This year we wanted to get away from the Riviera and go somewhere a bit warmer for the holidays, so we spent a week in Morocco, and the highlight of the trip was, surprise surprise, the food.

After leaving Marrakech we set out for a two day stay in Essaouira, on the Atlantic coast.  Nestled alongside the Unesco World Heritage site of the Medina of Essaouira,  we stayed in a traditional “riad”, a large Moroccan house with an interior garden, called the  Madada Mogador.  The place was not only a zen paradise of relaxation in amazing loft style rooms, but it also boasted a fantastic restaurant and cooking school.

Atelier Madada

At the Atelier Madada, you can spend half a day or more learning traditional Moroccan cuisine.  I took advantage of a kind invitation by owner Pacha Jalan to participate in a class to learn how to make my favorite Moroccan dish “pastilla”, a traditional Moroccan meat pie.  Often regarded as the national dish of Morocco, it is traditionally prepared using pigeon.

We used the more accessible version with chicken, and had an amazing experience preparing the dish, led by our patient instructors Noureddine and Mona.


Pastilla is usually served as a second of many courses in a meal for very special occasions such as weddings.  The unique mix of sweet and savory with exotic notes of cinnamon, saffron, turmeric and ginger makes for a  treat that merits the labor intensive preparation.  Mona explained to me that the largest part of Moroccon cuisine is the prep work, chopping mixing and slow cooking, but that the recipes are quite easy to prepare.  We chopped and prepared this amazing recipe, step by step as you can see in some of the photos below.

Pacha and the team at Atelier Madada were kind enough to let us share this recipe with you on our site.  You will find the list of ingredients below, with all of the spices that are sometimes hard to find outside of Morocco.

Chicken pastilla

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 2h00

Ingredients (for 1 portion or pie):

  • 200 grams of chicken
  • 3 sheets of phyllo paste or dough
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tea spoon of salt
  • 1 tea spoon of mrouziya
  • 1 tea spoon of ginger
  • 1 tea spoon of turmeric
  • parsley and coriander
  • a cinnamon stick
  • a knob of butter
  • A pinch of saffron
  • Olive and vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 40 grams of almond paste
  • 1 table spoon of blossom water
  • 1 tea spoon of Arabic gum
  • 1 grated grain of all spice
  • 1 tea spoon of white castor sugar



Place the chicken in a sauce pan; add a thinly sliced onion, a finely chopped clove of garlic, a tablespoon of parsley and coriander finely chopped two tablespoons of olive oil and all the spices: ginger, turmeric, saffron, salt, the mrouziya (mixture of spices for chicken) and a stick of cinnamon. Mix so that the pieces of chicken marinate well. Let cook on law heat for about one hour. Check from time to time to urn the meat and to see if you need to add a bit of water. When cooked, let cool, remove the bones from the chicken, cut it up into small pieces and put it in a bowl.

 With a skimmer get the rest of the seized onions. Put them in a frying pan with a knob of butter and cook two eggs inside.

Deep the almonds into the boiling water for 5 minutes then take them out and remove their skin. In a frying pan put some vegetable oil and fry the almonds for another 5 minutes. Let cool. In a blender grind the almonds with a tea spoon of white castor sugar, a grated grain of all spice, the Arabic gum, and the blossom water.

Oil the sheets of phyllo paste with vegetable oil so that they are transparent and that they do not break. Also oil a standard baking tray, place a sheet of paste on it and then two others over, letting them overflow the first one. Display the preparation in the middle, beginning with the almond paste, then the chicken and finally the eggs. Close the pastilla with the overtaking sheets of phyllo paste then cover with a last one.

Put the pastilla in an oven at 200°C for about 25 minutes on rotating heat. Watch the cooking so that both faces are well golden. When so, slide the pastilla delicately on a serving dish, sprinkle with white castor sugar and powdered cinnamon and serve at once.