John Dory Tagine

This fragrant and beautiful tagine is a great way to showcase John Dory, pairing it with North African-inspired spices, and serving with salt and vinegar pine nuts and preserved lemon yoghurt. The recipe is from Josh Niland’s Take One Fish, a cookbook aiming to give home cooks more confidence in cooking with fish. The recipes are varied, versatile and delicious.

John Dory Tagine

The tagine sauce was simple but intense, the salt and vinegar pine nuts and preserved lemon yoghurt accompaniments were inspired, but the sweetly pearlescent flakes of just-cooked John Dory in amongst all those flavours were divine‘, says reviewer Nicky of the John Dory Tagine. Find out more about the book in our full review of Take One Fish by Josh Niland.

John Dory Tagine

John Dory Tagine

Tagine is a dish that carries a certain weight of expectation and, while it may not be an overly modern way of cooking, it’s certainly a winner. I use john dory shanks here as they are visually striking and not too complicated to prepare, though any bone-in cut such as a darne will also work well. The shanks are gently cooked in a flavourful paste, lending liquid gelatine from the skin and bone to the beautifully balanced sauce. Do take care though, as overcooking is still a possibility, instantly turning a refined dish into a very dry one. The pine nuts and preserved lemon yoghurt can be prepared in advance and stored in airtight containers in the fridge until needed. If the pine nuts lose their crunch, just refresh them in a hot oven for a few minutes.
Servings 6 servings
Author Josh Niland


  • 6 x150 g (5½ oz) john dory tail, shank chops or darnes
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/ ¼ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt flakes
  • 30 g (1 oz/ ¼ cup) sultanas(golden raisins) or currants
  • 7 g (¼ oz/ ¼ cup) coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • 5 g (¼ oz/ ¼ cup) mint leaves
  • couscous, to serve (optional)

Tagine paste

  • 12 g (½ oz/ ¼ cup) chilli flakes
  • 25 g (1 oz/ ¼ cup) ras el hanout
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 3 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 3 large onions, finely diced
  • 6 large garlic cloves,finely grated
  • 100 g 3½ oz peeled ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 2 long red chillies, seeds removed
  • 12 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 1 bunch coriander (cilantro), washed
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, washed
  • 12 salted anchovy fillets
  • 250 ml (8½ fl oz/ 1 cup) extra-virgin olive oil

Tagine base

  • 100 ml (3½ fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 x400g (14 oz) tins crushed tomatoes
  • ½ star anise
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/ 2 cups) Brown Fish Stock
  • pinch of sea salt flakes
  • 1 ×400 g (14 oz) tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large fennel bulb, coarsely diced
  • generous pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 60 ml (2 fl oz/ ¼ cup) boiling water
  • 90 g (3 oz/ ¼ cup) honey
  • zest of 1 orange
  • lemon juice, to taste
  • Garum or fish sauce, to taste

Salt and vinegar pine nuts

  • 80 g (2¾ oz/ ½ cup) pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Preserved lemon yoghurt

  • 90 g 3 oz preserved lemon, pith removed
  • 350 g (12½ oz) natural yoghurt


  • To make the tagine paste, blitz all the ingredients in a blender until completely smooth.
  • For the tagine base, warm the olive oil in a large, wide-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the tagine paste and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, until thoroughly cooked out and aromatic. Add the crushed tomatoes, star anise, stock and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for 25–30 minutes until thick and fragrant, then add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Rub each of the john dory shanks with a little olive oil and season lightly with salt flakes.
  • Using a tagine pot or flameproof casserole dish with a fitted lid, pour in enough of the sauce to completely cover the base to a depth of roughly 2.5 cm (1 in), then nestle the shanks into the sauce. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then cover with the lid, reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer very gently for 6 minutes, or until the fish registers 46–48°C (115-118°F) when a probe thermometer is inserted into the thickest part, close to the bone. Remove from the heat and leave the residual heat of the tagine to finish cooking the fish.
  • To make the salt and vinegar pine nuts, add the pine nuts and salt to a dry frying pan set over a high heat and toast for 3–4 minutes, tossing the nuts as you go, until evenly coloured all over.
  • Add the sherry vinegar, and continue to cook, tossing, for 2 minutes, until the nuts are thoroughly dried out. Remove from the heat.
  • For the preserved lemon yoghurt, place the preserved lemon in a blender and blitz to a fine paste, adding a splash of warm water if necessary to deliver a silky smooth finish. Stir into the yoghurt and set aside until needed.
  • To serve, bring the tagine to the table and serve with the pine nuts, preserved lemon yoghurt, sultanas or currants, coriander and mint leaves, and couscous, if you like.

John Dory Tagine



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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Take One Fish by Josh Niland from publisher Hardie Grant. Book photography by Rob Palmer. Kavey Eats photography by Nicky Bramley. 

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