Flaky and delicious Moroccan chicken pie with traditional spices, soft apricots and almond flakes. This pie is seriously good and it tastes like an authentic Moroccan chicken tagine. Made with a modern twist, these mini pies are filled with a juicy chicken filling and hold their shape really well. They are the perfect pies to take to a picnic or on the go as a snack!
Moroccan cuisine is a true explosion of flavours and unique spice blends. I'm a massive fan of Moroccan food and this pie is at the top of my 'all-time favourite' list. The chicken filling is made from a traditional recipe that I developed with the help of my Moroccan sisters-in-law. So rest assured, the flavours are as authentic as they get! The pies are filled with super juicy chicken tagine with sauce for days! As for the flavours, they are a fragrant combination of traditional spices (ras-el-hanout, cardamom, turmeric), lemon, almonds and apricots.
REINVENTING THE MOROCCAN CHICKEN PIE
If you're familiar with Moroccan cuisine, you will know that whenever you say "Moroccan pie", you'd normally think of pastilla. Pastilla is a traditional North African pie made with shredded chicken, almonds and phyllo pastry. Although I love this recipe as well, I do love to reinvent beloved classics. Long story short, my recipe is a modern reinterpretation of a traditional Moroccan pie that's more similar in looks to a chicken pot pie.
Firstly, this recipe uses hot water pie crust instead of phyllo pastry, as I wanted the pies to be able to hold liquid filling. This way we can retain the moisture inside the filling to make a melt-in-the-mouth mini pie. Hot water pie crust is perfect to use when the pie needs to hold a lot of moisture, as it prevents the sauce or gravy from seeping out. Once baked, the crust will be a little crunchy, but still tender. And the best part is that this type of pastry holds its shape really well, so you can hold the pie mess-free. This is exactly why I love making these mini pies for picnics or when we go on a trip to have as a snack.
THE FILLING - CHICKEN TAGINE WITH APRICOTS
Although I love all tagines, this chicken tagine with apricots filling is definitely one of my favourites. My sister in law taught me how to make it the easy way, directly on the stove. The best part about this filling is that it can also be used as a main dish on its own. It only takes 20 minutes to prepare and it's really fragrant, with hints of sweetness and citrus and a crunchy element.
Fun fact: this is the recipe I used for my Moroccan Genie Pie Pops on the Netflix show Crazy Delicious. Michelin star chef Heston Blumenthal and soul food queen Carla Hall have praised this chicken tagine on the show. Heston said he would "like to have more because it's really delicious".
This chicken filling really is incredibly soft, fragrant and packs a lot of traditional flavours. In this recipe for mini chicken pot pies, the filling is definitely the star of the show (pun intended). The pie crust is relatively thin, so it feels almost like eating chicken tagine with a side of flatbread - all in one bite. I mean, whaaat?! You can see from the image below just how juicy it is, and the chicken so tender it melts in your mouth.
HOW TO MAKE MINI CHICKEN POT PIES FROM SCRATCH
This recipe for mini chicken pot pies is very easy to make and there's very little that can go wrong. The Moroccan chicken pie is composed of a hot water pie crust and the tagine filling. Both elements are very simple to make and require little effort. The hot water crust can be made in advance and even frozen, and the chicken tagine filling takes only 20 minutes to cook.
Why use hot water pie crust
I like to use hot water crust pastry for this recipe because it's most suited for holding in a lot of liquid. The chicken tagine is very creamy and has a lot of sauce, so other typed of pastry would struggle to keep it in. Although you can use store-bought pastry as well, I do not recommend puff pastry. This type of pastry is very flaky and light, so the finished mini pie would collapse in your hand. On the other hand, shortcrust pastry can work with this recipe. However, I recommend blind baking the bottom layer first, before adding in the filling.
I do urge you to make your own hot water pie crust, as it takes only 5 minutes to prepare. This type of pastry can hold lots and lots of gravy or sauces inside, making it ideal for this Moroccan chicken pie.
You only need water, butter (or lard) and flour to make hot water pie crust. For the detailed method, read my in depth tutorial on how to make hot water crust pastry.
