Transport yourself to the medina in Marrakesh or the windswept Atlantic coastline of Morocco with this recipe for a colourful and zingy fish tagine. This recipe is inspired by our recent trip to Morocco and the excellent cookery course that we took at the Dar Les Cigognes Riad and Cookery School in Marrakesh. I’d never cooked a tagine with fish before. I’d always previously associated tagines with slow cooking and hearty flavours like lambs, prunes, green olives and preserved lemons and would have been worried that this style of cooking would have overpowered the delicate flavours and textures of the fish. However, this is a surprisingly fresh and subtle way of preparing and cooking fish with gorgeous results.
We made a similar dish on our cooking course but I’ve made some adjustments to ingredients and techniques following a bit of experimentation back home.
This recipe would work with most types of fish. I’ve made it with lemon sole which is delicious (but pricey) and I’ve also made it with river cobbler (a meaty type of catfish, sometimes labelled basa) which is widely available in supermarkets, is sustainable and is much more affordable. I think it would be totally fantastic with monkfish collops for a special occasion.
600 – 800g filleted fish cut into 4-6 large chunks. Your choice of fish.
For the marinade:
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds (toasted and ground)
1 heaped teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons chopped coriander and or flat leaf parsley
½ tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
For the rest of the tagine:
1 red onion (very finely chopped)
3 peppers (red & yellow – deseeded and chopped into strips)
2 tomatoes (chopped into eights) or a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium potato (waxy if possible – peeled and sliced thinly, about ¼ cm thick)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & pepper
A couple of very thin semi-circular slices of lime
Start by marinating the fish. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and whisk lightly until all the spices and the oil are well combined. Add the pieces of fish and ensure they are fully coated in the spice mix. You can do this a couple of hours before cooking the tagine, but if you don’t have time it will be fine if you do it just before cooking.
Next heat the remaining olive oil in a tagine or in a heavy bottomed casserole dish (which you have a tight fitting lid for). When the oil is hot add the finely chopped red onion and a pinch of salt and pepper. Put the lid on and cook on a very low heat until the onions are soft, about 10-15 minutes.
Remove the lid and add the peppers to the onions and cook gently for 10 minutes until the peppers are quite soft.
Remove about eight strips of softened pepper from the pan. Add in all the tomatoes and most of the potato slices (but hold a few back for the top), creating a mound in the middle of the pan. Arrange the pieces of fish on the mound of vegetables interspersed with the strips of pepper you removed from the pan and a few slices of potato. Add the 100ml water and top with the slices of lime.
Cover the dish with the tagine lid or another tight fitting lid. You can add a layer of foil or greaseproof paper between the lid and the pan if you are worried that the lid isn’t snug enough. Tagine cooking is all about the steam circulating inside the dish, so you want to keep as much of it in there as possible.
Cook on a medium to low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and check if the fish is fully cooked. If not put the lid back on and cook for another 5 minutes. It depends on how thick your fish fillets are.
Serve immediately with a mound of fluffy couscous.