Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Grilled Merguez with Fresh Prune Chutney


Merguez or mirqaz is a spiced Tunisian or Algerian sausage usually made with lamb and occasionally with veal or beef. Typically red in color, the aromatic merguez takes its hue from harisa and cayenne pepper, and the sausage is used both fresh and dried – in drying, it is pricked all over and left in the sun for 48 hours before being stored in jugs of olive oil.

Authentic preparations call for roasting, braising, or sautéing, though fresh versions of the sausage are also grilled with delicious results. Merguez makes a savory addition to tagines and is a popular meze. Of course, the sausage is well-loved in other parts of the Mediterranean – especially France, which has had a strong affinity for North African cuisine since Morocco was its protectorate in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.

I like to serve my grilled merguez with a French fresh prune chutney, recreated partly with the help of a classic Mark Bittman recipe. The pairing is hardly traditional, but I find that the chutney complements the sweet heat of the sausage in a way that is utterly addictive and perfect for early autumn. Any firm plum will do here, but I’ve chosen prunes for their velvety color and low moisture content. The chutney keeps for at least a few days in the fridge and is also great over meat, game, and oily fish, or on cheese and charcuterie boards.

Violet Hill Farm makes the most extraordinary fresh merguez sausages - redolent with harisa, cinnamon, and maybe even dried rose petals judging from the floral sweetness of the smoke when they’re grilled. If you can’t find fresh merguez near you, they deliver within the continental U.S. Otherwise, you can certainly substitute any fresh spicy sausage. Oh, and by the by, leftover sausages and chutney make great sandwiches the next day.

Update: You can also telephone or email Violet Hill Farm to order their merguez:
Phone: 845.439.8040
Email: vhfarab@warwick.net


Fresh Prune Chutney

Makes 2 ½ cups

10 fresh prunes or other firm plums, halved lengthwise and pitted
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1 medium red onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced or grated on a microplane
1/4 cup raisins
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 heaping tbsp wholegrain mustard
½ - 1 tsp crushed red chili flakes
3 star anise pods, plus more for garnish if desired

Chop the fruit into small pieces and reserve. In a medium sauce pan, combine the rest of the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Stir in the prunes and cook uncovered for another 8 – 10 minutes or until the mixture is slightly thickened. Check the seasoning with more honey, vinegar, or crushed red pepper

Keeps covered in the fridge for 3 – 4 days.

Grilled Merguez Sausage

Preheat your grill or grill pan over medium high heat. Rinse and pat dry the sausage and prick on both sides with a sharp knife. Grill for 5 minutes a side or longer if the sausage is thick. Cut into pieces and serve alongside the chutney for dipping.

30 comments:

Joanna said...

Mmm, that chutney looks more promising than any other recipe I've seen - I love that it's small quantities, too, because I no longer make the mistake of making a huge vat of any type of preserve ... always easier to make a couple of jars at a time. But I think this is one we'll need to make in several batches a year!

Thanks

Andreea said...

this looks great. i love merguez. never saw them dried though (or in oil). and the combination with prune chutney sounds divine.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Joanna, thank you! The small quantities are key for me because I never "can" the chutney, so it doesn't last very long! And I prefer making a few jars of something at a time anyway - I rarely need more than that, and it gives me a chance to make a real assortment without cramming my cupboards too full!

Andreea, thanks so much. I see the fresh merguez far more regularly too, but in Tunisia and Algeria, I think the dried version is actually the more usual one.

joey said...

That chutney sounds delicious...but no fresh prunes here right now...I can find merguez at a local deli though, yay! I have never tried them but they sound wonderful!

Diane said...

just came upon your blog...what great recipes...can hardly wait for your cookbook

Joanne Rendell said...

yum! but where are those lovely picnickers from the other day? they would surely enjoy this?

Figs Olives Wine said...

Joey, thank you, and I'm so glad you found merguez! Any plums will work here. Only the juicier they are, the longer you may need to cook the chutney.

Diane, thank you very much! And welcome. I'm so pleased you found the site.

Jo, I know of whom you speak. Said picnickers would probably like merguez and chutney. Hmmmmmm...I shall consider the matter at length....

Wendy said...

I've never heard of this sausage before. Sounds wonderful with that chutney. Would be tempted to use it all for a sandwich though!

winedeb said...

