Chermoula Recipe

Chermoula

The June/July issue of Régal* has just been released, with its fresh batch of inspiring ideas**, and it was my reading material of choice when Maxence and I went out for a drink on a terrace on Saturday afternoon, to bask in the fine weather.

And in the midst of the section on farmed vs. wild fish, a ray of sunlight fell on a recipe for barbecued herring served with chermoula.

If this is the first time you and chermoula meet, let me give you a brief introduction: in Moroccan cuisine, chermoula is the magic wand to deal with fish. It is classically a mix of fresh cilantro (a.k.a. coriander), garlic, and spices, bound together with lemon juice and olive oil***. The combination of spices varies depending on the cook’s preferences, and fresh parsley, fresh mint, or chopped onions may be added, but the basic idea remains the same: to form a thick paste that will be used as a marinade before grilling or baking the fish, or as a condiment at the table.

I had purchased a whole dorade that morning, and chermoula seemed like the perfect foil for it; I bought a bunch of cilantro on the way home, and got to work. I used the printed recipe as a starting point, and modified a few things: I took the opportunity to use a Meyer lemon and the aleppo pepper I had brought back from the US, I used smoked paprika instead of regular, I added whole coriander seeds and a good pinch of saffron, and I decided to grind the ingredients together in my beloved mortar, instead of chopping them by hand or in a mini-chopper.

I will note here that it is not a difficult recipe (grind, pluck, grind again), but that one should not underestimate the time that is needed to pluck the leaves from the bunch of cilantro. However, this task is executed in a divine cloud of cilantro smell that makes it all okay — unless you’re one of those people who loathe cilantro, in which case you can just use flat-leaf parsley, but it’s not quite the same.

And the resulting emerauld green condiment accomplishes its mission remarkably well: its fresh, tangy, earthy notes, and its lingering heat make it flamboyantly flavorful, yet respectful of the fish’s sensibilities. Other uses include eating it by the spoonful, spreading it on thin slices of baguette, or mixing it with good-quality canned tuna for a mean tuna sandwich.

* Régal is a French bimonthly cooking magazine that was created three years ago. They don’t have a website (I know, I know, don’t get me started), but French residents can subscribe online here, and you can enquire about foreign subscriptions by writing to: abonnements [{ at }] uni-editions [{ dot }] com.

** And, I might add, an amuse-bouche recipe by yours truly on page 10.

*** [Wow, asterisks are flying low, today!] The name chermoula is sometimes given to spice rubs that combine a similar mix of spices with dried herbs and dried garlic.

Chermoula

– One medium lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
– 3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
– 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
– 1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika (I used pimentón)
– 1/4 teaspoon moderately hot red pepper flakes (I used aleppo pepper)
– A pinch saffron threads (optional)
– A good pinch salt
– The leaves from a medium bunch of fresh cilantro (a.k.a. fresh coriander; about 2 packed cups when plucked; substitute fresh flat-leaf parsley)
– 1 tablespoon olive oil

Grate the zest of the lemon into a mortar (or a mini-chopper, if you insist). Add the garlic, spices (from cumin to saffron), and salt, and grind until well combined.

Add the cilantro, the juice of the lemon, and the olive oil, and grind well to form a paste. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Transfer into a cup, cover tightly, and refrigerate until ready to use; the chermoula will keep for two to three days in the fridge.

  • http://www.estouest.blog.lemonde.fr est

    I have seen your recipe with raspberries and courgettes, it looks original & really nice. Regal is indeed a very useful magazine (I also like the section at the end with all the pratical tips). Best of luck with the jetlag;)- although by the look of this green chermoula, I can tell you are over it already!

  • http://www.maminaclaude.canalblog.com/ mamina

    La recette m’avait tapé dans l’oeil.

  • http://www.mustardzone.com/blog Anna

    Salut Clotilde,
    Any chance of those of not having access to the magazine getting a little peak at your recipe??
    Also, Can you please let me know what the make and model of your camera is? I am looking to purchase a new one and the photos in your new book are so beautiful.
    Thank you Clotilde!

  • http://www.ceresandbacchus.com Mary

    Chermoula is one of my favorites. I’ve been using a variation on a recipe from the Dean & Deluca cookbook for years; their’s is a little more red from a higher dose of paprika and they suggest using preserved lemons. I’m excited for grilling season, I’ll try out your version of this the next time I put a fish on the grill. I bet the smoked paprika was a good addition.

  • http://www.teeteringbetween.blogspot.com sinda

    Clotilde,

    I’ve enjoyed hearing about your travels during your tour – thanks for keeping us updated. I’m going to San Francisco tomorrow, and reading your posts from there made me even more anxious to depart!

