I’ve been on a Moroccan food kick for the past couple of years, at least. I’d even say Moroccan food is my comfort food, and I cook it at home frequently. I cooked this fish this evening for my lovely friend, the inimitable Sweety Kapoor, an incipient cookbook author and fabulous cook in her own right. These quantities are for two, but multiply as needed for more people. Serve with couscous, saffron rice, or even just with oven-warmed flatbread.
2 small-medium whole mild-flavoured fish (approximately ¼ kilo each) suitable for roasting, such as trout, sea bass, or cod, cleaned and (if appropriate) scaled.
½ onion, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 clove minced garlic
1 teaspoon sweet Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon espelette pepper (Espelette pepper is a fairly mild red pepper used in North African and Basque cooking. If you can’t find espelette pepper, you can substitute 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes)
1 teaspoon ras-el-hanout (a Moroccan spice blend of over 30 spices, available in specialty stores)
1 teaspoon dried ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 large handful fresh coriander (cilantro)
1-2 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced, for garnish
Additional coarse salt, such as Maldon’s
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (about 425 degrees Fahrenheit).
Wash and thoroughly dry the fish inside and out and cut 3-4 slits about ¼ inch deep along each side.
Combine the onion, ginger, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and dry spices, and sauté in two tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat until the onions are soft and the spices start to release an aroma, about five minutes.
Cool the spice mixture to room temperature and then rub liberally all over both sides of the fish, working well inside the cavity in the middle of the fish and into the slits on the sides. Layer the bottom of an oven-proof baking dish large enough to fit both of your fish with the fresh coriander and allow fish to rest with the seasonings in the dish for 15-30 minutes.
Drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil and roast uncovered for 20-25 minutes, or until skin is browned and the flesh of the fish is tender to the touch. Once the fish is out of the oven, squeeze the half lemon over it, sprinkle with coarse salt, and garnish with sliced green onions. Serve whole.