Homemade Merguez and Harissa Couscous Salad

Merguez is a spicy African sausage usually made with lamb. It’s one of my favorites, and I wanted to suggest our school meat market start making it, but then I found a New York Times recipe that could be recreated at home without sausage casings. I didn’t think the recipe called for enough spice, so I added more paprika and cayenne.

Kat found a recipe for an herbed couscous salad with harissa and cherry tomatoes. It was the perfect side with the sausage, plus it used the harvest off my cherry tomato plant, my box of couscous and the can of harissa I bought at the eastern market a while ago. I am moving very soon and so every day is an effort to use up the goods that I have and not buy anything extra. The salad is supposed to have a lot more fresh herbs, but we weren’t about to go to the store, so we used the mint and cinnamon basil we could get off Kat’s plants.

I served the whole thing with a little plain yogurt since the sausage and couscous both had a lot of heat.

Homemade Merguez

Recipe adapted from the New York Times

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (recipe originally only called for a teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (recipe originally called for 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (my addition)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (my addition)
  • 1/2 teaspoon blacki pepper (my addition)
  • olive oil for cooking
  • Harissa, for serving (optional)

In a small skillet over medium-low heat, toast cumin, coriander and fennel seeds until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer warm spices to a spice grinder and grind well, or use a mortar and pestle and pound seeds.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Form lamb mixture into desired shape (cylinders or patties). Chill for up to 5 days, freeze for up to 3 months, or use immediately.

Brush sausages with olive oil and grill or broil them until browned and cooked through. Or fry them in a little oil until well browned all over. Serve with more cilantro and harissa on the side, if desired.

Harissa Couscous Salad

Recipe adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini

  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1 small handful fresh mint leaves
  • handful of cinnamon basil (Recipe called for about a dozen stems chives and small handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, but cinnamon basil is what we had growing)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • juice of 1 small lemon and some of the zest
  • 2 tablespoons harissa, or to taste — the stuff can be really spicy
  • two shakes of ground cinnamon
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Bring 1 cup of salted water to a boil with a little butter or olive oil. Stir in couscous, cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for five minutes, then fluff with a fork. Allow to cool.

Chop herbs and slice tomatoes. Add to couscous along with lemon juice and zest. Add harissa, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss and adjust taste as necessary. Serve chilled with hot merguez sausage.

6 Replies to “Homemade Merguez and Harissa Couscous Salad”

  1. Glad you enjoyed the couscous salad — and your merguez sausages look fantastic! I’m used to merguez sausages in their casing so I never thought to make them myself, but the hand-squeezed look is very appetizing.

  2. Hi guys – I’m a big fan of merguez too (and even make my own sausages on occasion). Nice recipe but I’ve never come across cinnamon basil before. Does it taste what it sounds like?

  3. Cinnamon basil is almost just as it sounds, a basil plant with a slight cinnamon taste. It’s subtle and any sort of basil will fill in. In fact, the original recipe for the salad called for different herbs anyway. But if you ever see cinnamon basil somewhere, definitely try it!

  4. If you’re looking for someplace to buy merguez, there’s a woman who sells them at the Saturday farmer’s market.

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