Moroccan fish balls tagine over a bed of carrots and topped with tomato sauce

Moroccan fish balls tagine, 2 ways

Fish balls in Morocco are a coastal thing, and we have two coasts, which make fish balls tagines quite common. A fish ball tagine is even part of Moroccan street food of these cities.
Adding rice to the fish kofta is an option but it works well for large families or a larger crowd as you get more for less fish and everybody is fed. I prefer to serve white fish balls without rice but rather bread crumbs while the sardines fish ball benefit from the rice addition.
Moroccan fish balls tagine over a bed of carrots and toped with tomato sauce

Moroccan fish balls tagine over a bed of carrots and topped with tomato sauce

Make a wholesome tagine

The option to add vegetables in the tagine is also a matter of choice and seasonality. The usual suspects are celery stalk, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. And while the vegetables are added way before the fish balls to allow them enough time to become tender, green or purple olives, preserved lemon are added just when the fish is added to have just enough time to infuse in the sauce!
There are two ways of starting a fish ball tagine: with a pre-made tomato sauce (see recipe below) or with bit of grated/finely chopped tomatoes on top of which seasoning will be added as the tomato melts down. You can even use 1 tomato and a bit of tomato concentrate for a less tomatoey sauce (my favourite)

Only fresh ingredients

Start with a good homemade tomato sauce with a good quality tin of tomato if you cannot get hold of fresh juicy and sweet ones. A bit of tomato concentrate is always good to give a depth. A dash of smoked paprika is my tip to have a bit of that smoky charcoal effect we get if we were to let the tagine simmer over a kanoun or a brasero. Add a few bay leaves as they go very well with fish tagines.
Salt, cumin and a sprinkle of sugar are added at last to bring the whole thing together and finally a good glug of extra virgin olive oil
I keep batches of my sauce in a Ziploc, flattened, in the freezer for easy use anytime throughout the week. I have some with a blend of all the vegetables my child will not eat so it makes a nice cocktail to toss in his favourite pasta.
I personally love the fish tagines cold or warm. I even served the fish balls as appetisers once and it really works.
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Ingredients

Serves 4-6
Prep : 10 min – cooking : 20 min

For white fish balls

  • 500 g of white fish filet (whiting, cod..)
  • 1 medium-size onion, grated
  • 1 green onion, chopped (replace with spring onion or leeks)
  • 1 cup of thick chermoula paste (mild or spicy)
  • 2 leveled tbsp of bread crumbs or a pre-soaked bread toast then squeezed
For sardines fish balls
  • 500 g of fresh sardine filets, skin off (if you go for mackerel, make sure you mix it with a bit of white fish as it’s a bit heavy)
  • 1 medium-size onion, grated
  • 1 green onion, chopped (replace with spring onion)
  • 1 cup of thick chermoula paste (mild or spicy)
  • 5 tbsps of long rice (uncooked weight), pre-cooked al dente
  • Salt to taste
Moroccan tomato sauce
  • 100 to 300g of good quality chopped tinned tomatoes or passata or grated fresh tomatoes (seeds discarded)
  • 2 to 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup of chermoula paste or the following seasoning:
             – 3 tbsp of coriander and parsley, chopped
             – 2 cloves of garlic, grated or crushed
             – 1 tsp of ground cumin
             – 1 tsp of sweet paprika
             – Cayenne or hot chili or harissa paste to taste
             – ½ tsp of smoked paprika (my addition)
             – Salt to taste
  •  2 to 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
Moroccan fish balls tagine over a bed of carrots and topped with tomato sauce

Moroccan fish balls tagine> Credit @ Nada Kiffa

Preparation

Mix all the ingredients in a blender and shape balls as big as 3 cm. Cover with a film and place in the fridge for at least 30 min.
In a hot tagine or a saucepan, warm the oil and add in the chermoula or spices and herbs, the garlic. Fry and stir for a minute then add the tomatoes. Stir and cover. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to thin it then cook covered until reduced. Stir from time to time as it might stick.
Add the fish balls all around, olives, preserved lemon and cover again. Let cook for 5 to 7 min them toss them to cover them with the sauce. Cover again and let simmer until the fish balls are cooked through (the ones with rice might need 10 more minutes).
Drizzle more olive oil. Decorate with lemon wedges or serve them on the side.
Serve warm with a good bread.
Fish balls can be served as appetisers, you may want to make more sauce to serve it extra.

