I love Moroccan food and I also love fish! There is no way I would ever make a fish tagine without preserved lemon. It would be a crime! The great thing about quality preserved lemons is that you can use them in their entirety, just slice and add to the dish. Just watch out for any seeds. I know there are recipes out there to make preserved lemons, although I don’t use those because I don’t go through that many. I buy mine in a jar at any Middle Eastern or Halal market. Of course if you don’t have a market like that, you will be on your own.
As for tagines, they are wonderful and beautiful cooking vessels. Beware that some of them are so beautiful they are not meant for cooking but are serveware only. You should check yours before you go putting it in the oven or on a diffuser on the stove top. Of course, you don’t “have to” have a tagine to make this dish. There are some fine Mexican cazuelas out there as well, although the tops on those tend to be more rounded instead of conical. You can even use a clay cooker or clay baker. If you don’t have that either (and many people do not) you can opt to use a casserole dish and fold some aluminum foil into a conical shape and tent the dish when baking. The conical shape is probably best anyway since the way the tagine cooks allows steam to build up in the cone part which helps to gently cook the food. Being creative helps you get around not having a tagine!
But I do have those and collect them (among my many vices of collecting kitchen related items). Tagines can also be used to make other recipes besides Moroccan ones as well, so it doesn’t have to be something you rarely use.
Anyway, this fish dish is wonderful with a bit of couscous, which really isn’t too much starch with the potato. You could also serve this with many different types of flat breads or pita. I like a chopped salad with this, especially one that uses fresh herbs such as parsley and mint.
Fish and potato tagine with preserved lemon
1 pound boneless cod fillets, or other firm fleshed mild fish
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoons lemon-infused olive oil
1 large mild Vidalia onion, sliced
1-/12 lbs. scrubbed russet potatoes, unpeeled and sliced 3/8-inch thick
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons grated ginger root
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 preserved lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
generous sprinkle mild paprika
steamed couscous or rice (to serve with tagine; optional)
1. Rinse fish under cold water and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 375F., making sure to lower your oven rack to provide enough space for covered tagine.
3. Chop and prepare vegetables and ginger. Heat water until it is hot then stir in the saffron threads and tomato paste to make a saffron tea; if your olive oil is not lemon infused, add about 1 tablespoon lemon juice to this tea, not the vegetable sauté.
4. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil; add the sliced onion and cook just till it begins to soften, then add the sliced potatoes (with peel on) and garlic; cook for about 5 minutes, gently turning if needed.
5. After 5 minutes, add the saffron tea mixture to the skillet along with the ginger, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook another 5 minutes.
6. Place the potato mixture into the bottom of an oven-safe tagine, and top with fish pieces. Place slices of preserved lemon and kalamata olives in and around the fish and potatoes.
7. Cover tagine, and place in the preheated oven and cook for 1 hour, or until potatoes are tender and fish flakes easily.
8. Serve with steamed couscous if desired.
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