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Moroccan seafood stew with preserved lemon, apricots, and olives

Updated: Mar 11, 2023

Moroccan tagines are generally made of chicken or red meats, but here is a very different tagine with seafood. Traditionally, Arabs like their fish grilled or fried with lots, and lots of lemon juice, but this stew uses the more evolved flavours of preserved lemons to bring the stew alive.

Ras-al-hanout is a North African spice blend used primarily in Tunisia and Morocco. The translation is " head of the shop" or top-shelf, meaning these are the best spices that the shop owner is most proud of. It is a complex spice mix with innumerable variations from the very aromatic to the spicy. In India, it is available from Doyen Foods, and abroad any Middle Eastern store or Amazon will have the spice. This is one of those blends that are complex with lots of ingredients, so buying an excellent ready-made version is suggested.

This stew is a lovely flavour bomb, delicate and aromatic. You can use any combination of seafood, fish fillets, shrimp, clams, mussels, squid and other favourites as you would like. The scent of saffron is accompanied by the mild spices from ras-al-hanout and the tartness from the preserved lemons. The dried apricots add a touch of sweetness and the olives have a salty finish. This stew is lovely. I like to serve it with either couscous or pita bread.

This is a relatively new cookbook in my library. It is filled with contemporary Arab recipes, each one a delight, like this one. Each recipe has an introduction that precedes it explaining the origins of the dish and its history, something I enjoy reading and cuisine I have so much to learn about. It is a wonderful cookbook, one you will see me cook from again.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.


3 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, finely diced

1 tablespoon ginger paste

A handful of cilantro, tender stems and leaves, minced

Salt, to taste

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon ras-al-hanout spice blend

A pinch saffron

4 cups water or fish stock

8-10 large yellow Turkish dried apricots, quartered

1/2 lb fish fillets, cubed

12 large shrimp

12 mussels (optional)

1/3 preserved lemon, deseeded and finely chopped

10 green olives, halved longitudinally

Juice of 1 lime

Couscous or bread

Heat the oil in a large pot and sautè the onions and garlic on low heat till it is golden about 4-5 minutes. Add the ginger and cook for 1 more minute. Add the cilantro, salt, and pepper and cook until the cilantro is wilted for about 2 minutes.

Add the ras-al-hanout, saffron and paricots and toss well. Add the water/stock and bring it to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the shrimp and fish and simmer for 2 minutes till the fish has just turned white and the shrimp have just curled up. Add the preserved lemon and olives and lime juice and mix in well. Taste for salt, tartness from the preserved lemon and the scent of saffron. If adding mussels add them right before serving, close the pot and steam for 1 minute. The mussels should open up.

Cook the couscous as recommended on the package. Usually, it is an equal volume of water and couscous. Add the water to a very wide pot, boil, salt, and a drizzle of olive oil and the couscous. Mix well, take off the stove and sit covered for 5 minutes—fluff immediately for a very grainy texture.

Serve the hot stew on the couscous or with pita bread on the side.

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