Sweet Potato Bisteeya



Published by William Morrow

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This is my version of bisteeya, inspired by the classic sweet/savory Moroccan pie made with chicken or squab, saffron, cinnamon, sugar, and nuts. Traditionally, bisteeya is made with brik pastry, which is a paper-thin crepe. Brik pastry is hard to find, so I substitute phyllo dough in its place. If you have access to Middle Eastern or eastern Mediterranean shops, look for “country-style” phyllo dough that is a little thicker than the regular brands. It’s easier to handle and is just as flaky. If you do have access to feuilles de brikor brik pastry, you will need about 6 sheets. This spiced-up sweet potato pie is perfect for the fall and winter and is delicious on its own with an arugula, watercress, or spinach salad. It also makes a good accompaniment to chicken, beef, or venison.

Cooking Methodbaking, sauteeing


Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course, side dish

Dietary Considerationhalal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, vegetarian

Equipmentfood processor


Taste and Texturecrisp, nutty, savory, spiced, sweet


  • 2 pounds (about 4) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, finely minced (about 2 cups)
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
  • Pinch of saffron (about 12 threads)
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper. (or black pepper)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about ½ lemon)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley (about 1 small bunch)
  • ¾ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup confectioners sugar plus 1 tablespoon for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound phyllo dough (you will need only 9 sheets)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Place the sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover them with water. Bring them to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

  3. Meanwhile, in a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt and brown the butter. Stir in the onion, turmeric, and saffron. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft but not brown. Stir in the ginger and set aside.

  4. Drain the potatoes, reserving ½ to ¾ cup of the cooking liquid.

  5. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, purée the potatoes until they are creamy and, soft, adding the reserved cooking liquid. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to purée them in two batches. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Add the eggs, lemon juice, and herbs and blend again until smooth. Scrape the mixture into a large mixing bowl, stir in the onion mixture, and season with a little more salt to’ taste. Set aside.

  6. Place the pine nuts on a heavy baking sheet and toast them for 8 to 10 minutes in the oven, until golden brown, Cool.

  7. Coarsely chop the pine nuts by hand or in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Place in a small mixing bowl and stir in ¼ cup of confectioners sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside.

  8. Begin to assemble the bisteeya by brushing the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with olive oil. Place one sheet of phyllo dough on the counter and brush generously with oil. Sprinkle with about a tablespoon of the pine nut mixture. Top with another sheet of phyllo dough and brush generously with oil. Add a third sheet and brush with oil.

  9. Place these layers in the pie pan, allowing the edges of pastry to hang over the sides. Repeat the same process with another three layers of phyllo dough (one with nuts and two with oil only) and place over the other sheets in the opposite direction, so that the edges of the pan are completely covered and you have 4 equal flaps to eventually fold over.

  10. . Fill the dough with the sweet potato mixture. Make one last layer of 3 by repeating the same process of nuts and layered sheets. Place the dough on top of the sweet potato filling and fold the overlaying edges over on top so that the pie is completely covered.

  11. . Brush the top with oil and sprinkle the remaining nuts on top.

  12. . Bake the pie for 40 to 45 minutes, until puffy and golden brown.

  13. . Cut the pie into slices and dust with more powdered sugar. Serve the bisteeya warm or at room temperature.


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