    I love chermoula, and I look forward to trying your variation. I use it as a sauce for steamed vegetables (carrots) or grilled zucchini or eggplant.

    I have a vivid memory of visiting a friend and her newborn in Vancouver years ago, and introducing her to chermoula. She loved it too, until some dripped into her baby’s eye and his crying curtailed our enjoyment of the sauce. But he was soon fine, and we think of him every time we have it!

  • http://afoodiefroggy.canalblog.com/ FoodieFroggy

    Tiens, c’est drôle ! Voici ma version tunisienne ici, moi je mets aussi la chair du citron, c’est très frais : http://afoodiefroggy.canalblog.com/archives/2007/04/04/4517272.html

  • http://www.lacuisinededali.canalblog.com _Dali_

    La chermoula à un goût fabuleux, elle est parfaite pour donner du caractère à un poissons rôti, surtout à la daurade. La photo est très belle.

  • http://www.rockinggrass.com/ Drew Shiel

    Are there particular fish that are traditionally eaten with chermoula, or does it work with everything?

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Anna – The recipe is for thinly sliced ribbons of zucchini that you spread with almond butter, season with salt, pepper and pink peppercorns, and roll around a raspberry. As for the camera that I use, you’ll find the info in the About section!

    Drew – I think it would work with any kind of fish, grilled or baked.

  • http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com Kalyn

    This is one of those things I’ve been meaning to try for the longest time, so thanks for giving me the nudge. Your recipe for it looks great.

  • http://www.chefzadi.com Farid

    In Algerian cooking chermoula is used for fish obviously, but also to marinate chicken, it can also be added to tagines at the table to liven things up. Besides the chermoula paste or finely chopped uncooked chermoula, there are “relish” type chermoulas made by caramelizing shallots or onions in olive oil, adding lots of finely chopped cilantro (a combination of flat leaf parsley and cilantro are also used)and a good dose of fresh lemon juice.

    There are many variations and uses for chermoula.

    Enjoy!

  • http://teaandcookies.blogspot.com Tea

    Thanks so much for linking to the post about the origins of your mortar–I hadn’t read it before and I love those sorts of stories. What a great culinary heritage you have–and your father is flat out funny!

    I’ve had my eye on a large Thai krok, heavy granite mortar, for quite some time. I have two smaller ones, but would love to make big batches of curry paste–or chermoula. Your post might just put me over the edge.

  • http://dailyunadventures.com Katerina

    How interesting, I made something really similar to this the other night and marinated and basted grilled halibut with it. It was excellent, the major difference was that I used lime juice and no paprika. I will definitely try this.

  • Roxy

    This recipe sounds pretty similar to the one I use for chimichurri, an Argentine condiment that’s great over grilled, sliced rare steak and even chorizo! I never thought to try it on fish, but it’s halibut-fishing season up here in Alaska so I may have to test it out…

  • Mandy

    Yes, Roxy, I was thinking chimichurri! For the uninitiated, it’s cilantro, parsley, garlic, chile, olive oil, and a bit of red wine vinegar (well, at least the way I make it, anyway). I love it with salmon (slow-cooked sockeye is partcularly lovely), calamari, or whatever (I use it mostly on fish, but I really should try it with steak or chorizo, as you suggest, Roxy), and sometimes add or serve with good cherry tomatoes. Trader Joe’s makes a pretty good premade version in the refrigerated case.

    I will have to try other herb/spice combinations, now… :)

  • chanie

    you allude to this in your post, so i figured i’d ask – any thoughts as to why this herb in particular gets such strong reactions? i love cilantro, but know people who absolutely can’t stand it, or anything with a hint of it.

  • Anu

    Hello Clotilde,

    Love love your blog.
    Just a suggestion, based on my years of using Cilantro. For Cilantro, there’s no need to pluck leaves individually. since the stems are so tender. you can easily chop the leaves and stems together. May be just discard the tougher stems at the bottom.

    Thanks.

  • Suzi

    Can one acquire one of the aforementioned signed bookplates? Please?

    Merci.

  • Debbie

    Glad you’re back! Your chermoula looks lovely but a lot milder than what I’m familiar with (though perfectly authentic according to several sources, so my version may be called something else). My memory of Moroccan family-style desayuno (brunch) fish steaks includes a LOT more chile pepper–something like a quarter cup dried hot pepper flakes per bunch of cilantro (you’re good on the garlic), plus a few evil whole chiles floating in the baking dish and some toasted caraway (very good too). It should knock you off your chair and make the younger kids whimper…More the consistency of a pesto, less liquid, and since it’s so hot, you have to have mercy on your guests and serve the fish cold with some cold salads and bread for relief and survival. The hotter version of the condiment is also good in (very, very) small dabs with hummus–warn your guests though. You can freeze it in a sandwich baggie and break off small pieces as needed so the cilantro doesn’t turn before you use it up. Or you can omit the warning and use it to chase away anyone who’s outstayed their welcome…

  • Dan

    Hi Clotilde! I love your blog and I just wanted to bring to your attention a news article about your book in the NY Daily News. It looks to be getting some fantastic press!

