dried cranberries and pistachios in December!

Dried figs and hazelnuts are really more autumnal, but I had them on hand and I love them.

Okay, so am I glad I finally tried cauliflower rice? Of course! But I really liked what Serena did with the dish, adding carrots, seasoning, and the fruits and nuts. I can also see this as a salad with a vinaigrette, maybe with some orzo, or barley, or just like it is.

Serena’s actual name for this dish is Cauliflower and Carrot Golden “Rice,” and she serves it in a bowl, but it’s okay, cause I like her. I put mine on a plate. Maybe I can start a plate trend?!!

Tomato Beef Curry

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It’s not out of disrespect for Indian cuisine that I don’t often use recipes from my Indian cookbooks. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Indian cuisine is our favorite cuisine, if we had to pick only one. As a result, I quite often turn a soup into a curried soup, lentils into curried lentils, or seafood crepes into a curried version. And I don’t mean simply adding curry powder.

Cooking Indian food is about being familiar with Indian ingredients. When I began cooking, I followed recipes in order to learn about Indian cuisine as well as other international cuisines, but now that I’ve been cooking for almost 40 years, I enjoy creating Indian-inspired dishes without relying on recipes.

I want to point out that I’m very aware of the various regional cuisines, meat-based and vegetarian, that exist in India, from the south to the north, from west coast to east. So of course I’m generalizing when I refer to its cuisine when there isn’t only one.

My first experiences were from this ancient cookbook, from the Time-Life Foods of the World series.

Eventually I purchased other cookbooks over the years, and that’s when I figured out that many recipes – again, generalizing – are similar. Most begin with onion, ginger, and garlic, for example, cooked in clarified butter, or ghee.

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A meat, poultry or seafood curry can be prepared in a yogurt-based sauce, or one that is tomato based. Some are enriched with creamed nuts, like almonds or cashews, which are some of my favorites.

Regarding spices, there are many. Cumin, cardamom, coriander (seeds and leaf), turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, pepper, garam masala (as varied as curry powder), cloves, fennel, saffron, and more. Some recipes contain many spices, some only 3-4.

Sometimes chile peppers are included for heat – both fresh and dried. But, of course, the temperature can be controlled.

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So following is an example of an easy beef dish in a curried tomato sauce. It was done in 15 minutes.

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Tomato Beef Curry

6 ounces ghee, divided
1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 – 1″ piece of fresh ginger, diced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cayenne, to taste
4 ounces drained diced tomatoes
4 ounces tomato purée
2 teaspoons garam masala
Fresh cilantro, optional

Heat 3 ounces of ghee in a heavy pot over high heat. In batches, brown the cubed beef, then place in a bowl until all the beef has browned; set aside.

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In the same pot, add the remaining ghee and lower the heat to medium-low. Sauté the onion, ginger, and garlic for a few minutes, being careful not to let them brown.

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Then add the salt, spices and, if using, cayenne pepper. Stir well and cook for about 1 minute.

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Add the diced tomatoes and purée. Stir, then let the mixture cook at a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes.

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You want the mixture fairly thick. Because I am using beef tenderloin in this recipe, the cooking time is minimal.

Add the browned beef from the bowl, including all juices, to the sauce.

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Stir to coat the beef and cook for about ten minutes, uncovered; the beef should be tender. Remove from the heat.

Just before serving, add the garam masala and stir.

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Normally I would sprinkle fresh cilantro leaves over the curry, but I decided instead to make a cilantro rice as a side dish, seasoned only with cumin and coriander.

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If this dish is too meaty for you, chickpeas can be added.

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If you want the dish creamier, you can add some heavy cream, a bit of yogurt, or even creme fraiche to the sauce.

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Many years ago I turned friends on to Indian cuisine, and my friend Claire bugged me to show her how to “cook” Indian. I told her that there is no difference in cooking techniques with Indian cooking, but she didn’t seem to believe me. So she came over once, and we cooked maybe 4-5 dishes. And we had a wonderful dinner. Her verdict? She wasn’t impressed! I don’t know what she thought I’d be doing in the kitchen, but it’s the same pots and pans, knives and spoons. She now cooks Indian food! Everyone should!

Curried Salmon

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Typically, when I prepare fish, I pretty much leave it alone. A little salt and pepper, and that’s it. Because my theory is that if it’s good fish, then why cover up its delicate flavor with seasonings and sauces?

But salmon is different in my mind, with its stronger flavor. It can really hold its own. So I decided to make a meal of salmon accompanied by a dish of curried spinach and mushrooms.

