Tajine Malsouka -- Tunisian Chicken 'tagine' Phyllo Pie

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READY IN: 2hrs 15mins
Recipe by Um Safia

When most people think of a tagine, they think of a thick, saucy, often fruity dish. In Tunisia though, that couldn't be further from the truth. This Tunisian masterpiece is a lot of work but is perfect for dinner parties & special occasions. It is a little like Moroccan Pastilla but without all the icing sugar! For greatest effect, serve this warm on a rimless cake stand!

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 1 kg chicken thigh (on the bone with skin)
  • 3 medium brown onions, peeled & diced
  • 1 -2 teaspoon crushed saffron threads mixed with a little water (or 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg)
  • 200 -250 ml water
  • 12 large rounds phyllo pastry (10-inchx12-incheach in diameter)
  • 100 g gruyere cheese, grated (or other hard cheese)
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • salt & ground black pepper
  • 250 g ricotta cheese, thinly sliced
  • 2 egg yolks mixed with 1-2 tsp vegetable oil to glaze
  • vegetable oil, for frying & for brushing the pastry layers & dish


  1. In a frying pan, fry the onion in a little of the vegetable oil for a few minutes until it is softened. Add the chicken & the water, cover then cook for 45 minutes in a medium heat or until the chicken is cooken through, turning the thighs from time to time.
  2. Preheat oven to 190c / 375f/ GM5.
  3. Discard the chicken skin, remove the meat from the bones & place the pieces in a bowl.
  4. Pour the saffron or ground nutmeg paste over the chicken, then stir in the grated cheese and 2-3 tbsp of water to make an 'unctous mixture'. Stir in the beaten eggs & season with the salt & pepper to taste.
  5. Generously oil an ovenproof pie or quiche dish about the same zie as the rounds of phyllo. Overlap 5 sheets so that at least 1/3 of the phyllo is allowed to hang over the sides of the dish, remembering to lightly brush each sheet with the vegetable oil. Place a final 6th piece of phyllo over the top of the others - this one should be central so that it reinforces the base a little.
  6. Pour in most of the chicken mixture, followed by a layer of sliced ricotta then a final layer of the chicken.
  7. Fold the overhanging phyllo pastry over the top so that is wrapped but not too tight. Stick the edges together using a pastry brush & the glaze. Place another sheet of phyllo on top, tucking the edges into the dish, followed by 4 more sheets of phyllo, being sure to brush them with the glaze as you go. Finish by brushing more g;ase on the top.
  8. Place the tagine on a low shelf in the oven for around 20-25 minutes. The pastry should be crisp & deep golden when the dish is ready.
  9. Serve hot, on a flat dish & cut into slices as you would a cake.

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