  • http://travelswithagourmet.blogspot.com/ Roselyn

    Just made chermoula a few days ago and had it with some grilled squid – a nice mix! Keep those recipes coming.

  • steve

    Chermoula is a terrific marinade for shrimp on the barbecue. Peel them and leave the tails, skewer them, marinate for an hour or so.

  • franko

    personally, j’adore cilantro — but, because i know people who hate it, and it was brought up, i will now point everyone here:

    http://ihatecilantro.com/

    yeah, i don’t get it, either.

  • Bernie

    Congratulations on the Vogue mention! I was so excited when I saw it!

  • sabi

    Hi Clotilde, I love your blog and have been reading it for ages. I watched this programme on the BBC channel yesterday about some British chefs who prepared a meal at the British Embassy in Paris and I thought I saw you, was it you or was I seeing things!

  • http://www.kittalog.com Kitt

    Oh, that looks delicious. It is very similar to a paste one makes for rice-paper-wrapped fish in Donna Hay’s “Entertaining.” You put finger-sized pieces of fish on a round of rice paper (such as one uses to make spring rolls), slather it with the paste, roll it up and fry it in a little oil in a saute pan. Sprinkle it with black sesame seeds and voilà! Yummy.

  • http://www.carablack.com Cara

    Congratulations, Clotilde! Thanks for posting the link to your google talk, it was great to ‘hear and see you’ since I missed you at the Ferry Building. A quick trip to Paris came up and about that same time I was munching a pistachio financier from a boulangerie in the 17th arrondissement. I can still taste it.

    This is a great recipe for cilantro addicts, like me. Now I’m off to the market, can’t wait to try it.

    Cara
    http://www.carablack.com

  • http://kellytheculinarian.blogspot.com Kelly Mahoney

    It looks delicious, but how time consuming is it to make?

  • http://nami-nami.blogspot.com Pille

    We received our copy (third already) in post last weekend – and I spotted your recipe already. I’m soon going to make the beautifully-coloured pomegranate drink from one of the previous issues.. A great magazine indeed!

  • http://www.jenniferduartedesign.com jenny

    This looked so good, I decided to use it on some fish we were grilling last night. Fantastic!

  • rainey

    For chanie;

    I used to be someone who hated cilantro. Now I grow it and enjoy it. I think the big difference for some of us is whether the stems are also used or whether one carefully takes just the leaves. Some will enjoy it either way, but some of us react rather strongly to the aggressive and, to me, a bit soapy flavor of the stems.

    If you have a mind to give it another go, use leaves and a light hand and see if you have a completely different experience with it.

  • http://sugardisaster.com/lastnightsdinner Manny

    The first time I had chermoula was on Spanish Mackeral in Casablanca…Amazing!

    Being addicted, I just made some last weekend, as recently in Japan Cilantro can be found, but I gotta say LIME works really well (assuming you can get any). Also roasted garlic, ground ancho chile powder, and whatever else I can find before licking it all off my fingers.

    À bientôt

  • http://www.cforcooking.com Jeff

    Beautiful dish! I so dig :)

  • http://blogrican.blogspot.com/ Jen

    Chermoula also sounds similar to sofrito, which we use in Puerto Rico for seasoning all sorts of things, from yellow rice to stews to meats and chicken. I had not thought of using it on fish, will have to try modify it with some of the ingredients in this recipe and see how it goes!

  • http://www.chefzadi.com farid

    Jen, I agree with you. Some pesto like versions of chermoula are like the Puerto Rican sofrito you mention. And at least in Algerian cooking the uses are quite varied.

    We also make an orange chermoula that reminds me a lot of a Cuban mojo.

    For those that don’t really like cilantro, you can use half flat leaf parsley and half cilantro. The lemon, garlic and spices in chermoula really cut that “soapy” cilantro taste that some people don’t like.

    There are so many uses for different kinds of chermoula. You can also make it much thinner with more lemon juice and olive oil and use for skabetch (escabeche).

  • http://www.nysdelight.com Aysegul

    have you made zahtar! it is just as good and even better!

    You have a wonderful variety of recipes, they all look sensational to try..

    Aysegul

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