04 August 2011

Home-made merguez sausages

A while back, my friend CHM told me that he noticed that my fall-back position is cooking when I've run out of other subjects to blog about. He's right, I guess — when we don't have visitors and aren't out touring around, cooking occupies most of my time. Walt and I do nearly everything from scratch, using local products from the open-air markets as well as basic products we buy at the supermarket.

This time of year, we're even more likely to be busy in the kitchen because the garden is starting to produce plenty of vegetables that need to be cooked and either consumed or, if not, preserved for the winter by freezing or canning. Collard greens, for example — with those the other day, because there were so many at one time, I took the path of least resistance and just packed them into plastic bags and put them in the freezer. It would have taken another whole day of work to put them up in jars and process them so that I could keep them in the pantry all winter.

We shaped the ground lamb mixture into sausages and put
a skewer through each one before grilling them outdoors.

Yesterday Walt made home-made merguez sausages. Merquez (pronounced [mehr-GHEHZ]) are sausages from North Africa (Algeria, Morocco) made with ground lamb. Normally, there's no pork in them, but you can add a little ground beef to the mixture. Merguez are made with a lot of spice, which you can vary. Here's the mixture Walt used:

Home-made merguez sausages

500 grams (18 oz.) ground lamb
1 Tbsp. harissa paste (or other chili pepper)
1 garlic clove, pressed or finely minced
2 Tbsp. ground fennel seed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. paprika
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. dry breadcrumbs (if needed)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. If the mixture seems to dry, add a tablespoon or two of water to it. If it seems too wet, add a tablespoon or two of dry breadcrumbs. Use cayenne pepper, for example, if you can't get North African harissa paste, and make the merguez mixture as spicy as you like.

Form the ground lamb mixture into meatballs or sausages. One good way to cook them is to put them on wooden skewers on a rack in the oven or on a barbecue grill until they're done.
Shredded summer squash "stewed" in olive oil
with onion and tomato sauce

To go with the merguez, we made a variation on the Julia Child shredded squash preparation that I described a couple of days ago. To make this one, coarsely shred two or three whole fresh squash, skin and all — it's easy and quick using the food processor. Put the shredded squash in a colander or strainer, sprinkle a teaspoon or two of salt over it, mix the salt in, and let the squash exude water for 30 minutes.

Shredded squash with tomato sauce

Rinse the shredded squash and dump it into a clean kitchen towel. Squeeze out the remaining water over the sink (you could also use a potato ricer to press the water out). Then finely slice a medium onion, a couple of shallots, or a couple of cloves of garlic. "Stew" the shredded squash flesh and the onion or garlic in olive oil on medium heat in a frying pan for about 10 minutes. Add about four big tablespoons of tomato sauce, some salt and pepper, and keep cooking it until the tomato sauce is mostly absorbed and starts to thicken. Serve hot.

Along with the lamb sausage and squash, we had a little
steamed couscous, a North African pasta.

One more word about merguez. As I said, they are spicy North African sausages that are made of lamb, mutton, or even beef. The next time we make them, we will add more hot pepper — maybe flakes, maybe ground cayenne pepper — and we'll also add some ground cumin to the mixture. The mixture above is good, but cumin will enhance it, and so will the extra chili pepper for our tastes. Merguez sausages are often served with couscous along with a spicy tomato-based broth with vegetables and chickpeas, and they are also very popular in France for summertime grilling.


  1. I was wondering what to make for lunch today -- thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Hi Ellen, I meant to ask you the name of the hotel in Montrichard where you stayed. The only one I've ever stayed in is the Bellevue, right on the river. It's pretty modern, but I don't have a great memory of it from staying there one night in 2002.

  3. It should be very local and... harissa, very good.

  4. It should be very local and... harissa, very good.

  5. I'm a big fan of cumin, thanks!

  6. Wow, that is mouth-watering. Everything you guys eat just exudes freshness. Great!

  7. A trip to Algeria and Morocco today! Fun! Thanks for the great-looking plate and recipes. I play pétanque with an Algerian. I can't wait to ask Jean if those sausages are in his repetoire. He's quite a cook, himself.

    Mary in Oregon


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