Moroccan Fish Tagine (Mqualli)

Fish tagine ready to cook
Christine Benlafquih
Ratings (31)
  • Total: 2 hrs 30 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 2 hrs
  • Marinating: 2 hrs
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings fish tagine
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
616 Calories
38g Fat
26g Carbs
43g Protein
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This is a recipe for a classic Moroccan fish mqualli tagine with potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers. For best flavor, allow time for the fish to marinate.

Mqualli is a term which refers to sauces made with ginger, saffron, and oil. Here, however, additional zesty flavor comes from fresh or preserved lemons, olives and a Moroccan marinade called chermoula.

Any firm, thick fish can be used -- cut up or whole -- but slices of conger eel work best because there are fewer bones to deal with at the table. Swordfish, Dorado, large whole whiting and sea bass are other good choices.

Ingredients

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

Steps to Make It

Make the Chermoula and Roast the Peppers

  1. Make the chermoula marinade. Reserve and refrigerate half of the chermoula, and mix the remaining half with the fish.

  2. Cover the fish and refrigerate, allowing it to marinate for two hours or overnight.

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

Make the Tagine

  1. 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.

  2. Mix the potato slices with the ginger, salt, pepper, turmeric, and saffron, and arrange the potatoes around the perimeter of the tagine. Top the potato with the tomato slices, then distribute the reserved chermoula over the vegetables.

  3. 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.

  4. Cover the tagine and cook over low to medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the fish and potatoes test done. Reduce the sauce if necessary until it is quite thick and mostly oil. (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.)

  5. Serve the tagine directly from the dish in which it was cooked, with Moroccan bread for scooping up the fish and sauce.

Traditional Recipes

Traditionally, the ingredients are layered in a tagine or deep skillet, then cooked over a fire or on the stove. In the north of Morocco, fish stews such as this one are prepared in tagras, round or oval clay casseroles similar to tagines, but without the conical top.

If you plan to make fish tagine frequently, you may want to reserve a piece of clay cookware specifically for this purpose as, over time, the clay will absorb the flavors and odors of the fish and seasoning.