Moroccan Fish Tagine (Mqualli)

Mqualli is a term which refers to sauces made with ginger, saffron, and oil. Here, however, the 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.


  • 2 pounds firm fish, or eel
  • 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 kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • Pinch saffron threads, crumbled
  • 2 to 3 tomatoes, seeded and cut into thin slices
  • 1 lemon, cut into thin slices, or 1 preserved lemon, quartered
  • Handful red olives


Make the Chermoula and Roast the Peppers

  1. Gather the ingredients.

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

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

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

Make the Tagine

  1. Pour olive oil into a tagine, and distribute onion slices across bottom. Criss-cross celery or carrot sticks in center to form a bed for the fish.

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

  3. Add fish and its marinade to center of tagine, and arrange strips of pepper on top of fish in a decorative manner. Garnish tagine with lemon and olives, and sprinkle salt and pepper over all.

  4. Cover tagine and cook over low to medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the fish and potatoes are finished. Reduce sauce if necessary until it is quite thick.

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

Moroccan Fish Tagine (Mqualli)

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