Monday, December 08, 2008

Moroccan Mackerel

Sat 6 Dec 2008

A couple of weeks ago Saturday Kitchen featured part of a Rick Stein episode where he visited Morocco and made a very tasty looking sardine dish. Of course, we didn't pay nearly enough attention, deleted the episode from iplayer and subsequently couldn't find the recipe on the web. Oh, or spot sardines at the market.

Still, the inspiration was in place, and the end result was Saturday night's dinner. I doubt Moroccans would recognise this dish but it was incredibly tasty and very easy to put together. This is now firmly on my list of dishes to serve others - especially on those occasions when I've rashly invited people for a mid-week meal ...

We used one very large mackerel (just over a kilo), and this has served the two of us for two meals. Any firm fleshed, oily fish, that can stand long slow cooking, will do.

The recipe begins with chermoula - a spicy marinade (that can also be used as a sauce or for dipping). I used the recipe from Made in Morocco: make a coarsely textured paste from a small bunch of fresh coriander, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander and paprika, a red chilli, a pinch of salt, some lemon juice and some good quality olive oil. If you are planning on using this as a cold sauce or for dipping you will want to be less generous with the garlic. Also, depending on your audience you may want to omit the chilli, use less or substitute chilli powder to taste. You can make the chermoula in advance and store in the fridge.

Chermoula made, heat some vegetable oil in a pan, add the chermoula and fry it off. Add a couple of good handfuls of chopped tomatoes (skins and seeds are OK). We used about 8 small tomatoes. I'd avoid using tinned tomatoes as they will be too wet: our feeling was that using passata at this stage would be an improvement.

You don't need to cook this mixture for too long: just so that the raw edge comes off the garlic and tomatoes. Empty this mix into a baking dish and even out, so that it forms a layer.

Peel and thinly slice enough potatoes to form a generous layer over the tomato/chermoula mix. Next, add your fish, tuck a whole red chilli between the pieces and then cover with finely sliced lemons. Roughly chop another 4-6 small tomatoes and cover the lemons. Finally, top with a combination of finely sliced and chopped green pepper. Drizzle (generously) some olive oil over the top, cover the dish with foil and put in a slow oven (fan 140°C) for about an hour.

After an hour, check on how saucy your dish is. At this point ours was very saucy, so we increased the oven temperature to 180°C and removed the foil for a final 15 minutes.

We just served this in bowls, with spoons (no need for knives and forks with that slow cooking!), but you could add any type of North African inspired side: couscous, tabbouleh, or a minty-onion-potato salad would all work really well. To drink, we chose the Raimat Albarino, £8.49 a bottle from Oddbins. Although it might seem a bit strange to a wine from north eastern Spain, it's not such an odd choice. Fish is a huge part of the Catalan diet, and the wine's acidity and weight paired well with the richness of texture and flavour.

A different way of treating mackerel (but with similar flavours) is this spiced mackerel.
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