Moroccan fish pastilla with salmon, prawns and preserved lemons

The pastilla, or bastilla is a filo pastry pie found throughout Morocco. Traditionally the filling contains chicken or pigeon which is cooked down until gloriously tender and infused with cinnamon and the crisp pastry is topped with a sprinkle of icing sugar.

This recipe is a fresher, lighter alternative with flaked salmon, king prawns and vermicelli noodles, the latter of which features in Moroccan cooking quite a bit, particularly in a dish called Seffa Medfouna (recipe here).

The fish and noodles are enhanced by ras al hanout and paprika, fresh herbs and chopped preserved lemons. The pies are served with a garlic tomato sauce and a fresh salad, I'd recommend fattoush (recipe here) with it's wonderful textures - radishes, baby gem lettuce, sweet pomegranate seeds, cherry tomatoes and flatbread croutons.

INGREDIENTS (Makes 3, to serve 6)

  • 2 salmon fillets, skin on

  • 165g raw peeled king prawns

  • 1 1/2 tsp ras el hanout

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 20g butter

  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • 100g vermicelli rice noodles,cooked, cooled and chopped

  • 2 small handfuls of finely chopped coriander leaves

  • A small handful of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

  • 2 preserved lemons, finely chopped, seeds removed

  • 1 packet of filo pastry sheets, 250g (about 12 sheets)

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoe

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • Sea salt


  1. To make the tomato and garlic sauce, heat the oil in small pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Tip in the tomatoes, and add the spices and a good pinch of salt. Mix well, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8–10 minutes or until lovely and thick.

  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to180C fan/gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with parchment. Put the salmon, skin-side down on a plate with the prawns. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and 1 tsp of the ras el hanout.

  3. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Add the salmon, flesh-side down, and sear for 1 minute. Turn and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 2–3 minutes to seal the other side. Add the prawns to the pan. Cook for a minute or so until pink on one side, then turn. Cover with a lid or plate and remove from the heat. Set aside for 4–5 minutes to finish cooking, then remove the lid.

  4. Melt the butter in a small pan over a medium heat. Once bubbling, remove from the heat and mix in the cumin, paprika and remaining ras el hanout. Put the cooked noodles in a mixing bowl and pour over the butter mixture. Add the herbs, preserved lemon, and a good pinch of salt to the bowl and mix well.

  5. Flake the salmon flesh, discarding the skin, and add it to the noodles with the prawns. Mix everything together really well.

  6. Take a sheet of filo pastry and fold down one corner to make a triangle. Cut off the excess rectangle shape and save. Fold out the triangle into a square of pastry. Cut the rectangular off-cut and place this across the square in the centre. Repeat this step until you have two reinforced layers. Brush the sides of the square with beaten egg. Place another 2 sheets below your reinforced squares.

  7. Place about 1/3 of the mix into the centre of the filo pastry. Fold the sides tightly up, twist a little gently and form form a neat parcel. Brush with beaten egg. Repeat with remaining filo sheets and mixture. Bake in the hot oven for 20–25 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Serve.

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