Monday, 31 May 2010

Merguez: Better rude than red

The problem with merguez is that they spit.

Which isn't always ideal.

The other problem with merguez is, bcause they spit, they dry up really fast.

And yet another problem with merguez is that it's much easier to find not-so-good merguez than it is to find the good stuff. The only way to find the latter, I've been told, is to locate a friendly halal butcher. Well, he doesn't necessarily have to be friendly. But halal is a must- because his will have the right ingredients, at least.

Notwithstanding this particular point, on Saturday, during our weekly shop, as I was feeling quite uninspired by what was on special offer (fricasee de porc? It's 25 degrees and sunny. I'm not cooking something that needs to braise in my Staub casserole for three hours!), and suggested to Peter that we fire up the barbecue (for the first time this summer), what went into the shopping trolley was.. a pack of merguez.

Nineteen of them, to be precise. Why they were being sold in packs of nineteen, I fail to understand. There's no way you can divide nineteen merguez and make it fair- unless of course you have nineteen guests. Not that one merguez each is fair either.

Sunday morning dawned... grey, cold, and rainy. A generally miserable day. A "curl up on the sofa, read a book, drink tea" day. Not a day fit to be the penultimate day of May. Nor a day to go pick elderflower and make jelly/syrup/champagne, which was what I'd wanted to do.

And when dinnertime came around... we didn't really feel like going out on the balcony and turning on the barbecue.

To go back to my initial point- in our last apartment, I'd ended up banning merguez from the balcony barbecue. Not only would Peter have to clean his glasses with industrial cleaning fluid afterwards (OK, a slight exaggeration, but not much of one!), but I'd then spend several days intermittently boiling water and pouring it on the balcony floor to get rid of the grease. I remember looking out there one evening to see fat swirling through the air- a sight which has not exactly remained one of my favourite memories! No wonder the merguez almost invariably proved to be dried out and pretty much tasteless.

Thus, the idea of having to start scrubbing the new balcony floor was not something that filled me with joy. Especially when I'm not going to be home much for the next three weeks.

I once fried merguez on the hobtop, on a similarly rainy day. Again, not something that I looked forward to doing again... as I had to employ cleaning solutions somewhat similar to a nuclear strike afterwards.

So, what were we going to have for dinner?

Merguez stew.

- 1 pack of merguez, each cut into three
- 6 courgettes, chopped into thick slices
- 1 red pepper, in slices
- 2 onions, in thick slices
- 3 sweet potatoes, in chunks
- 1 bottle of passata
- olive oil

I heated the olive oil in the Staub casserole (!), added the onions and the red pepper, stirred, put the lid on for a couple of minutes, added the courgettes and sweet potatoes, stirred, put the lid back on for a few minutes, then added the merguez. Stirred them in, left the lid on again for a couple of minutes. (At this point, if I'd had any, I'd have added a tin of chickpeas, but, for some mysterious reason, I was out.) I then added the bottle of passata, a bit of water (to rinse out the bottle!), put the lid on until it reached a simmer, opened it, stirred it around, decided from the smell that I didn't really need to add any spices, and left the lid slightly open until the sauce was as thick as I thought it should be. After which the lid went back on tight, and I turned it all down, as Peter was putting Greta to bed.

I think that all in all, it cooked for about 50 minutes.

And very yummy it was- Peter had two bowls, I had the same, we left just about enough to make one bowlful, if eked out with some couscous and some extra fried onions! Next time, though, I'd add chickpeas and some salt.

As for the merguez, they were the best I've ever had. Soft, juicy, spicy... and no insane orange grease to spend days cleaning up!

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