The hot summer here means I can’t really do any dry-curing or fermented sausages, but I have been busy making fresh sausages for my kitchen whenever I have time. I finally got round to making the rather cryptic merguez or mirqaz, a heavily spiced lamb sausage, from the Ruhlman & Polcyn book.
This is the first recipe I have tried from this book that didn’t turn out so well: the end product was too watery, too greasy and with not nearly enough chilli-heat. Their interpretation of a sausage from Barbary is also incongruous, containing both pork fat and red wine. However, this is all a learning process and every chef must tweak his recipes to suit himself. I found so long as the sausages were grilled rather than fried in a pan they came out very well, and being stuffed in lamb casings, are slender and cook very easily (stuffing into lamb casings is another learning curve). I found grilling a half-dozen or so and shipping them in a grilled pitta bread sliced open, with just some shredded lettuce and cucumber and maybe a little extra chilli sauce, made an excellent snack dish. Curiously enough some of my Japanese drinking buddies tried the sausage, poached first and then browned over a fire, and really liked it (lamb is not a mainstream ingredient generally in Japan).
With lamb casings being rather slim and delicate, I found the casings ran out with still some sausage-meat leftover, so I disposed of this in a pasta. It may sound eccentric, but loose sausage-meat is a excellent dressing for pasta, or mixed into scrambled eggs or omelettes, formed into patties or even cooked and crumbled and put on toast (try it). I fried the meat with red peppers, onions and topped up the chilli-heat with some cayenne pepper, before tossing with fresh spaghetti. It was very good.
Perhaps to ameliorate the merguez attempt my next batch of sausages were good old English breakfast breadcrumb bangers – no chance of mucking these up and they came out nice and thick and I used the biggest die on my grinder so the meat is very coarse-cut and has a good texture.
For my charcuterie I usually buy inexpensive imported Canadian pork in bulk here in Tokyo – I would like to use Danish but have yet to find any – and imagine my surprise when I spotted these on sale on the pork shelf at Hanamasa: pig cheeks! I am not sure if these have been halved or split but they don’t look very big…at least they look very fatty, and should cure and dry up nicely.
I bought one packet and froze it, so once the weather cools down a bit, I shall have a go at making guanciale. The batch of pancetta I made last winter is run out, so I need some stocks for my homemade spaghetti alla carbonara.