My trip to Marrakesh left me craving the fresh and fragrant array of tagines we had been lucky enough to sample over our long weekend there. Whether veg or fish based, these tagines were full of delicate flavours, with hints of sweetness and so light yet satisfying that I couldn't wait to re-create my own version at home.
After some research I stumbled across this fish tagine recipe with haddock, which not only looked amazing, I mean with its vibrant colours this simply screamed being on holiday to me, but also appeared relatively easy to make at home. The only ingredients that seemed a little out of the ordinary were the preserved lemons, meant to add a subtle yet essential and unique hint of citrus, and the Ras el hanout (a blend of typical Moroccan spices that make your life a hell of a lot easier than getting the individual ones), both of which you are able to get in most bigger Waitrose supermarkets or online at Ocado, which meant there was no reason for me to not re-create a real Marrakesh style feast at home.
Rather than the plain couscous that usually gets served alongside tagines I thought I would mix things up a little, particularly as I am not a massive fan of the gritty texture of couscous, and went for bulgur wheat on this occasion instead. I had never made it before (to be honest I am much more of a sweet potato or pasta person than other grains), but it proved super easy to make and I served it room temperature with the dinner which meant I was able to prep it before my guests arrived. What really adds flavour here is my go-to tahini dressing that is super easy to make (all you need is tahini, fresh lemon juice, golden syrup and a little hot water to thin) and voila you get a super tasty dressing that not only works here but which I often drizzle on top of roasted vegetables for an extra kick. In terms of add-ins you can go wild, I kept it Middle Eastern leaning with pomegranates, raisins, spring onions and of course fresh herbs but feel free to add more veg to bulk it out.
The tagine does take some prep bearing in mind the marinading time, making of the tomato sauce and roasting of the veg but you can assemble the entire tagine before your guests arrive and then simply stick it all in the oven for 15 minutes when you are ready for dinner, serving the room temperature bulgur wheat on the side and making this a great dish to feed a crowd with!
I was seriously impressed with the end result here, it being as good as the tagines I had in Marrakesh in it's depth of flavours yet lightness, and I am sure to make this again this summer and for many more summers to come! I hope you enjoy the recipe!
Moroccan Fish Tagine with Ginger & Saffron
¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
½ cup olive oil
3 teaspoons Ras el hanout
8 threads Spanish saffron, crushed
5 haddock fillets
2 tins of crushed tomatoes
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
500g carrots, peeled, sliced diagonally
2 white onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon preserved lemon pulp
1 small jar of pitted green olives
1. In a large bowl, mix parsley, coriander, olive oil,saffron and Ras el hanout. Add juice of half of lemon. Coat fish fillets with mixture, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. Cut leftover lemons into thin slices.
2. In a large sauce pan, combine crushed tomatoes, garlic and cumin. Cook over medium heat, mashing and stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 200 celsius.
4. Place carrot slices in single layer on bottom of a casserole dish. Cover with onion slices. Spoon tomato sauce over onions. Cover casserole tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in middle of oven for about 30-45 minutes, until carrots are soft.
5. Remove from oven and place fish fillets on top of vegetables. Reserve marinade. Spread a little preserved lemon pulp on each fillet and top each one with 2 slices of lemon.
6. Pour reserved marinade around fillets and surround with olives. This is when I cover everything in foil and wait until the dinner is in full swing to return to the oven.
7. Return casserole to oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until fish is flaky.
9. Spoon some of sauce over fish.
Middle Eastern Bulgur Wheat With Tahini Dressing & Pomegranate
300g bulgur wheat
Generous helping of chopped mint & parsley (the more the better)
150g pomegranate seeds (buy them ready at your supermarket of choice rather than creating the mess of dealing with an actual pomegranate)
4 spring onions
For the tahini dressing (I pretty much do this by so the below are guidelines only - taste!)
3 tablespoons tahini
1/2 lemon juiced
1 tablespoon golden syrup
Hot water to thin and give it a dressing like consistancy
1. In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the bulgur until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well, then spread out on a baking sheet to cool.
2. Mix the tahini with the lemon juice and golden syrup. Add hot water until desired consistency. Season.
3. Add dry ingredients to the cooled bulgur wheat then add dressing and stir well. Season. Cover to let the flavours develop and serve room temperature.
I had been wanting to try the French small plates at Blanchette East, located bang in the middle of Brick Lane, for a while now, yet never quite managed to eat there (in fact the last time I tried they were shut for their very belated Christmas do). The wait was definitely worth it here though as the dinner me and my friend had on a hot Sunday evening there was without a doubt one of the best I’ve had in London for quite a while.
The restaurant space has a very Parisian bistro vibe about it and we were able to perch on some high stools at the front of the restaurant, which had been opened up, windows and all, so that it felt like we were dining al fresco, also offering us some rather entertaining people watching on an England match day at the World Cup (a lot of very drunk people swaying down Brick lane).
The menu is divided into a snacks, charcuterie, cheese, meat, fish and vegetable section, with sharing recommended which me and my friend Henry were more than happy to do! To start proceedings we ordered a very reasonably priced and refreshing carafe of white wine, followed by some cheese beignets (a kind of French fritter), served with a tangy onion confit which were a delicious little starter while we perused the menu. So much of it sounded amazing (including a very extensive veggie section) that we found it hard to settle on our final dishes but in the end went for a good mix of vegetarian and fish plates.
My eyes were instantly drawn to the baked St Marcellin cheese with honey and truffle (after all I LOVE all things truffle) and I am happy to report that the almost fondue like melted cheese, served with crisped up bread slices, was utterly out of this world - gooey, truffly and simply stunning. This was followed, the staggered serving of the dishes was also done to perfection here, by a baked fillet of hake with asparagus, jersey royal potatoes and a truffle (yes more) mushroom crust which was another absolute highlight of the meal, not only beautifully present but a perfect marriage of flavours that screamed summer.
After this came the only slight disappointment of the meal, the Moroccan baked eggs with peppers and flat bread, which were perfectly fine but nothing out of this world (I mean they are eggs in tomato sauce at the end of the day) and were also rather small in portion size. To be fair this could generally be said for most of the plates at Blanchette East but for me that can be excused in this case as they do not claim to serve main size dishes and which here meant we got try a lot of different flavours without being absolutely stuffed at the end.
In any case to finish off the savoury part of the meal we lastly ordered their mussels, my first ever ones believe it or not, which came served with smoked tomato, creme fraiche and samphire, so delicious that they left me wondering why I had never tried mussels before and instantly mentally transported us to a sunny spot somewhere in the south of France. The French fries with bernaise sauce ordered on the side, were crispy, fluffy and one of the best I’ve had in London and the bread and butter we greedily ordered to soak up the last mussel juices was quite extraordinary, elevating this humble combo into something of an experience.
Having been so impressed by the food (and it has to be said also impeccable service) thus far it didn’t take a lot convincing to get us to share a dessert and the white chocolate and creme fraiche marquise ( a kind of dark chocolate shell filled with a white chocolate mousse) served with chocolate ice cream and cherries was simply divine and a fitting end to a fantastic meal that showcased fantastic culinary skills at more than ok prices. I have not as good French food in London and even in France before and can only sing the praises of this little east London gem. The perfect place for seasonal sunshine food and even better you can book ahead. A place surely added to my absolute London favourites.