(for about 12 people)
8 pigeons or 2 chickens (about 2 Kgs /4 lbs 6 oz of meat)
3 full soup bowls of chopped parsley
1,5 Kgs (3 lbs 5 oz) of onions
1 teaspoonful of cinnamon
1,5 teaspoonful of saffron (crushed saffron flowers)
300 grs (11 oz) of almonds (and oil to fry them)
1 cup of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash the pigeons/chicken and put whole in a thick-bottomed saucepan with the salt, chopped parsley, grated onions, pepper, saffron, cinnamon and sugar. Add water later only if there is no liquid left before the pigeons are cooked. Cook on a medium heat, stirring from time to time.
Take the pigeons out when cooked, removing any stuffing that may have got inside. Allow the stuffing to cook longer stirring constantly until all the water has evaporated. Add the eight eggs beaten, and pour over, stirring all the time, then remove from the heat. Cut up the pigeon meat. Skin the almonds and fry in oil until they begin to colour, turn into a strainer.
Crush coarsely in a mortar or through a vegetable sieve, using the widest grid. Mix with little sugar.
Add three soupspoons of the oil used to fry the almonds to the pigeon stuffing, putting the remainder of this oil on one side.
To complete the Bastela you can use a round tin-lined copper utensil ("tbsil dyal bastela") with a diameter of about 50cms (19 ins). Oil the bottom and sides of this or a baking sheet. Cover the tray with a first layer of 12 sheets of pastry, shiny side down, overlapping them and sticking them with beaten egg-white. Make sure that the outer sheets hang over the edge of the tray. Cover with a second layer to strengthen, then a layer of stuffing, another layer of pastry (but without going over the edges of the tray) the the pieces of pigeon. Sprinkle with the crushed almonds. Fold back towards the centre the pastry that overlaps the edge of the tray, sticking them together with beaten egg yolk. Place two more layers of pastry, shiny surface up, overlapping each other, with the edges hanging over the edge of the tray. Tuck these edges under the bottom of the "Bastela" as if making a bed. Brush surface and edges with egg yolk and oil remaining from almonds. You now have a flat pie about 4 cms (2ins) thick. Cook in moderate oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown.
Turn out on to another baking sheet, and, about 15 to 20 minutes before serving, brush with oil again, put back in the oven to brown the other side.
To serve, turn the "Bastela" out on to a large plate, sprinkle the top liberally with icing sugar and finish off with fine criss-cross lines of powdered cinnamon.