In the last years of my 15 year stint as a vegetarian, two things conspired against my resolve to be meat free: work travel and sausages. Traveling every 2-3 weeks for a year on end meant eating in airports, hotels or grabbing food on the go in unfamiliar cities wreaked havoc on my vegetarian diet. I got pretty sick of cheese sandwiches and hummus (5 years ago, that was the standard fare; I’m guessing it hasn’t changed much).
Sausage was another story, entirely my own failing.
I grew up on sausage – kielbasa, bratwurst, Italian, summer – you name it, our German heritage family ate it. With my DIY bent I tried several times to make my own veggie sausage, mainly because of the cost and my concerns about all of the ingredients in store-bought patties that did not look like edible food stuff. It never worked well. So I caved and started eating sausage on the sly – never bought it at the store – but did not refuse it when it was offered, especially homemade.
My sisters started calling me a “sausag-tarian.” It was mortifying but too true!
Recently a friend introduced me to a wonderful new cookbook entitled, Sausage: Recipes for Making and Cooking with Homemade Sausage. Ahhh, the motherland, I was home! Written by Victoria Wise, it demystifies the process and expanded my horizons to what “sausage” could include (fish, veggies, grains, in addition to ground meat) and with easy to follow directions, it is at the top of my new favorite books.
While her version of merguez did not include harissa, I wanted to ensure mine was as fiery as the real deal I first had in Paris 20 years ago. This version looks innocuous in the picture, but don’t be fooled; there’s plenty of heat in this baby, but not so much that it will make your nose run!
Homemade Merguez Sausage (based on this recipe)
1 lb lamb, ground, slightly chilled
1 1/2 tablespoons harissa
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
olive oil for frying
In a cast iron pan (or other heavy bottom pan) dry fry the cumin, fennel and coriander seeds for 3-4 minutes until they begin to color and you can smell them roasting. Scrape into a mortar and pestle and grind with salt and garlic until it forms a well combined paste. In metal mixing bowl mash ground lamb with a fork to break it apart and add spice paste, paprika and harissa and mash with the fork to blend very well. At this point you can from the meat into thin sausages and fry up, or allow it to chill for a few hours to let the flavors permeate the meat. The raw mixture can also be shaped and frozen on a parchment lined baking sheet for a couple of hours and then stored in a freezer bag for up to 2 weeks. If frying immediately, pour enough olive oil in a pan just to barely coat it and heat over medium high heat. Cook sausages on all sides until evenly browned and cooked through. Serve.
Recipes currently inspiring me:
Orange Cookies Dipped in Chocolate at Closet Cooking
Stuffed Flank Steak at Stacey Snacks
Papparedelle with Smashed Peas, Sausage and Ricotta at Eats Well With Others