Mussels and shrimps cooked in tomato sauce and served over couscous

Moroccan mussels in a tomato sauce : Bouzroug be maticha

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Mussles in tomato sauce is a dish which can be served as a main dish or as a cooked salad.

I decided to serve it rather warm-ish over couscous for a change. I served it as a light meal, somewhere between a starter and a main dish too.

In today’s post, I’ll describe how to make a proper Mussels tagine or starter. I’ll also add the rest of the ingredients to serve it in a more modern way.

The best couscous to use for this is a corn couscous or a fine semolina couscous. I personally steam my couscous but I understand some may want to shortcut and use the 5 minutes formula (mix with salt and water and wait 5 min until in plumps up). In this particular recipe, whichever way you follow does not really matter.

 

Mussels in tomato sauce given a modern treatment

Ingredients
Serves 4 to 6
Prep: 20 min – cooking: 15 min

Mussels in tomato sauce

  • 2 kg of mussels, raw and shell scrubbed and cleaned
  • 800 g of tomatoes, seeded and grated (or good quality chopped tomatoes from a tin)
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup of parsley and coriander, chopped
  • 50 ml of olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp of sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp of dried cayenne powder or a chopped fresh one
  • Salt to taste

For the prawns

  • 800 g prawns, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 5 tbsps of olive oil
For the couscous (double ingredients if you want more couscous)
  • 1 cup of dried  couscous (follow package directions to prepare it)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of mixed peppercorns (black, white, red, green), crushed
  • 2 tbsps of butter
  • 1 tbps of parsley, chopped
For the garnish
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsps of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of white vinegar or lemon juice
  • Extra parsley leaves
  • Lemon wedges
Preparation
Again, you could enjoy the mussels in tomato sauce on their own or make this elaborate dish for a complete meal.
Prepare the mussels in tomato sauce

Wash and clean the mussels. Drain. Put them in a deep pot and cover. Place over low heat.

Once they’re open (discard the closed ones), turn of the heat. Set aside to cool, pick each mussel and discard the “beard”. Keep the water released by the mussels.

At the same time, sauté tomatoes in half of the oil with spices and herbs for 15 minutes in a frying pan. Add a bit of water if needed.

Transfer the shelled mussels with their water to the tomato sauce. Cook on medium heat until most of the water has evaporated. Correct the seasoning.

Serve hot for a main dish or cold/warm as a starter.

Prepare the couscous
Follow package direction to prepare the couscous. Delicately mix with the rest of the ingredients.
Sautee the prawns

While the couscous in taking shape, sautee prawns for a couple of minutes and season to taste.

Serve the dish

Use a pastry circle to shape the couscous base. Surround it with prawns. Spoon mussels in the sauce on top of the couscous.

Spread the chopped and seasoned fresh tomatoes around the prawns.

Serve warm or at room temperature with lemon wedges.

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Fish cooked en papillote and served topped with tomato and with a bowl of chermoula

Light baked fish “en papillote” with Mediterranean flavours

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In the old days, some civilizations used to seal a pot with dead dough (bread dough without yeast or a mix of water and flour). The food will cook over low heat in its own juice.

Cooking en “papillote” is not far from this, we just use newly invented cling film, foil, baking paper or special plastic bags.

When I was about 16, my father had discovered his diabetis and cholestrol problems and was requested to go on diet (which he never followed). He used to cook for pleasure and his food was so tasty. He was the reason why I got into cooking and loving fresh food markets.