When I follow Indian recipes, I use the individual spices listed in the recipes. But it’s nice to have a good curry powder on hand. After testing this one, sweet curry powder from Penzey’s, I now always have it on hand. I think it’s excellent.

However, I don’t want my curry dishes to all taste the same, so sometimes if I use this curry powder, I might add some extra cumin or cinnamon. If you have a favorite curry powder, feel free to use it for this dish!

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Here is my recipe for salmon and curried vegetables.

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Curried Salmon
Serves 2

3 tablespoons olive or tasteless oil
1 small onion, halved thinly sliced
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons heavy cream
8 ounces fresh spinach leaves
1 teaspoon curry powder, or to taste
White pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 salmon filets, rinsed and dried on paper towels
Salt
White pepper
3 tablespoons white wine
3-4 tablespoons heavy cream
Ground turmeric

In a large wok, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them until soft. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat a little, and sauté them until golden.


Add the garlic, give it a stir, then add the cream.

Stir to combine, then add the spinach. Stir gently to incorporate it, then turn down the heat to the lowest setting, put on a lid, and let the vegetables steam-cook for about five minutes.
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Remove the lid and stir the vegetables. You want to reduce the liquid a bit, so let them cook over low heat for a few minutes. Then add the curry powder, white pepper, nutmeg and salt. Stir well, then set aside.
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Heat the butter in a skillet over high heat. When the butter is browned, add the salmon, skin-side up and turn the heat to medium.
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After five minutes, turn the filets over and lower the heat to its lowest setting. The salmon should be nicely browned.
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Season the salmon with salt and white pepper. After another five minutes, the salmon should be cooked through, yet still tender in the middle; do not overcook them or they will be dry. The timing, of course, depends on the thickness of your salmon filets.

Remove the filets to a plate and heat the butter remaining in the skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the wine and a little turmeric, about 1/4 teaspoon. I added turmeric mostly for a little color.


Reduce the wine to just about one tablespoon, then add the cream. Reduce the cream sauce until there’s about three tablespoons left in the skillet and remove the skillet from the heat.

To serve, place the warm vegetables on the place and top with a salmon filet.
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Then divide the cream sauce between the two servings.
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The curried salmon was perfect with a pinot gris.
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Sag

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My husband and I have a lot in common, in spite of being opposites, if that makes sense. We’re both homebodies, yet we also love to travel. And we both love Indian food. Actually these might be the only things we have in common. But they’re important things!

For a small celebration at my house recently, I decided to make an Indian spread. I planned it like a buffet you’d experience at a good Indian restaurant. You’ve never heard these words come out of my mouth before, but at Indian restaurants, I’m not at all opposed to eating from the buffet.

I think it must be difficult for Indian restaurants to make bad food, even for their lunch buffets, because I’ve never had any. (Unlike the case with Chinese buffets, for example.) There’s never been a curried protein, vegetable, or bean dish that I haven’t enjoyed. And if their naan is good, then I’m in heaven.

One of my husband’s favorite dishes on a typical Indian buffet is sag paneer or mattar paneer – curried spinach or peas with paneer. Traditional aneer, which is easy to make from scratch, is similar tofarmers’ cheese. It add something texturally but not really flavor-wise to me, so I can take it or leave it.

Many years ago I came across a dish simply called sag – fried spinach and broccoli – no paneer. The recipe is in one of my favorite cookbook series – Foods of the World by Time Life.
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It’s a lovely vegetable dish, and a wonderful accompaniment to chicken curry, lamb korma, or any vegetarian curry dish.
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Following is the recipe exactly from the cookbook.

Sag, also spelled Saag
To serve 4 to 6

1 cup water
1/2 pound fresh spinach, washed, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1/2 pound fresh broccoli including the stalks, washed, trimmed and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons ghee*
1 tablespoon scraped, finely chopped fresh ginger root
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Combine 1/2 cup of the water and a handful of the spinach in the jar of an electric blender, and blend at high speed for 30 seconds, or until the mixture is reduced to a smooth purée.
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Turn the machine off and scrape down the sides of the jar with a rubber spatula. Then add another handful of spinach, purée for 30 seconds and stop the machine again. Repeat until all the spinach has been puréed. Transfer the spinach to a bowl, and pour the remaining 1/2 cup of water into the blender jar.
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Purée the broccoli a handful at a time as you did the spinach, then stir the puréed broccoli into the spinach.
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In a 10″ karhai or heavy skillet or a 12″ wok heat the ghee over moderate heat until a drop of cold water flicked into it sputters instantly.