Chicken tagine with apricots - the easy method
As I said previously, you can also make this tagine filling as a main dish. Word of caution from my Moroccan partner - tagine should never be eaten with a side of cous cous. Instead, pair it with a soft flatbread. Here's what we need to make the chicken tagine with apricots:
The first thing to remember about chicken tagine is that you should never use chicken breast. The breast cut, although more lean, can dry out much quicker in the oven. Instead, always opt for boneless chicken thighs, which will not only remain juicy, but also very tasty. As a rule of thumb, fattier cuts of meat tend to be more delicious in baked pies.
1. Heat some vegetable oil in a wide-base pan over medium heat. Add in the chopped onion and garlic and fry until it becomes soft and slightly translucent.
2. Dice the chicken thighs and add them to the pan. Pour in the lemon juice and all the spices, then cook until the chicken is no longer pink (around 7-8 minutes). Add in the water and give it a good mix to combine evenly. Cook for an extra 3-4 minutes to thicken the sauce.
Note: if cooking the tagine as a main dish, leave the chicken thighs whole. They will need cooking for longer, so after step 2, cover with a lid and cook for an extra 12-15 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat to low and add the chopped soft dried apricots and mix well to combine, then cook for an extra 2 minutes.
4. Turn off the heat and add in the almond flakes. Adding the almonds at the end will ensure they stay crunchy and add more texture to the dish. The tagine filling is ready to be added to the pies.
ASSEMBLING THE MINI MOROCCAN CHICKEN PIES
Although hot water crust is sturdy enough that it doesn't need a mould, I like to use a muffin tin to get perfectly sized mini pies.
1. After the hot water pie crust has had time to chill, divide it into ⅔ and ⅓ parts. The larger piece will be used for the base and the remaining pastry will be for the top of the pie. Roll out the larger piece of pastry to 2-3 mm thickness. Use a 12 cm (5-inch) round cookie cutter to cut out 12 circles for the base of the pie.
2. Place each circle into the muffin slots, pushing them in place with your fingers. Press the pastry to even out the thickness of the dough, even if it goes over the muffin slot. We will fix it later, after adding the top piece.
3. Add the chicken tagine filling into each piece, including all the liquid sauce. Optional: sprinkle some more almond flakes on top for some extra crunch. The filling can also be added hot, as this won't affect the hot water crust. Make sure not to overfill and leave the sides of the pastry clear of any filling, so we can stick the top pastry onto it.
4. Roll out the remaining piece of pastry to 2mm thickness. Cut out 12 circles for the top of the pies using a cookie cutter the same size as the muffin tin - mine is around 8 cm (or 3 inches). Use a small cookie cutter or the tip of a knife to make an opening in the middle (so the pie doesn't crack). Add the top over the pies, pressing the sides with your fingers to stick them to the base pastry. Use a cookie cutter to cut out the excess dough and make the pies perfectly round (or leave them more ragged for a rustic look). Brush the top with some egg wash, them bake at 180C (350F) for 40-45 minutes.
HOW TO SERVE MOROCCAN CHICKEN PIE
The best way to serve Moroccan chicken pie is fresh out of the oven, with the filling still hot. After taking the pies out of the oven, let them cool for 10 minutes inside the tray. Afterwards, use a knife to gently unstick the edges, then scoop out each individual mini pie.
I recommend having these mini chicken pot pies with a side of fresh salads, such as tabbouleh, fattoush or Moroccan chickpea salad. If you're feeling fancy, you can also make a red wine and date syrup sauce to drizzle over the top for maximum flavour.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
As these pies contain meat, they need to be stored in the fridge. To store, place them in an airtight container lined with some paper towels. This will prevent the bottom of the pies from getting wet due to condensation. The pies will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 4 days.
There are two ways to reheat mini chicken pot pies, either using the microwave or oven. To reheat in the microwave, heat them for 1-2 minutes from chilled. Caution: the filling may be much hotter than the crust appears to be, so it's better to bite in with care!
To reheat in the oven, preheat oven to 180C (350F), then place the chilled mini pies in for 10-15 minutes until hot.
