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Passport & Plate - Moroccan Fish Tagine

Morocco | Friday, 14 March 2014 | 5 photos

(serves 4)


3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 carrots roughly chopped

1 brown onion finely chopped

1 tsp preserved lemon finely chopped

8 large cherry tomatos halved

8 small new or chat potatoes cut lengthways into quarters

750ml fish stock

4 medium sized fillets of firm white fish (Ocean Perch, Mahi Mahi, Kingfish, Blue-Eye Trevalla) cut into large chunks

handful of small black olives

salt and pepper


½ large bunch roughly chopped coriander

3 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 tsp ginger finely chopped

1 tsp freshly ground cumin seeds (or ground cumin)

1 red finger chili seeded

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp salt

1 lemon (juice only)

1 tsp saffron strands

To serve

Fresh coriander leaves

1 red finger chili

1 green finger chili


How to prepare this recipe

1. Blend all the ingredients for the chermoula in a food processor until smooth.

2. Heat oil in large heavy based pan over medium heat.

3. Add onion and fry gently for 5 min.

4. Add carrot and fry for further 3 minutes.

5. Add 1/3 of the chermoula, the preserved lemon, the tomatoes and the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 min.

7. Add the potatoes and simmer for a further 15 min covering with lid of tagine.

8. Add the remaining chermoula and the fillets of fish so they are submerged in the liquid and simmer for 6 minutes covered (or until fish is just cooked and tender).

9. Season with salt and pepper and add olives.

10. To serve, spoon tagine into bowls and garnish with fresh coriander and finely sliced red and green finger chili’s.


The story behind this recipe
I knocked on the door to the cooking quarters of our Essaouiran Riad to request some mint tea and was warmly greeted by Kassim who ushered me inside. “Please this is you’re home”. Simmering away over the gas stove were two fish tagines for Kassim and his boss. The oceanic, spicy scents emanating from the conical lids had pervaded the entire kitchen and flirted with my nostrils.

A small plate of sumptuous stew was cooling on the table and within moments Kassim had a fork in my hand offering a taste of his dish with humble generosity. Overwhelmed by the gesture and salivating at the prospect of trying a home cooked version of this quintessential Moroccan meal, I tucked in.

The flesh was meaty and subtle in flavor, perhaps swordfish and was accompanied by roughly chopped potatoes, carrots, lemon, and an abundance of coriander and spices. I asked Kassim what type of fish he had used and he replied “fish caught from my family”, pointing towards the coast.

I realised from his discerning reply that it didn’t matter what type of fish it was, but that it was fresh, local and typical to this region. The ingredients are necessarily cheap but the flavours have depth and the dish embodies the colours and textures of a lively culture steeped in history and religion.

Kassim asked eagerly “You like?” I explained this was the best tagine I had tried and afterwards wandered down to the harbour, passed the white washed homes with blue shutters, through the souks, to the trawlers and dinghy’s huddled together where the fish had arrived this morning. The people of Essaouira were clearly in tune with their sea and intent on enjoying its offerings.

On a two week food, cultural and religious exploration of Morocco this interaction had a real impact on me both due to Kassim’s kindness in his offering, but also the insight it gave me into the food culture of this region which I felt a particular connection to given my upbringing in a small coastal town and inherent love of seafood.

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