Friday, August 14, 2009

Merguez sausages - a treat to die for

Norwegians love sausages, but in my mind our own varieties may be uninteresting, as the seasoning is unadventurous, and there is simply nothing to chew on. If you order a "banger" in the UK, or a würst in Germany, you end up with something looking and tasting more like the real thing.

Norwegian sausages are often based on very finely ground sausage meat. Luckily our producers increasingly seem to get the message, as there are no limits to new and interestingly flavored sausages made from different ingredients on the market. Not only beef and pork, but turkey, chicken, and even salmon (ouch!) have been introduced as ingredients. They do, however, not offer the carnivorous adventurer a decent rustic sausage with a real bite to it. I however have found that one favorite introduced by our immigrant population - the merguez, offers me full satisfaction.

The merguez are made from lamb and originates from Northern Africa where it is widely available in countries like Tunis, Libya, Algeria and Morocco. It has become more and more available throughout Europe, first in countries with a large North African population as France, and little by little in other European countries through immigration.

Merguez is in Northern Africa often served with couscous.

I enjoyed a traditional merguez served this way at Un Escale à Marrakech in Marseille. See full story here

Merguez looks and tastes like a real sausage. Ground coarsely, and meat and fat are evenly distributed. It is a sausage for grown ups as it is generously seasoned with North African spices like sumac or harissa. They may contain cayenne pepper as well, leaving you refreshed and rather excited as all these endorphins are released to cope with the heat.

I used to buy merguez at my local Iranian butcher, but as it closed for business a year ago, I stopped buying them. My friend Dagfinn told me that the merguez now are sold at Vatan import, one of the largest Turkish green grocers in Oslo. He brought a packet to my summer home, and as I bit into one, I suddenly remembered how good they were.

These sausages are not precooked, thus being not very good to put on the barbie. He fried them in a little oil in my iron pan, and served them piping hot with a little salad, tzatziki, and bread. I have even substituted them to bacon in an interesting merguez and egg breakfast - a great idea.

What I know now, is that I will most certainly buy my merguez again as a spicy culinary addition to my cuisine. Do try to find one close where you live, and substitute them to your bangers. To those in the UK - does merguez and mash sound like a good idea? I think so!

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