Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Moroccan Fish Tagine

Even though I haven't eaten meat, eggs or dairy products for thirty years, I'm not vegetarian or vegan as I eat fish.  It's always seemed like the right decision for me and I've never read anything in all that time that has convinced me that eating fish is bad for my health, in fact quite the opposite.

However, I don't eat it that often and when I do, I like to know where the fish I buy comes from so I'm not contributing to over-fishing or unnatural farming practices.  Fortunately, choosing fish clearly labelled sustainable or responsibly sourced and certified by the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council)  is an option that is available to us in the UK.

A few years ago, I came across a recipe for a fish tagine created by the London restaurant "Moro".   I've simplified their recipe but it still retains that wonderful Moroccan flavour and everyone seems to love it.  

Any filleted white fish will do, such as cod, haddock or hake. Just make sure there are no bones for some unsuspecting person to find on their plate or, worse still, in their mouth!  The fish is marinated in a traditional Moroccan charmoula which is what really makes this dish special.  

It's an ideal recipe for a party as you can make most of it in advance,  then simply cook the fish when you're ready to eat.  When you bring your piping hot tagine to the table and remove the lid, your guests will be blown away!

Serve with some good rustic bread, a mixed green salad or a green vegetable.

Ingredients for four people

For the Charmoula:

1 clove of garlic
1 level tsp sea salt
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small bunch of fresh coriander

4 thickish fillets of white fish, skinned
3 green or yellow peppers, sliced
18 - 20 small waxy new potatoes
 (e.g. Pink Fir Apple, Charlotte)
About 15 ripe plum/cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
Olive oil
A handful of black olives
100ml water

First make your charmoula.  In a pestle and mortar, grind the cumin seeds to a powder, then tip out on to a plate.   
Now, using your pestle and mortar again, pound together a peeled clove of garlic and a teaspoon of sea salt until creamy smooth. 

Add your ground cumin powder, then the paprika, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil and finely chopped coriander.  Stir well together. 

If necessary, cut your fish into even sized fillets. Remove the skin if you can and pull out any bones. Place the fish in a shallow dish and pour two thirds of the charmoula over the top.  Then leave to rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes or up to two hours.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in their skins for 10 to 15 minutes until almost tender.  Drain and cool, then peel away the skins and cut in half lengthways.

Peel and finely slice the garlic.  Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan or saute pan. Fry the garlic over a medium heat until lightly browned. 

Add the sliced peppers, cover with a lid and cook until they begin to soften.

Now add the halved tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes on a medium heat until they start to soften.

Pour in the remaining third of the charmoula and stir well.  Add some freshly ground pepper.

(If you're serving this to friends and family, you can prepare everything up to now in advance)

Using a tagine, if you have one, or any casserole dish with a lid that can be placed over a heat source (e.g. a cast iron dish like Le Creuset) first spread the potatoes evenly over the bottom. 

Now put about two thirds of the pepper and tomato mixture over the potatoes.  Then, lay the fish fillets evenly on top of that and put the remaining pepper and tomato mixture over each piece of fish.  
Finally, scatter the black olives over the top, add the water and then drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. 

Cover with a lid and cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes (allow a bit longer if you're re-heating the vegetables from cold) until the fish is lightly cooked and flakes easily. 

This looks and smells wonderful when you bring it to the table.  Carefully lift out a piece of fish with a generous portion of potatoes and peppers onto each plate. I serve it in large pasta bowls to catch all the delicious sauce.  


  1. Mmmmmmmm! Another successful recipe from Rhona. I loved preparing this dish, it was a wonderful feeling to see nothing other than healthy ingredients going in to the pan! My children enjoyed crushing and chopping the herbs almost as much as eating the finished dish! We had a guest for dinner the night we made this and she asked for the recipe - always a sign of a good meal!

    1. Thanks Louise,
      So glad you all enjoyed the fish tagine and brilliant to get your children involved too!