Chermoula on fish fillet.
Chermoula on fish fillet.

Chermoula is a herb and spice marinade from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and is mainly used for fish. It is quick and easy to make and quite delicious.

Spread it on a whole fish, fish fillets, prawns, other seafood or chicken and leave to marinate. The seafood or chicken can then be grilled, pan-fried, cooked in a tagine or baked in the oven. Chermoula can also be served as a sauce, dressing or dip. It is wonderful with roasted vegetables such as potato, pumpkin or sweet potato.

Although the ingredients for chermoula vary from place to place, today's recipe is fairly standard, with coriander, parsley, garlic, cumin, paprika, lemon and olive oil. You can use vinegar instead of lemon juice, or a little of each. Other spices, such as coriander, saffron, turmeric or ras el hanout, can be included, as can fresh chilli, preserved lemon, lemon zest or tomato.

Broad beans and peas.
Broad beans and peas.

For a cooked version of chermoula, fry eschalot or onion in oil first.

Spring is with us, with all the lovely vegetables it brings, so I am serving my fish with a ragout of broad beans and peas, cooked with spring onions and mint. Try to find beans and peas of a similar size and not too big. Baby new potatoes would work well, too.

Chermoula - North African fish marinade

Serves 4-6

Include the tender coriander and parsley stems.

½ bunch coriander, chopped (about ½ cup)

½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped (about ½ cup)

3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

sea salt

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground

1 tsp sweet paprika

pinch of cayenne (optional)

1 juicy lemon (¼ cup juice)

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Chop the herbs and garlic in a food processor, pound with a mortar and pestle or cut finely by hand. Mix in all the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust as you like.

Store the chermoula in a jar in the fridge with a film of olive oil on top. It is best eaten when freshly made, but will keep for a few days.

 

Baked blue-eye cod fillets with chermoula

4 white fish fillets such as blue-eye cod or ling

1 quantity chermoula marinade (above)

4 celery stalks

2 tomatoes, peeled and diced or sliced (optional)

1 lemon, to serve

Ask the fishmonger to skin and pin-bone the fish for you, or do it yourself. Spread half the chermoula over both sides of the fish and leave to marinate in the fridge for an hour, if you can, or at least 30 minutes.

To cook the fish in the oven, heat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C regular). Use the celery as a rack to sit the fish on. Cut each celery stalk into about thirds, and arrange in an oiled shallow ovenproof dish. Place chermoula-covered fish on the celery rack. If using, add the chopped or sliced tomato on top. Spoon on a little extra chermoula or olive oil.

Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for another five to 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. The time will depend on the thickness of the fish.

Transfer the fish fillets to warmed plates and spoon the pan juices over them. Serve with lemon wedges and the remaining chermoula as a sauce.

 

Broad bean and pea ragout

Serves 4-6

Fresh broad beans and peas are nicer, but you can use frozen ones instead. You can substitute fresh basil for the mint in the recipe.

1kg broad beans in pods (1 cup shelled and peeled)

500g peas in pods (1 cup shelled)

sea salt

1 small bunch of mint

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or canola oil

4 spring onions (including some of the green part), sliced)

1 clove of garlic

Pod the broad beans and shell the peas. Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a rapid boil. Toss in the broad beans and cook for one minute. Remove the beans with a sieve and plunge into ice-cold water. Nick the top of the beans and slip off the skins.

Use the same pan of boiling water to cook the peas. Throw in the peas and a sprig of mint. Cook for one to two minutes depending on size, then drain.

Heat a saute pan with the olive oil, add the spring onions and garlic and stir-fry briefly. Add the broad beans, peas, some shredded mint, a pinch of salt and splash of water. Cover and cook for a few minutes until the beans and peas are tender. Garnish with extra shredded mint and mint sprigs and serve warm or at room temperature.

>>  Diana Lampe is a Canberra writer, dlampe@bigpond.net.au.