Moroccan roasted sea bream with preserved lemon, olives & chermoula

IMG_8207Again I travel to Morocco for this recipe – partly to use up my chermoula that I bought in the souk, and partly to find a way of cooking the whole sea bream sold by my new fishmonger  – not scaled but at least gutted! What a palaver… in a bag in the garden, but the scales still seem to go everywhere.

Essentially chermoula is a mix of four spices (see below) so you can easily make it if you don’t have a ready-mix. Chermoula is most used in fish tagine, also a great summer dish, but is great sprinkled on any fish for the BBQ. I love the preserved lemon and olives with sea bream, which is essentially a Mediterranean type of fish. I served with new potatoes and some left-over chard and chick pea stew/soup.

Serves 2-3 or 4 depending on size of fish

  • 1 large whole sea bream (1.5-2kg, net weight), scaled (!!!) and gutted
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 large preserved lemon, roughly chopped
  • 200g green and black olives, pitted, or not – but be careful if not!
  • Lemon wedges, to serve

For the chermoula:

  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch coriander, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 90ml olive oil
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tsp salt



  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Combine the chermoula ingredients in a bowl. Use a sharp knife to score the fish lightly with three or four cuts on an angle on each side. Rub chermoula all over the fish, inside and out, and leave to marinade in the fridge for one to three hours.
  2. Take an oven tray large enough to accommodate the whole fish and brush with olive oil. Drizzle lightly with oil and season.
  3. Mix together the preserved lemon and olives then stuff the cavity with the olives and lemon. Allow any excess to tumble out of the cavity.3D17F6E4-7E3D-4C41-9B4C-D665A625E7FA
  4. Roast in the over: the roasting time may vary dramatically according to the thickness of the fish, so start checking after 20 minutes.  Mine was done in 25 minutes, but I don’t know how much it weighed! Pierce the fish down to its spine at its thickest part with a little knife – the flesh should be totally white.
  5. Once done, bring the tin directly to the table. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with lemon wedges.

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