Merguez is a type of sausage made of lamb (or beef) that forms part of a North African or Middle Eastern diet. Flavoured with a mixture of spices including garlic, ginger, fennel, sumac, coriander, cumin, turmeric its highly aromatic and slightly spicy with added harissa or cayenne.
Anyone walking past the butchers on Wednesday probably caught a whiff of spices roasting in preparation for our next lot of sausages, lamb Merguez. The chorizo sold out in a day (but never fear if you missed out, they are making more as I write) and we wondered how long it would take these to go.
All at the butchers looked on slightly bemused as I hand ground (my spice grinder blew up that morning!) the roasted spices and their scent filled the air with what Paul described as
“memories of turkey”
Johnathan was less convinced. Not being a fan of spiced food he said to me
“are we putting ALL of that stuff in?”
“yep” I replied and he shook his head.
Once all the spices were ground to a powder and we had our Merguez spice base, we minced the lamb and mixed it with garlic and ginger, sumac, tomato and harissa…finally we added the spice powder sprinkling in enough water to produce a good mix.
After working the mixture well by hand we fried off a couple of small patties to check the flavours. Not enough heat was the verdict, although everyone liked the flavour (except Johnathan…he still didn’t look convinced). We added more harissa which added a little heat but accentuated the spices already in the meat.
Soaked sheep casings were filled with the spiced meat mixture and twisted into sausages. Unlike the chorizo they didn’t have to hang for a week; they were simply left overnight (to let the flavours develop) and then moved to the shop ready to sell. I brought a small bag of the leftover meat home with me to try out. It made fantastic burgers.
I cooked my little burgers on a griddle pan and served them with a simple couscous dish (the traditional thing to serve Merguez with), a dressed green salad and some grated cucumber mixed with natural yogurt.
I’m not a very accurate cook and usually just put a few good handfuls..or what I think is enough for the family. Maybe between 250 and 300g tipped into a large bowl. Cover with enough boiling vegetable stock to cover. Put a tea towel over the top and allow to stand for 10 minutes or so.
Taste a few grains after 10 minutes to check they are soft and tender. If they are fluff the rest of the grains with a fork, if not add a little more hot water and cover for another 5 minutes…but be careful not to add too much otherwise it will become too wet.
Stir in a couple of handfuls of raisins, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, some fresh coriander or parsley, the juice of a lemon and some toasted pine nuts. Check seasoning.
Green salad dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil or rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon course grain English mustard
Shake this all together in a sealed jar and pour over the salad. Toss well.