Have you tasted the wonderful fish tajine of Morocco?
Perhaps the most colorful and unusual tajine in Morocco is their fish tajine! Red and green rings of peppers, yellow lemon loops, and orange carrot circles that are arranged around the fish are delightful even before you taste them. We were sitting in a quiet garden in the depths of the medina of Fes the first time I tried it. The noises of the city were far away; we were in the inner courtyard looking out over lemon, olive, and almond trees. Our hosts had already brought us a variety of salads, and I was just wondering how I would have room for more, when Hayat placed the feast before us. The combination of so many vegetables and subtle spices with the light baked fish was perfect. Later, when we went back to the States to visit my parents, our kids caught fish in our pond and I made the same tajine for everyone! Delicious!
Try it! You can use either fish fillets or serve it true Moroccan style with the whole fish! I purposely kept some of the measurements loose so that you can adjust the amounts according to your needs. I did write out the specific details of the marinade because that is what gives the dish the distinctive flavor.
Pound with a mortar and pestle:
5 cloves of garlic, 1 small bunch of fresh parsley and cilantro. Use a teaspoon of salt to help grind the garlic and herbs to a paste.
Add: ¼ c oil; a few threads of saffron; 4 t cumin, 4 t paprika, the juice of one or two lemons (depending on size) and ½ t ground hot red pepper (or to taste).
And now the rest:
Rub the fillets of fish (or the whole cleaned fish with the tail removed) with the marinade. Place it in the bottom of a baking dish and let it sit covered in the fridge.
Peel and cut a few potatoes and carrots. Cut in rounds and boil until slightly soft. Drain. Dip the boiled carrots and potatoes in the same marinade and arrange them around the fish.
Slice rings of a whole preserved lemon (or a fresh lemon with the peel still on); a red pepper, a green pepper and a tomato. Dip them in the same marinade and layer them artistically on top of the potatoes, carrots and fish. Pour any left over marinade over the whole dish.
Bake for 15 minutes to half an hour (depending on the size of your fish).
Notes #1: If you have large pepper rings, you can place the smaller lemon and tomato rings inside forming colorful concentric circles.
Note #2: If you would like to serve the fish with rice, cook your rice before putting it in the baking pan under the fish. You can even stuff the fish with rice and omit the potatoes.