Merguez: A North African tasty sausage “will give yo the craves”
Merguez are long, thin and taste distinctly of North Africa, thanks to the harissa, paprika and other spices with which they’re made. The meat in these wonderful sausages is always either beef or lamb (or a mixture of the two), never pork, and although they’re ubiquitous throughout North Africa and France, they are not always so easy to find over here. If you can’t get hold of any, use the kebab mix in today’s first recipe. It’s coarser and not quite as fatty as classic merguez sausagemeat, but it’s just as heavy in spices and high in heat.
Use this mix to make these kebabs, or as sausagemeat. These quantities will give you just the right amount for today’s potato bake dish, but more than you need for the scotch eggs; any you don’t use can be frozen or fried up for a smaller batch of these kebabs. Makes eight, to serve four (or 650g raw sausagemeat).
500g minced lamb (20% fat)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp rose harissa
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
¼ tsp cayenne
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp olive oil
80g fresh white breadcrumbs
Put everything in a large bowl with a teaspoon of salt. Using your hands, mix to combine, then form into eight kebabs about 12cm long x 4cm wide x 2cm thick. Set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes, to rest and for the flavours to develop.
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Put a frying pan on a medium-high heat and ventilate the kitchen. Once the pan is hot, fry the kebabs for two to three minutes, turning halfway through, until golden brown all over. Transfer to a small tray, tip off any excess oil and bake for 10 minutes, until cooked through. Serve with a tomato and cucumber salad and some pitta.
Merguez and aubergine scotch eggs
3 large aubergines (900g)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 ancho chillies, soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
¼ tsp celery seeds
1 tsp dried mint
190g merguez (about 4), meat squeezed out of the skins and roughly mashed (or just under a third of the raw kebab mix from today’s first recipe)
70g feta, crumbled into 1cm pieces
10 large eggs, plus 2 extra, beaten, for dipping
100g panko breadcrumbs
70g plain flour
1 litre vegetable oil, to fry (it can be saved afterwards and reused)
Put a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and ventilate the kitchen. Once the pan is very hot, grill the aubergines for 45 minutes, turning them over regularly, so all the skin is completely charred and the flesh inside is soft and smoked. (Alternatively, grill the aubergines directly on three flames on the hob, in which case they’ll take only about 20 minutes.) Transfer the grilled aubergines to a bowl and, once cool, scoop out the flesh; discard the blackened skin. Put the flesh in the centre of a clean J-cloth, bring together the edges and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Put the flesh in a medium bowl: you should have about 120g.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium-high flame, then fry the onion for eight minutes, stirring a few times, until caramelised and soft, then add to the aubergine bowl.
Remove and discard the stalks from the soaked chillies, then put them in a spice grinder with a tablespoon of the chilli soaking water. Blitz until smooth, then add to the aubergine mix with the tomato paste, spices, sausagemeat and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Use your hands to combine, then roughly mix in the feta and set aside.
Put a medium saucepan filled with plenty of water on a high heat. Once boiling, carefully drop in 10 eggs, leave to boil for six minutes (for runny yolks), then drain and refresh under running cold water to stop them cooking further. Peel carefully and set aside.
Put the panko in one bowl, the plain flour in a second bowl and the two beaten eggs in a third.
Divide the aubergine and merguez mix into 10 portions, each weighing about 50g, and place one portion each between two pieces of clingfilm. Press down with your hands to form an 11-12cm-wide circle that’s about 0.5cm thick. Remove the top layer of clingfilm and place a peeled boiled egg in the middle of the mix. Draw up the sides of the clingfilm to envelop the egg with the sausage mixture, so that it’s completely wrapped and the egg sealed inside. With your hands, make the sausage coating as even as possible, patching up any gaps as you do so, then transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining eggs and sausage mix.
Working with one egg at a time, roll the eggs first in the flour, then coat in the beaten egg and finally roll in the breadcrumbs until completely covered. Set aside and repeat with the remaining eggs.
Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan on a medium flame. Once it reaches 170C, fry the eggs two at a time for three to four minutes, turning them over halfway through, until they’re golden brown all over and the meat is just cooked through. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and repeat with the remaining eggs. You can save them to eat later, but they are best eaten straight away, while still warm.
Merguez and potato bake
There’s a fair bit of work involved here, so if you don’t want to bother with the potatoes and bechamel, the meat sauce is good on pasta by itself. Serves eight.
About 60ml olive oil
700g merguez sausages, skins removed and discarded (or the raw sausagemeat from the preceding kebab recipe)
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 red peppers, deseeded, core removed and flesh finely chopped
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp ground allspice
¾ tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3 strips orange skin
280g tinned chopped tomatoes
5 large desiree potatoes, peeled and cut into 0.5cm-thick rounds
30g plain flour
60g unsalted butter
500ml whole milk
100g pecorino, coarsely grated
100g feta, crumbled into 1cm pieces
On a medium-high flame, heat two tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan for which you have a lid. Fry the sausagemeat for 10 minutes, stirring to break it up, until browned all over, then transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.
Pour all but two tablespoons of fat from the pan (the meat will release a fair bit) into a small bowl; set aside.
Return the pan to the heat and fry the onion for eight minutes, stirring regularly, until golden brown and soft. Add the peppers and fry for five minutes, until soft. Add the spices, garlic, orange strips, tomatoes and half a teaspoon of salt, return the meat to the pan, add 350ml water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for an hour and 15 minutes; discard the orange after 40 minutes and remove the lid for the last 15 minutes, so the sauce thickens.
Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Gently warm the reserved cooking fat (add oil to make it up to three tablespoons-worth, if need be), then tip into a large bowl and mix with the potato slices and half a teaspoon of salt. Spread out the oily potatoes on a 30cm x 40cm baking tray lined with baking paper (let it overlap slightly), then roast for 30 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown at the edges. Set aside the potatoes and turn the oven down to 200C/390F/gas mark 6.
To make the bechamel, put the flour and butter in a medium saucepan on a medium heat. Cook, stirring continuously, for two minutes, until the butter has melted and combined with the flour, then gradually whisk in the milk. Once all the milk is incorporated, cook for three minutes, whisking continuously, until the sauce is thick and smooth, then stir in the pecorino and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and take off the heat.
Pour half the meat sauce into a 20cm wide x 30cm long x 6cm deep baking dish. Lay half the potatoes on top in slightly overlapping slices, then sprinkle over the feta. Pour over the remaining meat sauce and top with the rest of the potato. Spoon the bechamel evenly over the surface and put the dish on an oven tray (in case of spillage while it bubbles away in the oven). Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling, and set aside for 10 minutes before serving.