Yes, mini pies can be frozen once baked. After baking, let the mini pies cool down completely before wrapping them in plastic wrap, followed by aluminium foil. For extra protection against freezer burn, add them to an airtight container. The pies will hold in the fridge for 3-4 months and still taste fresh and delicious once thawed.
To thaw the chicken pies, place them in the fridge for 1 day. Do not thaw at room temperature as defrosting too rapidly can give you a dreaded soggy bottom. Reheat as mentioned above.
Moroccan music to listen to whilst making this recipe
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Moroccan chicken pie recipe
- Muffin tin (12 cups)
- 12 cm (5-inch) round cookie cutter
- 8 cm (3-inch) round cookie cutter
Hot water pie crust
- 300 g plain flour (2 ⅓ cups)
- 40 g lard (⅕ cup)
- 40 g butter (3 tbsp)
- 160-170 ml water (¾ cup)
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 handful fresh herbs, finely chopped*
Chicken tagine with apricot filling
- 1 kg boneless chicken thighs (2 lbs)
- 1 large brown onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 juice of one lemon
- 250 ml water* (1 cup)
- 100 g soft dried apricots (aka Turkish apricots) (½ cup)
- 30 g almond flakes (¼ cup)
- ½ teaspoon salt & pepper
- 1 teaspoon ras el hanout*
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Prepare the hot water pie crust, full method and steps can be found here. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F) with fan.
- To make the filling, start by heating some vegetable oil in a large wide-base pan. Once hot, add in the brown onion and cook until it softens and looks translucent.
- Add in the chicken thighs chopped into small dices, along with all the spices and the juice of one lemon. Cook for 7-8 minutes on medium heat, stirring often until the chicken is no longer pink.
- Add the water and mix well to combine, then cook for another 3-4 minutes to thicken the sauce.
- Reduce the heat to low, then add in the chopped dried apricots and cook for another 2 minutes. Once ready, take off the heat and mix in the almond flakes.
- Divide the hot water pie crust into two parts (⅔ and one smaller ⅓). Roll out the larger piece of pastry to 2-3mm in thickness (or the thickness of a coin). Use a large 12cm (5-inch) cookie cutter to cut out 12 circles for the base.
- Place each circle of pastry into the muffin cups, pressing them into shape with your fingers. Add in the filling, ensuring the pastry edges are left clean.
- Roll out the smaller piece of pastry and cut out 12 smaller circles, the same diameter as your muffin tin (around 8 cm / 3 inches). Cut out a small hole in the middle to let the steam escape during baking.
- Place the top pastry over the pies, pressing the edges to stick the pastry together and seal the juicy filling inside. Use the 8cm/3-inch cookie cutter to cut out any excess pastry.
- Brush the pies with some egg wash, then bake the mini chicken pies for 40-45 minutes or until deep golden brown on top. Once baked, let cool in the tin for 10 minutes before serving.
- I recommend using a kitchen scale in grams for more accuracy. The cups used for the conversion are standard US customary cups (1 cup flour = 136g). There are many different types of cups across the globe, which is why I strongly recommend using grams instead.
- Lard is produced from pure pig fat and is great for baking, roasting or frying. This product has no flavour, but it can have a fatty smell when melted – don’t worry, it won’t smell once baked. Please note that lard is not halal and cannot be used for Muslim diets. If you want to make this recipe halal, please replace the lard with butter.
- The amount of water required can depend very much on the type of flour you use and how much protein in contains. You may need to adjust by adding more or less water by 1-2 tsp. The dough needs to hold together, but not be overly sticky or too crumbly.
- Adding fresh herbs is entirely optional and can be adjusted to fit your recipe of personal preference. I like to add either coriander (cilantro in the US) or flat leaf parsley. You can also add thyme, oregano or basil.
- Ras el hanout is a Moroccan blend of super fragrant spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, turmeric, anise seed, cloves etc. It can be found in most Middle Eastern shops.
- If you're making just the chicken tagine with apricots as a main dish, you will need to cook the meat for an additional 10-15 minutes.