This recipe for Moroccan Fish Tagine with Chermoula and Vegetables is one of the most popular ways to prepare fresh fish in Morocco. First the fish is marinated in a zesty herb and spice mixture called chermoula, then it’s layered with potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and green peppers in a tagine for slow braising. Traditionally tagines are cooked over a fire or charcoal in a special brazier, but these days it’s more common to see home cooks using a stove instead.
I like to include sliced onions as a base for the other veggies — the onions caramelize on the bottom and are delicious all on their own — and I also garnish the tagine with a chili pepper or two which is enjoyed as a condiment. Instead of using onions as the base, you can arrange sticks of celery across the bottom of your tagine or use small skewers. This avoids the other ingredients scorching from direct contact with the bottom of the tagine.
As with other tagines, this one is intended to be served directly from the tagine, with each person eating from their own side of the dish using Moroccan bread in lieu of utensils. Offer it as a one-dish meal or serve it alongside salads or other fish dishes such as Sardines Stuffed with Chermoula.
Moroccan Fish Tagine Recipe with Chermoula and Vegetables
For the Tagine
- 35 oz. firm thick fish, cut into pieces
- 1 batch chermoula (see below)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 2 large potatoes, cut into 1/4" (0.5 cm) slices
- 1 or 2 carrots, cut into 1/4" (0.5 cm) sticks
- 2 tomatoes, sliced
- 2 bell peppers (any color), thinly sliced, seeds removed
- fresh lemon slices for garnish
- 1/2 cup red or green olives (optional)
- 1 preserved lemon, quartered (optional)
- 1 or 2 fresh chili peppers, for garnish (optional)
For Seasoning the Vegetables
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
For the Chermoula
- 2 cups fresh cilantro (about 1 large bunch), finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, very finely chopped or pressed
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ginger (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled (optional)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, approx.
Ahead of Time - Marinate the Fish
- Place all chermoula ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. If the marinade is thick and paste-like, thin its consistency with a little more oil or lemon juice or a tablespoon or two of water.
- Reserve half of the chermoula marinade; cover and refrigerate until needed. Use the other half to marinate the fish, coating each piece thoroughly with the chermoula. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Assemble the Tagine
- Add the olive oil to the base of a large tagine or a deep skillet. Add the sliced onion, covering as much of the tagine as possible. This serves as a bed for the remaining ingredients.
- Arrange the sliced carrots over the onion, then arrange the potato slices over the carrots. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, ginger and turmeric.
- Arrange the sliced tomatoes atop the seasoned potatoes, then distribute the reserved chermoula over the tomatoes.
- Add the fish and its marinade, then garnish the fish with the sliced peppers, chili peppers and lemon slices. Add the olives all around.
Cook the Fish Tagine
- Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup water to the tagine, cover and place over medium-low to medium heat. (Use a diffuser beneath the tagine if cooking over a heat source other than gas.)
- Allow the tagine to slowly reach a simmer, then continue simmering over medium-low heat for about 1 hour, or until the fish and veggies are cooked and the liquids are reduced to a thick sauce.
- If you'd like to add preserved lemon, do so now. Allow a few minutes for the lemon to heat through, then remove the tagine from the heat and serve.
- If using conger eel, you may not need to add any water to the tagine as the eel tends to release liquid as it cooks.
- If at the end of cooking you find you have excessive sauce in the tagine and don't have time to wait for it to reduce, you can carefully ladle or pour out the sauce into a small saucepan to reduce separately. Add the thickened sauce back to the tagine for serving.
- Preserved lemons will add quite a bit of saltiness which is why they're added as a garnish at the end. If you'd prefer to add them at the beginning of cooking so they can flavor the sauce, omit the salt when seasoning the vegetables.
- In the North of Morocco another type of clay vessel called a tagra is used for fish tagines. Many, if not most, tagras do not have covers. Covering the tagra loosely with aluminum foil should work fine.