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Saturday, 15 June 2013

Paula Wolfert's Fish Tagine, Funkyknuckles style

The parents have gone home so I have time to myself again. I got a beautiful new cookbook -The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert - and it is just wonderful. I've already made Oudi, a clarified butter made by toasting barley grits - I just used coarse bulgur instead - with dried thyme and then melting butter over the mixture. The bulgur pulls the milk solids away magically, so you can just pour the clarified butter off really easily and it also gives a lovely smoky flavour to the finished product. I will be mostly anointing things with this for the next wee while.

I have not yet made the preserved lemons, the tomato confit, the meat confit or any of the amazing sounding breads - but I will. The range of recipes is incredible, there must be half a dozen versions of the old chicken/lemon/olive tagine classic, plus several very different and interesting looking b'stillas. If I only had one Moroccan cookbook (Ha! I have half a shelf of them!) this would be it.

Tonight I made the Fish Tagine with Creamy Onion Charmoula but - as usual - I made several substitutions, mostly because I had no preserved lemons, coriander or courgettes. Fresh lemons, parsley and fennel were perfectly good under the circumstances. The result was excellent, the husband loved it and it was very easy and good. I just bought myself a great big shallow cast iron casserole from Sainsbury's and it works very well if you don't have a cooking tagine.

The charmoula itself is spectacularly good and simple and I would use again and again on chicken or fish.

Fish Tagine with Onion Charmoula

Onion Charmoula:
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin seeds
2 tsp minced garlic & ginger
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Pinch of turmeric, fennel and cinnamon
20g parsley
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion (coarsely chopped)
Juice of 1 lemon

750g firm white fish (I used seabass & monkfish) skinned and cut into 1" chunks
1 punnet small red ripe tomatoes, halved
750g-1kg small potatoes, quartered
1 fennel bulb, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, peeled, cored, seeded, and diced
Juice of one lemon
1/2 a glass of wine

Juice & rind of a lemon
Olive oil
Chopped parsley

Blitz the Charmoula ingredients until smooth. Divide into two, mix half of it with the fish and marinate for an hour in the fridge.

Boil the potatoes till almost tender, then put them in a shallow casserole or tagine with the fennel, pepper, lemon, wine and the rest of the charmoula. Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, till tender (about 30 mins).

Spread the marinated fish and the tomatoes over the top and bake uncovered at 200oC for about 15 mins till the fish is cooked. Stir the garnish through and devour. I've adjusted the quantities to suit Irish levels of potato consumption so this needs no accompaniment.


2lb butter
40g coarse bulgur
1 tsp dried thyme or oregano

Toast the bulgur and thyme in a dry frying pan for 5 minutes or so on a medium to high heat till it's golden brown and smells smoky. Put in the butter (chopped up into pats) and let it melt completely without browning or stirring. Take off any scum with a kitchen towel. It will magically separate out into golden butter fat and weird porridgy gloop at the bottom of the pan. Paula Wolfert says you should strain it but I just poured the clarified butter off the bulgur mixture and put it in a jar. Tastes amazing and will be a beautiful topping for all things Middle Eastern.

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