Merguez Crepinettes

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Preparation info

  • To Make About

    20

    • Difficulty

      Easy

Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

  • About

Merguez are the thin Mediterranean sausages that smell and taste of hotter lands. They are the air that blows from the south, hot with chilli and pungent with North African spices. Made mostly from lamb and reddened with paprika, they are the sausages of Marseilles and Belleville (the Arab quarter of Paris), where they are eaten in the bars and cheap cafes that cater for expatriates. They are part of un film noir, of slouched hats and Belmondo as the gangster, the image slightly grainy, perhaps black and white. The drink in the shadowed bar is pastis. Outside the sun burns, and the light is white enough to hurt the eyes.

Because merguez originate from Muslim countries, they should be made in sheep casings rather than hog skins, but these are difficult to find. If you do not have a sausage-maker and have no objection to introducing pork into the dish, then make merguez crépinettes, patties wrapped in caul fat.

Ingredients

  • 900 g/2 lb lamb neck fillet
  • 450 g/1 lb beef (any cut but not too fatty)
  • about 20 sheep or hog casings or 450 g/1 lb caul fat
  • 4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ nutmeg
  • small bunch of coriander leaves
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp Harissa or 6 small hot red chillies
  • 2 tbsp paprika

Method

Preparation

At least three or four days before you want to cook the merguez: ask your butcher to mince the lamb and beef coarsely or do it yourself.

Put your casings or the caul to soak either in cold water overnight or in running water for 2 hours.

Toast the cumin, fennel, peppercorns, cloves and nutmeg in a heavy pan over a low heat for 2-3 minutes, then grind to a powder.

Destalk and chop the coriander leaves. Chop the mint. Peel, smash and chop the garlic. Destalk, deseed and finely chop the chillies, if using.

In a large bowl put the meat, garlic, paprika, ground spices, salt and chopped herbs. Spoon in the harissa or chopped chillies and mix thoroughly by hand, squeezing and turning to get even distribution of all the elements. Fry a spoonful of the mixture and taste. Adjust the seasoning as you like.

Fill the casings or spread out a piece of caul and cut it into 7.5 cm/3 in squares. Put a ball of the merguez mixture in the centre and wrap the lacy mesentery around it. If there are any holes or gaps, wrap in another square. Press to flatten slightly and arrange on a tray. Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 days and up to a week to mature before cooking.

Cooking

You can fry merguez in a pan, but they are best roasted for 15 minutes on a rack in an oven preheated to 200°C/400°F/gas6. They are good on their own in a mezze, or as a main course with chips.

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