Episode 21: Indian-Spiced Fish Tagine and Sweet-Hot Carrots

September 20, 2009

This week, I make a fish tagine–essentially, fish cooked in a stewpot–with spices from a favorite Indian recipe. On the side: carrots with cinnamon, honey and red pepper…and some potatoes that take a damn long time to cook.


Click to play this episode in a new window; right-click to download
Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS

Shopping list

    Fillet of white fish (tilapia, cod, etc)
    Grape tomatoes
    Whole lemon
    Cilantro (optional)
    Fennel seeds
    Coriander seeds
    Cumin seeds
    Whole cinnamon stick
    Aleppo or other red pepper
    Rice, couscous, orzo, potatoes–your choice

Indian-Spiced Fish Tagine

tagine 015A tagine is a Moroccan cooking pot with a cone-shaped lid. The cone-shaped lid helps condense the steam created in cooking and keeps the food moist. But, happily, you don’t actually need a tagine to make this–any heavy cooking pot with a good lid will do. (Here’s an example–Cathy puts her pot in the oven, but you can just as easily keep it on the stovetop.) For more on tagines, see the note at the end of the recipe.

Tagine is also the word for the stew cooked in one of these cone-shaped pots. But the spice combo here is from a great Indian recipe for eggplant, so, really, if you don’t use a tagine to cook it, and it’s not a Moroccan spice mix…I guess you can’t exactly call it a tagine at all. But it’s delicious regardless, and the basic technique is a great one to know because it’s so versatile.

You can serve this fish with virtually any kind of starch. In the podcast, I boil some potatoes because I happen to have them, but couscous is of course good, as is rice or even orzo (rice-shaped) pasta. So as not to repeat my blunder in the podcast, you may want to start cooking whatever starch you prefer before you embark on the fish.

Serves 2 modest portions
1-inch chunk fresh ginger root
3 or 4 cloves garlic
2/3 pint (or so) grape tomatoes
Olive oil
About 1 tbsp whole fennel seeds
About 1/2 tbsp each whole cumin and whole coriander seeds
1 large filet tilapia or other mild white fish
1/2 tbsp butter
Zest from 1/2 lemon
Fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Slice ginger into 1/4-inch-thick rounds–3 or 4 slices. Peel and roughly crush or chop garlic cloves. Slice tomatoes in half (use this technique).

Place your tagine (or heavy pot) over medium heat. Drizzle in a bit of olive oil, to coat the bottom of the pan. When oil is hot and shimmery, add the whole fennel, cumin and coriander and immediately stir to coat in oil. Continue stirring until they are fragrant, usually only a few seconds. If you’re afraid your spices might burn, feel free to yank the pan off the heat. Otherwise, quickly add the ginger and garlic–this will help lower the temperature of the oil–and turn down the heat to low. Stir the garlic to coat in oil, then add the tomatoes and stir everything to mix well, along with a big pinch of salt.

tagine 004Lay the fish fillet over the tomatoes, and scoop a bit of the oil and a few tomatoes over the fish–but make sure there’s a good cushion of tomatoes for the fish to rest on. You don’t want the fish to actually touch the bottom of the pan and cook via direct heat. Put the dab of butter on top of the fish, and grate the lemon zest over it.

Put the lid on the tagine and cook, on low heat, for about 10 minutes, or until the fish just flakes when you poke it with a fork. If the rest of your dinner isn’t quite done yet, just turn off the heat and keep the lid on.

Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, if you like.

taginecreusetNote: I have a yuppified tagine, from Le Creuset (shown here). It’s a coated cast-iron base and a clay top. Because the base is so sturdy, I can put it directly on the flame on medium heat. But if you’re using a traditional tagine, with a clay base, you should prep all your ingredients in a separate skillet, which you can crank the heat on with no risk, and then transfer everything to the tagine, lay in the fish, and set it to cook on a low flame.

Sweet-Hot Carrots

tagine 005Carrots and cinnamon are a common Moroccan combination, and a dab of honey only enhances the sweet fragrance of the mix. But to balance out the sweetness, I always add a bit of hot pepper. These carrots cook up quickly in a covered pan on the stovetop–the tiny bit of liquid cooks away and leaves a nice glaze of spices and honey. I tend to think the butter adds a nice bit of richness, but it’s entirely optional.

Serves 2, with leftovers
3 large carrots
Olive oil
Dab butter (optional)
1 whole cinnamon stick
Squeeze of fresh lemon or (better) orange juice
Very small spoonful honey
Large pinch Aleppo pepper, or smaller pinch of cayenne or crushed red chile
Generous grind of black pepper

Peel carrots and slice into 1/4-inch rounds. Place heavy pan (it should have a lid) over medium-high heat. Drizzle oil in, just enough to coat the bottom, and add a dab of butter. When the oil is hot, add the whole cinnamon stick and stir, then add the carrots and stir to coat with oil. Squeeze in the citrus juice and add a pinch of salt.

Cover the pan and turn heat to low. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until carrots are tender and liquid has cooked away to leave a glaze. If the carrots are tender, but there’s still a bit of liquid, remove the lid and turn the heat up to medium to make the liquid boil away.

Near the end, add the red and black pepper and stir well. Remove the whole cinnamon stick before serving.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Back in the Saddle: Weeknight Improv Cooking
09.20.09 at 2:40 pm
10.18.14 at 2:43 pm

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Naomi 09.20.09 at 3:40 pm

Grr. Or phooey rather. Been checking every day for a new recipe, finally gave up, opted for the Pad Thai, came home from shopping and poof! a new recipe. Looks delish. Can’t wait to try it. Do you think there’s a shop that sells hats that match your tangine pot, because that would be excellent.

2 BigGirlPhoebz 09.21.09 at 8:43 am

Such an interesting idea to make an Indian-spiced tagine. I make Moroccan dishes quite frequently now as the tagine technique is so easy (basically a stew) and can feed a fleet. For fish, I’ve been making this chermoula version:


Would be interesting to work in some other cultures’ spices and flavors.


3 zora 09.25.09 at 2:30 pm

Glad you liked it, Phoebz!

And sorry for the delay, Naomi…that Sunday felt like molasses…I don’t know what happened. I can’t even blame it on booze the night before!

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Previous post:

Next post: