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Moroccan Fish Tagine (Mqualli) with Potatoes, Tomatoes and Peppers

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Classic Moroccan Fish Tagine

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

Fish, potatoes, tomatoes and roasted peppers are layered in this classic Moroccan mqualli tagine. Mqualli is a term which refers to sauces made with ginger, saffron and oil. Chermoula, olives and preserved lemons add zest and flavor.

Any firm, thick fish can be used – cut up or whole – but I like this tagine best with slices of eel because there are fewer bones to deal with at the table. Swordfish, dorado, large whole whiting and sea bass are other good choices.

In addition to the ingredients below, you'll need to make Chermoula. Allow time for the fish to marinate.

Serves 4.

Also try Baked Whole Fish Tagine.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg fish or eel - whole, or in thick slices or steaks
  • Chermoula
  • 1 large onion, cut into rings (optional)
  • 1 carrot or celery stalk, cut into thin sticks
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into thin slices
  • 3 tomatoes, seeded and cut into thin slices
  • 2 bell peppers, any color
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1 preserved lemon, quartered or 1 fresh lemon, cut into thin slices
  • handful of red olives
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Preparation:

Ahead of Time:

Make the Chermoula. Reserve half of the chermoula, and mix the remaining half with the fish. Cover the fish, refrigerate it, and allow it marinate at least two hours or overnight.

Roast the peppers, peel and seed them, and cut them into strips. Or, alternatively, slice the raw pepper into rings.

To Make the Tagine:

Pour the olive oil into a tagine, and distribute the onion slices across the bottom. Criss-cross the celery or carrot sticks in the center to form a bed for the fish.

Mix the potato slices with the spices, and arrange the potatoes around the perimeter of the tagine. Top the potato with the tomato slices, and distribute the reserved chermoula over the vegetables.

Add the fish and its marinade to the center of the tagine, and arrange the strips of pepper on top of the fish in a decorative manner. Garnish the tagine with the lemon and olives, and sprinkle salt and pepper over all.

Cover the tagine, and cook over low to medium-low heat for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the fish and potatoes test done. Reduce the sauce if necessary until it is quite thick and mostly oils. (Note: If you feel there is an excessive amount of liquid in the tagine, it's easiest to ladle the sauce into a pan to reduce it, and then pour the sauce back over the fish before serving.)

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