Yum, new sausage to me. We enjoy spicy sausages on the grill. Will have to check on this one by internet as I have not seen it in any of our stores here. As a matter of fact, I would not have thought about pairing a chutney with a grilled out sausage. An interesting combination.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Wendy, I can't think of any reason not to make this SPECIFICALLY for sandwiches! In fact I think it's brilliant.

Winedeb, that's the perfect excuse to order Violet Hill's merguez. It really is the best I've ever tasted. Enjoy, and let me know!

Anh said...

This looks very good. I have never tasted fresh prune and really wanna try them one day.

marisa said...

What beautiful colors Amanda. Makes me ready for fall.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

This sounds so so lovely! How can you go wrong with either sausage or harissa?

Figs Olives Wine said...

Anh, thank you! They're very much plums. Just with a slightly lower water content. Beautiful subtle sweetness and flavor. I hope you come across them some day!

Marisa, you read my mind! I know we've probably got another month - what with the requisite indian summer and everything - but I can't wait either!

Jenn, thank you! And I quite agree. Sausage with harissa actually in it already is about as good as it gets!

jan said...

This sounds so good! The fragrance sounds amazing.

David Hall said...

Merguez, mmmm, love them. This sounds utterly fantastic, and although I have just had my tea I'm now hungry again, THANKS! Prune chutney, divine, please send some NOW!

Cheers
David

The Passionate Palate said...

Yum. I have never tried these sausages but you have talked me into it now. Just looking at them makes me hungry. And the chutney looks like a divine pairing.

Cynthia said...

Prune chutney.... hmmm, loving the idea :)

Figs Olives Wine said...

Jan, thank you! The fragrance is actually really cool, and the juices are amazing too.

David, thank you! I wish I wasn't such a wimp about canning, because if I could seal the jar, I'd have some to you post haste! But think how embarrassing it would be to give Book the Cook botulism. Possibly the ultimate faux pas!!!

Passionate Palate, thank you so much! I'm so glad you like the pairing. And if you have trouble finding the sausage, definitely give Violet Hill a try. They're amazing.

Cynthia, tnaks so much. You can really use any fresh plum here. Just remember that the juicier they are, the longer you have to cook them to get the consistency jammy. But it's only a difference of a few minutes. Let me know how it goes.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Cynthia, I meant "thanks." Sorry for the atrocious spelling.

Maryann said...

Amanda, I have never tasted this sausage or prune chutney. I bet they go very well together. Would like to try it sometime. Very interesting recipes.

Garrett said...

I never heard of merguez until I read this, thanks! I'll try to keep an eye out for it. Also loving the chutney, I think if I switch out the fruit with apricots (which I have many of still) it might be great over lamb or ham as well! I must go try!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Maryann, thank you! I hope you get the chance to try either or both.

Garrett, that is brilliant! I love the idea of an apricot version - the thought of that on lamb/ ham is fantastic. Let me know if do it.

Paola said...

Your chutney sounds fantastic! I love your blog and have added it to my list of favorites. I´m also very much into Mediterranean/ seasonal cooking.

paola

Mouse said...

what perfect timing! I couldn't resist the merguez on the chicken lady's stall at yesterday's market AND I have prunes that are looking for a plate to call home so...
'thanks for the recipe'

Figs Olives Wine said...

Paola, thank you and welcome! Hope you enjoy the chutney and do stay in touch!

Mouse, that is exceptional timing indeed! It must be something in the air. Hope you enjoy.

Rose said...

I am not going to show this post to my husband, he would go crazy! We are both from Algeria and we grew up eating merguez all the time, in tajine, with couscous(couscous royal) but mostly grilled. Unfortunatly we can't find it anywhere here in Michigan. We will have to wait. My hubby makes a great homemade harissa that would go perfectly with your merguez. Much better that the one in stores.
Have a pleasant labor day weekend.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Rose, you must order a batch from Violet Hill Farm and let me know what you think! They're the best I've ever had States-side, so I'd love to hear the opinion of some real experts like you and your husband! Please let me know if you do. His harisa must be absolutely divine. I'm so jealous!

Stash said...

Just found this blog because I was googling for a recipe for some lamb merguez I picked up from a greenmarket this past weekend.

I have most of the ingredients for the chutney on hand. Sounds like I'll be making it soon.

And bookmarked your blog.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Stash, that's great! I'm so glad you found the blog, and I hope you're enjoying that merguez! It might just be my all-time favorite sausage from the region. Let me know how it goes.

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