Tagra of fresh sardines with pepper oil recipe
by Paula Wolfert | 0 comments | Print recipeTweet
Many of the fish dishes from northern Morocco are prepared in a locally made clay vessel called a tagra and cooked in a baker’s oven.
The vibrant oil is not only used to flavour the tagra, but is also swirled over the entire dish just as it’s served.
At a glance
- Cuisine Moroccan
- Recipe Type Main
- Difficulty Medium
- Preparation time 25 mins
- Cooking time 65 mins
- Serves 6 people
- 12 large fresh sardines
- 1 pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 110 ml (3.9fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp sweet paprika
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp cumin seeds, preferably Moroccan
- 3 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 2.5 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
- 2.5 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 450 g (15.9oz) waxy potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- 350 g (12.3oz) carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 450 g (15.9oz) plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 large red pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced into thin strips
- 1 large lemon, thinly sliced
- Cut the heads off the sardines. Slit the bellies lengthways and remove the backbones and innards; do not separate the fillets. Rinse well under cold running water and pat dry. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Heat 80ml of the olive oil in a small pan. Add the paprika, cayenne and 4 tablespoons water. Bring to the boil and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the pepper oil to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, pound the cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon salt, the garlic cloves, coriander and parsley together in a mortar until pasty. Scoop the cooled pepper oil and some of the water into a bowl; discard the sediment left in the pan. Add half the pepper oil to the cumin mixture and smear over the flesh of the sardines. Fold the sides of the sardines together, so they resume their original shape. Arrange on a plate, cover and chill for 1 hour. (Reserve the remaining pepper oil for serving.)
- About 11/2 hours before serving, layer a third of the potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and red pepper in a dry tagra. Arrange half the sardines, skin side down, over the vegetables. Repeat, ending with a layer of potato slices. Spread the lemon slices on top. Pour over the reserved pepper oil and gently press down so the liquid rises to cover the potatoes.
- Place the tagra in the oven, turn the heat to 180°C (gas mark 4) and bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and set on a wooden surface or a folded tea towel (to prevent cracking). Allow the contents of the tagra to settle for 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe taken from The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert. Text by Paula Wolfert, 2011. Photographs by Quentin Bacon, 2012. Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2012.
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