In this Moroccan-style recipe, whole fillets of plaice are cooked in a tagine with aromatic spices including ras al hanut, which is blend containing turmeric, nutmeg and many other spices. Translated as 'head of the shop', ras al hanut was traditionally made to a secret recipe created by the spice merchants. There are numerous variations that may include as many as 27 different spices and aromatics, among them delicate rose petals, but in this recipe I have used a simple blend that is easy for you to make at home.
- olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 onions, finely sliced
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground ras al hanut (Moroccan spice blend)
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 ripe tomatoes, deseeded and roughly chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 100ml fish stock or water
- 1 plaice fillet per person, skinned
- juice of 1 lemon
- 4 sprigs of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
For the ras al hanut Moroccan spice blend
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Put all the ingredients for the ras al hanut in a pestle and mortar or an electric coffee grinder (see tip below), grind to a fine powder and set aside.
Place a flameproof terracotta tagine over a medium-high heat. If you do not have a tagine, use a heavy-bottomed casserole or shallow saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Add a little oil and cook the garlic until pale golden and fragrant. Add the onions and reduce the heat. Cook the onions for 8 minutes until softened.
Push the cooked onion to one side of the tagine or pan and turn up the heat a little. In the space that you have created, add the cumin seeds, the ras al hanut and the cayenne pepper and cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant and aromatic, then stir them into the onion mixture.
Add the tomatoes and season with salt and black pepper. Cook for 1 minute to combine the flavours. Add the fish stock or water and bring to simmering point. Taste the mixture and adjust the flavourings if necessary.
Add the whole fish fillets to the tagine or pan and spoon the tomato mixture over. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, turn down the heat to low and cook for 8 minutes. The beauty of a tagine is that it can be brought to the table as part of the table setting. If you do not have a tagine, you could start the onion spice mixture off in a pan, then transfer it to a shallow terracotta dish with a lid and bake the fish in the oven. Bake at 180℃C/350℃F/gas mark 4 for 12 minutes.
When the fish is ready, remove the lid, squeeze over the lemon juice and scatter with coriander. Serve immediately with rice, couscous or potatoes.
TIP For best results when making the ras al hanut, buy a small electric coffee grinder that you use only for grinding spices. Once you've mixed all the ingredients, store the blend in an airtight jar. It will keep indefinitely, but it will lose its pungency over time.
Other recipes from Fish Tales:
Spice-and-sesame-crusted tuna with wok-fried asparagus and courgettes and warm asian vinaigrette
Grilled salmon with herb lentils and salsa verde