Bar rock cod tagine by Neil Perry

Neil Perry, sometimes called the father of Modern Australian cooking, opened Rockpool the same year that Sydney Seafood School was launched, 1989, when Australia’s love affair with food was in its infancy. What’s become known as ‘Australian’ cuisine draws influences from all around the world, as does Neil when he prepares simple dishes, such as this tagine, at home.

One of the most distinctive elements of Moroccan cooking, ‘tagine’ refers to both the cooking pot and the dish prepared in it, a slow-cooked braise or stew.

Lemons preserved in salt are a delicious Moroccan ingredient, rinse them, discard the flesh and pith and use only the skin.

Chermoula is a spicy herb paste often used for marinating seafood. The recipe here makes a little more than you’ll need for this dish, but it keeps, refrigerated, for up to 5 days and is delicious as a sauce for any seafood or meat; if you make it ahead of time, refrigerate until ready to use.

Ingredients:

1kg bar rockcod fillet, skin off, pin-boned
6 baby beetroots, washed
3 bulbs baby fennel, trimmed and quartered
12 baby carrots, washed
12 small kipfler potatoes, washed
1½ cups (375 ml) Chermoula (see below)
3 tablespoons honey
1½ teaspoons salt flakes
60g blanched almonds
80g green olives
Instant couscous, for serving
1 preserved lemon, rinsed, skin only, thinly sliced
Juice of 1½ lemons, strained, or to taste

Chermoula
1 red onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 bunch coriander, stalks and leaves roughly chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stalks and leaves roughly chopped
1½ teaspoons salt flakes
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1½ tablespoons chilli powder
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1½ tablespoons ras el hanout
185ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon, strained

Directions:

1. To make the chermoula, place the onion, garlic, coriander stalks and leaves, parsley, salt, cumin, ground coriander, chilli, turmeric, paprika and ras el hanout in a food processor and process for 1 minute. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil to form a thick paste. Stir through the lemon juice.

2. Cut the fish into 3–4cm cubes. Combine the beetroot, fennel, carrot, potato, 1 litre of water, 1½ cups (375ml) of the chermoula, honey, salt, almonds and olives in a tagine or large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour, covered, until vegetables are well cooked.

3. Prepare the couscous according to the packet instructions.

4. Stir the fish and preserved lemon through the vegetables and simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes, until the fish is just cooked through, stirring very gently from time to time. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from heat.

5. Divide among bowls or serve from the tagine or pan in the middle of the table with the couscous on the side.

Recipe and image courtesy of Sydney Seafood School.

Tips:

Alternative species: blue-eye trevalla; hapuku; John dory; snapper.