I watched this recipe lovingly prepared in a warm Fez kitchen. It explodes with flavour, showing the Sephardis' creativity in combining fruit, vegetables and spices to enhance the taste of the fish. Ask your fishmonger to gut the fish and scrape off all the scales and remove the large backbone. Removing the head is optional.
For the fish:
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped (seeds and membrane removed)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large plump fennel bulbs, roughly chopped
1 lemon, roughly chopped
1 small orange, roughly chopped
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 x 1.5kg whole fish, such as line-caught sea bass or bream
1 preserved lemon, finely chopped
120ml vegetable stock or white wine
For the chermoula rub and filling:
100g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
100g coriander, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely crushed
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1½ tsp ground cumin
Pinch of saffron strands
Juice of ½ lemon
85ml olive oil
60ml vegetable oil
● Preheat the oven to 180°C.
● Combine the vegetables and fruit in a large ovenproof dish or roasting tin lined with foil. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon and lay the fish on top. Slash both sides of the fish with a sharp knife ready for the marinade.
● Combine the ingredients for the chermoula rub in a large bowl and mix well. Divide the mixture into two. Add the finely chopped preserved lemon to one bowl and mix well. Using your hands, stuff this mixture into the cavity of the fish.
● Take the rest of the mixture and spread it over the fish, rubbing it into the slits with your fingers. Pour over the vegetable stock or wine, cover with foil and bake in the oven for about 30–40 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when poked with a fork.