Lamb Merguez Patties with Couscous Salad

merguez tastefood

~ 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.

Couscous Salad
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.

13 thoughts on “Lamb Merguez Patties with Couscous Salad

  1. Your post brought me so many memories of Paris! One of my husband’s favorite dining dates would be go to a couscous place and make sure to order the merguez links – what a great surprise for him when I make this recipe…. soon, I hope!

  2. Lynda, your beautifully written lyrical posts captivate me – I had a trip to Morocco in 1989 with my best friend, now gone, an impulse trip we took after days of rain in Lisbon. Thank you for this lovely reminder.

  3. Lamb burgers are a weekend grilling favorite for my family. They would adore this inspired recipe!

  4. Such a beautiful dish! I love this flavor profile. My little guys love lamb and ask for it frequently. I’ll keep this in mind for the next time they ask! Perhaps I could tone down the spice for them (and turn it up for me)? Thanks for yet another great idea.

  5. Lamb is something I only started eating after our trip to Morocco a few years ago; I have always found the meat to have a particular odour, which I found rather unpleasant. Lamb from New Zealand does not have that smell and I suspect it’s what they feed them in comparison to Canadian lamb. The combination of spices sound fantastic. Several years ago I purchased a coffee grinder that is only used to grind spices.

  6. I made a version of this last night for my wife and me on our stay-at-home date-night. She had bought ground beef intending to cook hamburgers, so I decided to season them this way rather than our “usual” way. What a delight! I also made the tabbouleh salad, but we decided to use quinoa rather than couscous because we had it on hand — which worked nicely I thought, especially with the addition of a little feta cheese as noted in the directions. I served this all with Chef Lynda’s lentil falafel (and yogurt sauce) and some home-made pita.
    To the reader that was hesitant to try this — I only used a small amount of harissa (maybe 1/2 tsp for 1/2 lb of meat) and would comment that my wife is rather sensitive to too much heat, but she really loved the recipe. If you like italian sausage, the marquez will not be too much of a stretch for you, especially if you try it with beef or a mixture of lamb and beef (or even “meatloaf” mix).
    Thank you Chef Lynda for another wonderful recipe and for helping me to expand my culinary tastes! This is definitely one I’ll be making again soon!

  7. New Zealand lamb dines on wild mountain grasses and herbs, mostly free of sprays and artificial fertilisers. Try the merino lamb from Central Otago – a taste sensation. I don’t know of any NZ lamb that feeds on anything else but pasture.

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