~ Moroccan Spiced Lamb Merguez Patties ~
Feeling spicy? When I crave a good dose of spice and fragrance I head to Asia, the Middle East or North Africa…in my dreams. In reality I head to my kitchen, where I fling open the spice cabinet and get cooking. I made these merguez patties recently when I was craving the heat and heady flavors of Morocco: harissa, garlic, coriander and mint. These feisty patties hit the spot – well, an airline ticket would have really hit the spot, but, hey, this was a pretty good stand in for a school night.
What really tipped these patties for me was the use of whole spices that I toasted and ground in my mortar. If you haven’t tried doing this, then you are missing a big component in the flavor department. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, and the results are well worth it. Whole spices are readily found in the spice section of your supermarket, gourmet and spice shops – even online. When you are ready to use the spice, toast the seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Then transfer to a spice grinder or a mortar, and blitz or pound the spices until fine. The flavor is lightyears better than the pre-ground stuff.
Spicy Lamb Merguez with Couscous Tabbouleh
Makes 18 to 20 patties
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 pounds ground lamb
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons harissa paste
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Toast the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Grind to a fine powder in a mortar with pestle. Transfer the remaining merguez ingredients to a large bowl. Add the toasted spices and mix until combined without overworking the meat. Form in 2 to 3 inch patties. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Grill over direct high heat or pan-fry in olive oil over medium-high heat, turning once, until brown and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with couscous salad (recipe below), pita bread, Greek yogurt, fresh mint and extra harissa if you’re feeling really spicy.
This is a great side dish to accompany the lamb or any grilled meat. Or crumble feat cheese over the salad for a light vegetarian meal.
1 1/2 cups couscous
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 English cucumber, seeded, finely diced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place the couscous, water, lemon juice and olive oil in a large bowl. Let stand until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.