I couldn’t find b’stilla until I had a close shave with Alad’in, the barber of Albayzin.

For those who don’t know, b’stilla is a traditional Moroccan/Andulusian savoury/sweet poultry pie enriched with scrambled egg, almonds, sugar and cinnamon. Although in its most traditional form the poultry used was pigeon, it is more often served with shredded chicken thighs or quail. It was commonly served as an appetiser or starter at Moroccan weddings.

So while trudging the narrow cobblestoned streets of Albayzin, I made a point of checking the menus of every Moorish restaurant in the neighbourhood in a vain search for this has to be tasted to be believed dish. Not a chance.

Until I went for a haircut and a hot shave in the Albayzin Barbers, close to the Church of San Nicholas. Here, I met Alad’in, who, apart from running a cool barbershop and giving me the most, simultaneously relaxing and exhilarating hot shave I’ve ever had while engaging in banter about the NFL, the beauty of Granada and  Irish pubs in Manhattan, told me where to buy b’stilla.

Now it’s been raining all day in Granada and people are walking about with umbrellas and sour faces. The cobblestones are greasy and tricky to walk on.

But after telling me b’stilla would be available in almost every Moroccan restaurant if you ask for it – because, while it’s rarely on the menu, they make it for themselves – Alad’in told me he knew a place, a local bakery, where the b’stilla was always fresh and the best, because it’s baked by a Moroccan woman. Then he announced he would go one better and bring me there, himself.

So he closed up shop and we took off through the rain soaked streets in search of b’stilla. Turns out the little bakery was less than ten metres from my apartment but hidden from view up an even tinier alley than where I’ve been staying all week.

We bought three, for the ludicrously far from grand total of €9.50; one for Alad’in for his overwhelming hospitality, one of myself and one for my brother, who was enjoying a siesta.

They were delicious and a righteous lunchtime snack. Praise be to Alad’in, the Barber of Albayzin.

20 thoughts on “B’stilla, my beating heart

  1. Some years ago I visited Marrakesh in Morocco for a few days with the company where Mr. Swiss worked. They did a special excursion annually with their agents (OK a famous Swedish car company beginning with a V and ending with an O). We always had a good hotel, and a lot of events were organised. Of course eating out in the best restaurants with the typical Moroccan food was included and yes, I had b’stilla, being told this was a speciality. To me it was pigeon pie. It was OK, but reminded me of opening a tomb when I lifted the lid. I had never eaten pigeon, am willing to try anything, and there are enough pigeons flying around, so I did not classify it as bird cruelty. I immediately had a good idea for a horror story when I saw what the pastry was conatining. The pastry was ok and so was the pigeon, but really not a lot of meat on the bones. At least I can say I have eaten b’stilla

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