Somewhere between Morocco and Portugal!

July 17th, 2006 § 0 comments

Unfortunately, as I speak, I’m not on a cruise somewhere around the strait of Gibraltar. This post is not about geography, but once again about food! As if you had still any doubts about that. More precisely, it is about my latest culinary experiment: let me explain….

A few weeks ago, I discovered a new shop in my neighbourhood: Casa Bocage*. It is a shop specialised in portuguese and bresilian food: from fish to chourizo and local wines. Perfect for the homesick portuguese or brasilian expat or the rare curious dutch locals. Entering the shop filled me with memories. Two years ago, I was sharing an appartment with a portuguese housemate and friend. She is a very good cook and she introduced me to many portuguese delicacies. Whenever I see salted cod fish or chourizo, I cannot refrain nostalgic souvenirs of the animated dinners we would have at our house. I used to help her preparing the dish: cutting the onions and peeling the potatoes… but I never really took part in the most mysterious part to me: the “desalting” of the cod fish! My friend is now back in portugal and I haven’t eaten this typical portuguese fish since. I wanted to try cooking it for myself, but I never dared. However, since I have turned into an active foodblogger, I have also become more daring… So, after 20 minutes of exploration of the  whole assortment, I finally decided myself and bought some salted cod fish! Now, all I had to do was decide on which way to prepare it. I spent hours reading the precious tips and mouthwatering recipes of Elvira and Papilles&Pupilles.

Still, I was hesitating… and then I got hold of some filo pastry. In morroco, ‘brick’ or filo sheets are widely used for the preparation of many sweets and aperitive snacks. It is also the base of one of my favourite morrocan dishes: the pastilla or “bastella”. The most famous is the one with pigeon and almond, but lately, the shrimp and fish “bastella” is a must for any trendy wedding. It is a long time I wanted to try cooking one of those, but once again I didn’t dare. Why not unite portugal and morocco and portugal at once! And there it was, I had my recipe… It will make a main dish for 6 and an apetizer for 8.


Bacalhau bastella
(Pastilla with cod fish)

6 to 8 pers. prep: 40min cook.:20 min
+ 24hrs for desalting

600 g salted cod fish
300 g spinach
3 oignons
2 shallots
3 dl. fish stock
2dl. low fat milk
1 dl, white whine
30g+10g butter
30g flour (1 full Tsp.)

sea salt, pepper

For the bastella:
~15/20 sheets od Filo pastry
30g melted butter or a mix butter/olive oil (this a minimum. Most recipes use at least 100g butter… but I’m trying to watch my line)
1 egg yolk

24 hours before, cover the fish with cold water in a large bowl. Change the water regularly until the fish is completely desalted.

Poach the fish for 10 min in boiling water or a mix of milk and water. Let it cool down, remove the skin and bones, while separating the fish flakes.

Then prepare a sort of bechamel: In a pan on low fire, mix the 30 g of butter with the flour. Then pour the fish stock, lowfat milk and wine. Stir regurlarly with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.  It takes about 10min.  Set aside to cool.

In the mean time clean the spinach and chop the shallots thinly. Blanch the spinach 1 minute in salted boiling water and drain them well. In a pan, melt 10g of butter, add the chopped shallots and leave to melt for a couple of minutes, then add the fish. Stir and leave for a few more minutes before adding the spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper (go easy on the salt as the fish might still be a bit salty). Stir and leave a few minuts more on the fire. Finally, remove from the stove and mix the fish and spinach with the fake bechamel. The filling is ready.

To prepare the bastella, warm up the oven at 200 C. melt 30g of butter and beat the egg yolk. Keep your filo sheets in a damp cloth so that they don’t dry out. With a brush, oil a deep (5cm at least) 28cm diameter teflon round baking form. Brush each filo sheet with butter on one side before use. Dispose the filo sheets in a flower shape, well overlaping each other, buttered side towards the baking form. They should come out of the baking form. Then dispose 2 filo sheets on the bottom to consolidate the bastella. Then add the filling in a regular layer. Cover up with the parts of filo sheets that are coming out of the form. Dipose another set of overlaping buttered filo sheets (again in a flower shape). Brush with egg yolk and delicately set the filo parts that are coming out of the shape under the bastella in order to form a neat and round border. Brush 2 mores filo sheets with both butter and egg yolk and dipose them on top of each other on top of the pastilla to smooth up the shape of the cake. Bake for 15min and baste regurlarly with melted butter (depending on how much butter you fill like using… I simply brush with the remaining butter a couple of times) both on top and underneath. Turn the cake over and bake for 5 more min.

Serve warm, smooth side up. In Morrocco, most bastella’s are decorated with Icing sugar and cinnamon, but I didn’t think it would marry well with the filling so I skipped that part. It was nicely golden and crispy anyway. I just added a couple of chive sprigs for the color… Oh! and if you are patient and courageous (I am not) you can make individual ones. They really look great for a fancy dinner.

Bon appétit!


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