For any Moroccan, fresh fish is the deal. We don’t buy frozen, we like to see the head of most of the fish we buy to define its freshness and we usually discard anything not caught the same day.
We’re blessed with a Mediterranean coast and a long Atlantic coast, which obviously give us multiple options of fish species. Not everyone is into fish (of course), but those who are into it will eat it even for breakfast or late dinner as they head directly to the ports and get served grilled or fried fish very early in the morning (3 to 4 am). I have to say that some of these folks are also people who didn’t get to sleep yet (party goers, late workers..)
To know more about the common fish to be found in Moroccan markets, please read this post.
For today, I would like to introduce a light fish dish which you could either cook in a tagine, in a pan or bake.
Prep: 15 min – Cooking: 35 min
For the fishballs
- 800 g of filleted fish, skin off (more or less, see note for fish mix options)
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- 1 shallot (optional)
- Less than a tsp of turmeric
- 1 tbsp of paprika
- 1/2 tsp of cumin
- 1/2 tsp of chilli powder
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup of coriander and parsley, chopped (You could use chives or basil or tarragon as alternatives)
- 1 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper
For the tagine
- 1 medium-size potato, peeled
- 1 medium-size carrot, peeled and core discarded in case it’s green or yellow-ish
- 2 medium-size tomatoes, grated, collect the pulp (replace with chopped tomatoes or passata)
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 bay leaves, broken into 2 each
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- A few sprigs of coriander and parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp of ground ginger
- 1 tsp of tomato paste or paprika
- 1/2 tsp of cumin
- A few green olives
- 1 chilli (optional)
- 2 tbsps of olive oil
- Extra leaves of parsley or coriander
- Fresh lemon wedges
- Peel the carrot and slice it or cut it in length fairly thin to cook fast (2 to 3 mm thickness will do). Wash and set aside. You could parboil it for 5 min.
- Slice or cut the red/green/yellow pepper in length. Set aside.
- Cut the potato into cubes or small wedges.
- Cut long bits of celery in length and if they’re thick, cut through.
- Place the white fillets of fish into a mixer with a sharp blade. Add the spices, the herbs and the garlic. Blend to a smooth paste.
- Place a bowl of water next to you and dip in your hands. Shape fishballs as big 3 to 4 cm big. Set aside.
- Heat the tagine (over a tagine diffuser or a brasero/bbq), add the oil.
- Place the celery sticks and bay leaves, followed by the carrots and chopped garlic.
- Place the fishballs all around. Sprinkle spices and chopped herbs.
- Place the potatoes and slices of pepper. Add the tomato sauce/grated tomatoes and some tomato slices. Sprinkle with the rest of the spices and herbs.
- Scatter some green olives and place a chilli on top (unless you want it sliced in the sauce). You could also place some bits of preserved lemon on top before covering the tagine.
- If the tomato sauce is very dry, add about 1/8 cup of warm water (depending on the types of tagine used).
- Cover the tagine and cook for 35 min or until the potatoes are cooked.
- Before serving, drizzle some good extra virgin olive oil and serve hot.
- This tagine is versatile. You could use different herbs such as basil (including in the fishballs mix). Add green peas, green beans, spinach..
- You could make it more or less hot (chilli, harissa).
- Make fishballs with sardines and white fish (cod, whiting or similar), salmon and white fish, use smoked fish for an extra edge.
- Serve it with more or less sauce. I like to mash my potato slices in the sauce and scoop it with a spoon instead of eating this tagine with bread.
- 5 to 10 minutes before the end of cooking, you could scatter peeled uncooked shrimps or prawns and let them steam along inside the tagine.