This is a photo of an Indian karhai, also spelled karahi. I used my large wok.
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Add the ginger and fry for 1 minute. Add the onions and salt and continue to fry, lifting and turning the mixture constantly, for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the onions are soft and golden brown.


Stirring after each addition, add the cumin, turmeric, coriander and garam masala.

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Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until the ingredients are well combined, then stir in the spinach and broccoli a cup or so at a time and fry for 5 minutes more.
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Reduce the heat to the lowest possible point and, stirring occasionally, simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture leaves the sides of the pan in a solid mass.

Serve at once from a heated bowl or platter. I added a little flaked salt to my sag.
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In the Punjab, where it originates, sag is usually made with fresh mustard greens; you may substitute these for the spinach and broccoli if you like.
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As much as I love Indian meat and seafood dishes, I also really love dal – the various legumes of India. So today I served myself sag along with curried chick peas. A delicious and satisfying meal!
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*Ghee is simply clarified butter. Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don’t. The clarifying of the butter removes the solids which can brown and also burn, but it’s the solids to me that provides such lovely flavor. If you’re not using extremely high heat and can’t get your hands of ghee, regular butter will work fine.

Note: If you want to add paneer to this dish but don’t want to make it from scratch, use firm or extra-firm tofu – the kind in water, not the silken variety.

Bastila

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A Bastila is a savory Moroccan pie with a chicken filling that is cooked within crêpes. The preparation is a little involved in that both the filling and the crêpes need to be made first. But it’s not a difficult pie to make, and so worth it!

What makes this pie’s flavor unique is that traditional Moroccan mixture of almonds, cinnamon and sugar. If you’ve ever been to a Moroccan restaurant you are familiar with this seasoning mixture, as it seems to be in every dish!

I wish I could tell you a lovely story about how I came about this recipe, but I can’t. I know I tore the recipe out of a soft-backed cookbook of international recipes. At one point in my cooking life I felt it beneath me to keep anything but beautiful, hard-back cookbooks. I’ll never toss a cookbook again. But at least I was smart enough to save the recipes I loved!
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Bastila

1 – 3 pound chicken
4 ounces butter
2 onions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
6 eggs
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup whole almonds
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Butter, approximately 4 ounces, at room temperature
18 crêpes, at room temperature
Powdered sugar
Ground cinnamon

Begin by poaching the chicken with onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, parsley, peppercorns, and a little salt. You can do this the day before.

About 2 1/2 to 3 hours is sufficient to get moist, succulent chicken. Let the chicken cool, then remove the bones and skin and place the chicken in a bowl and set aside. I shredded the chicken more than cut it up into pieces.

Add the butter to a large Dutch oven and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them for about 5-6 minutes. Then add the parsley, ginger, and all of the spices.

Break the eggs and place them in a medium-sized bowl, along with the egg yolks. Whisk them well.

After the onion and spice mixture has cooked a minute longer, pour the eggs into the onions. Make sure the heat is low. Gently stir the eggs into the onion mixture until they are completely cooked.

Add the chicken to the onion-egg mixture and stir well. Add a little broth if the chicken mixture seems dry. Also taste for salt.
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Using a dry blender, blend the almonds, sugar, and cinnamon together. If you have a few pieces of almond, that’s okay. Set aside.
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To prepare the Bastila, use a large skillet, preferably with rounded sides. Generously butter the skillet.

Begin by layering approximately 8 crêpes around the side of the skillet, followed by 4 more covering the center bottom.


Add the ground almond mixture to the bottom of the skillet and spread it around. Then add the chicken filling. It shouldn’t be over the top of the skillet, preferably.
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Then fold the side crêpes over the filling. Use the remaining 6 crêpes to cover the top of the pie, buttering them first on the bottom side. Spread a little soft butter on the top of the pie as well.
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To cook, begin at medium-high heat. You will see the butter bubbling.
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After about 8 minutes, I lowered the heat to ensure that the crêpes sealed themselves, and to heat the inside of the pie.

Have a cookie sheet and large spatula on hand for the next step.

When you feel that the pie bottom has browned sufficiently, place the cookie sheet over the skillet, and using oven mitts flip the skillet over so that the pie is on the cookie sheet.

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Then gently coax the pie back in to the skillet, and cook the bottom side in a similar fashion.
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The cooked Bastila makes a beautiful presentation.

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When I made this pie before, I prepared and served it in an iron skillet. But you have to be able to cut into your skillet. If you cannot, simply slide the pie out gently onto a serving platter.

The final step is to mix powdered sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle it on the top of the warm Bastila.

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In this photo you can see the crêpes wrapping around the spiced chicken filling that is topped with the ground almond mixture. Heavenly!
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