22/10/2012

Fish Tagine


Tagine is a North African dish of Berber origin (Tajin) named after the earthenware pot within which it is cooked and the mainstay of Moroccan cuisine.

Traditionally, the tagine is made from heavy clay and needs curing by soaking in water before first use - see: iTagine, the tops often decorated and glazed. Moden tagines often feature a cast iron base.

The shape of the lid is designed so as to return cooking steam back to the base of the dish and the weight keeping the dish sealed. Think of the tagine as an ancient pressure cooker.

Tagines combine meat, spices, vegetables, fruit and herb garnishes in a slow-simmering over the coals of an open fire ... or the cooker hob in our case. Cooked, the dish should be a deep, complex and warming meal brough to the table in the base, the lid removed and the heady, steamy aroma enjoyed as a precursor to the meal eaten from the base itself, or spooned over couscous on an individual plate.

Don your Fez, we're off to Casablanca ...

First, the couscous. Again, of Berber origin (Seksu, meaning well rolled, formed and rounded), couscous is made from millet so not a lot of use to paleo people. One obvious substitution is cauliflower couscous, finely grated and dried in the oven, or lightly steamed and crushed before warming through in a dry frying pan.

So, to the tagine itself. Think your ingredients through - the dish should be dressed up and pretty to look at.

Smoked fish, in a deep, flavoursome tomato sauce with butternut squash, courgette, peppers and lemon.

The dish could, of course, include all manner of other goodies: harissa, olives, almonds, the list is endless. Tagines are made from what you have available, cooked through sequentially, dressed up and then left to warm through in its own steam.

To the stove ...

First warm the tagine base through on the hob and turn the heat down. Mine is Le Crueset brand and made of cast iron.

Melt some fat and soften some shallots and shaved fennel. The fennel will punch through the tomato and liven  up the fish. Toss in some crushed garlic and then a carton of chopped tomatoes. Thicken with a little tomato purée.

Toss in the cubes of butternut squash and let it simmer for 15 minutes, or so, with the lid on. The squash should now be cooked through.

Poke in pieces of smoked fish - I used cod. The fish should be submerged into the tomato sauce, which, should now be nice and thick.

Dress the tagine with lemon slices over the top, courgette slices all around the edge and pepper rings arranged as a crown. You can be more decorative with other ingredients here - let your imagination go.

Fresh coriander leaf to garnish, lid on and let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

Present at the table, removing the lid and enjoying the heady aroma.

Spoon out over your cauliflower couscous and enjoy.

2 comments :

  1. "Don your Fez, we're off to Casablanca ..." I'm not sure what that means but I like the way it sounds. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tagine ... North African ... Fez ... traditional North African hat ... you can fill in the rest :)

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