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.

Crisp and Smoky Salmon Fish Cakes

fish cake plate tastefood

~ Crisp and Smoky Salmon Fish Cakes with Lemon Chili Yogurt ~

In my eternal search for the perfect fish cake, I have found that the best recipe is packed with fish with little filler and has a robust balance of flavor that pops in the mouth. Ideally, some of the fish should be smoked, which adds a rich depth of flavor and saltiness to the light cakes. Onion, chiles and fresh herbs add sweetness, heat and brightness.

Fish cakes are a great weeknight meal. They may be formed in advance and refrigerated until frying. While I usually begin my fish cakes with uncooked salmon, you can easily add any leftover cooked salmon in the fridge from the night before. I promise there won’t be any leftovers after making these little cakes.

Smoky Salmon Fish Cakes with Lemon Chili Yogurt Sauce

Makes  about 16 (2-inch) diameter cakes

1 cup Greek-style whole milk  yogurt
2 teaspoons Sriracha
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Fish cakes:
1 1/2 pounds salmon filets, skinned, pin bones removed
1/4 pounds smoked salmon
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs, plus 1 1/2 cups for rolling
1/4 cup grated yellow onion
1 small red jalapeno or serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, minced
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons Greek-style whole milk yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Vegetable oil for pan frying

To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients, except the dill, in a small bowl.  Stir to combine. (Sauce may be made up to 4 hours before serving.  Cover and refrigerate.) Before serving, stir in the dill.

To make the fish cakes, combine the salmon filets and smoked salmon in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop without over processing – the consistency should be finely chopped without becoming mushy.
Transfer the salmon to a large bowl.  Add 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs and the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine without overmixing.
Pour the remaining 1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl.  Using a soup spoon, scoop out a generous amount of the salmon mixture. With a light hand, carefully form into a plump 2-inch patty. Roll cake in Panko to coat and place on platter, gently pressing to slightly flatten. Repeat with the remaining salmon, adding more breadcrumbs to the bowl as needed. (The patties may be formed up to 4 hours before cooking. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish cakes in batches without overcrowding. Fry until golden brown, turning once, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer cakes to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain; keep warm. Repeat with remaining the salmon mixture. Transfer the cakes to a warm serving platter and garnish with dill or parsley leaves.  Serve with the yogurt sauce.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Smoky Salmon and Fennel Chowder
Salmon Wrapped in Kale Leaves with Harissa
Shrimp and Veggie Spring Rolls

Fish Cakes

Fish Cakes

Calling these “fish cakes” really doesn’t do them justice. The “fish” part is right, but “cake” infers flour, fat and eggs with a bread-like crumb. These crispy succulent fish patties have none of that. They are packed with 3 types of fish, fresh herbs and chiles, and just a little filler to hold them together. I’ve combined sweet baby shrimp, salmon and Alaskan smoked halibut in this recipe, but feel free to adjust the quantities of each, so long as you have about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds in total. I do recommend including smoked fish – it’s flavor adds a certain heartiness and saltiness to these, er, cakes, evoking the seaside on a grey and misty autumn day.

Fish Cakes

Finely chop the fish instead of processing in a food processor. This will ensure a chunky – not pasty – consistency. Makes about 16 (2-inch) cakes.

1 3/4 cups Panko breadcrumbs, divided
1 salmon fillet, about 6 ounces, skin and pin-bones removed, finely chopped
3/4 pound cooked baby shrimp, finely chopped
1/2 pound smoked fish (halibut or salmon), finely chopped
1 red jalapeno chile peppers, stemmed and seeded, finely minced
1/4 cup grated yellow onion, with juices
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons whole milk Greek yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley and/or cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Sriracha, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Extra-virgin olive oil

Place 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Set aside. Place remaining 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Gently mix to thoroughly combine, without overmixing. With a light hand, carefully form 2-inch patties. Roll in the reserved breadcrumbs to coat and arrange in one layer on a tray or platter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.
Prepare the sauce: Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Keep refrigerated until use.
Fry the fish cakes: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish cakes in batches without overcrowding. Fry until brown and crispy on both sides, turning once. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Keep warm. Serve  with Yogurt Sriracha Sauce.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Smoky Fennel Salmon Chowder
Cioppino with a Twist
Smoked Mackerel Pate with Horseradish and Dill