While he discarded the bland diet dishes my mother cooked for him without blinking (for my mother, a diet meant steam food and serve with no salt, no sugar, no oil/butter no nothing), he never rejected any of my “creations”. I was the youngest and definitely the preferred..So he finished all what I cooked for him. He was still critical.

It was quite encouraging as it pushed me to learn more about food and new trends in cooking. He bought me available French magazines and books. Moroccan being an former French colony, this was easy to come by.

My father loved his fresh fish and he was the one in charge of picking and buying the best of it in the market. His dad was a famous fishmonger in Fez, so  Ça coulait de source!

This is one of the light dishes I cooked for him, a long while ago. So I’m sharing it today, as I remembered while reading an old recipe book of mine. I didn’t have fennel fronds this time so the one in the picture was cooked without. It was still tasty.

Ingredients
Serve 1-2
Prep: 10 min – Baking: 20 min

  • 1 sea bass for one or two, descaled and cleaned from the inside
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • Fennel fronds
  • 1 tomato

For the marinade

  • 3 tbsps of coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of fennel fronds, chopped (optional, you could use fennel stalks around the fish to compensate)
  • 2 tbsps of lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated (optional)
  • 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

 

Preparation

Heat the oven to 200 degrees C.

For thick fish, slash the fish through the bone a couple of times from top and bottom. If the fish is relatively small, it’s optional.

Place a good tablespoon of the marinade/paste inside the fish and rub the cavity.

Season the fish with salt and pepper.

Cut 1 large square or rectangle of baking paper and an equally large square or rectangle of foil. Place one on the top of the other so the baking paper is inside while the foil is outside. The size should be at least 3 times the size of the fish.

Grease the middle of the baking paper where you would place the fish. Scatter some fennel fronds (optional). Place the fish in the centre and top it with a couple of tomato slices.

Wrap the fish in order to trap all the steam and seal in the juices. This will cook the fish through and keep it moist, which is the idea behind this type of cooking.

Bake for 20 min for a standard small sea bass (for 1 or 2 persons) or more for an even bigger fish.I like to open it and give it another 4 minutes.

Serve hot with the rest of the marinade, lemon wedges and anything else you fancy on the side.

I use cold leftovers for sandwiches and salads.

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Moroccan fried fish without chermoula

Easy Moroccan fried soles

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Fried fish is a favourite street food in Morocco, especially in coastal cities. It’s so common to find a dish of fried fish along with a fresh tomato and onion salad in many traditional restaurants.

Fried soles usually are served with fried whiting and calamari rings, lemon wedges and a hot fried chilli for garnish, next to a fresh salad and a cold drink. Who wouldn’t want that.

The common soles in Morocco are medium-size to small. When fried, you get a crispy outside especially around the edges and a soft inside. Quite a nice contrast of textures.

Sometimes, these fried fish dishes are served as a starter or along vegetarian starters with pulses (white bean in red sauce, lentils or black-eyed peas). This combo used to be a cheap meal for anyone but packed with a lot of nutrients. That was before the fish has become a bit pricey.

Ingredients
Serves 4 to 6
Prep: 15 min – Frying: about 4 min/batch

  •  1 1/2 kg of soles
  • Salt and pepper for the fish and for the flour coating
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of fine semolina flour (optional, for more crispiness)
  • Vegetable oil for frying

 

Moroccan fried fish without chermoula

Moroccan fried fish without chermoula marinade. Credit @Nada Kiffa

Preparation

Wash the soles, discard the heard. Set aside to drain and pat dry.

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Add some salt and pepper to the flour mix as well and coat each sole with it a couple of times from all sides. Pat it between your hands to get rid of excess flour.

Over medium heat the frying oil in a deep frying pan. Shallow-fry the soles, leaving space between each fish to flip it around.

It should take about 4 minutes for each bach to be cooked through. Place each fried fish in a strainer for a couple of minutes then place it on a piece of kitchen roll.

Serve warm with lemon wedges or slices, a Moroccan tomato and onion salad and a spicy tomato and harissa sauce (check link for the recipe).

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