Tuesday 11 February 2014

Merguez Meatball & Egg Tagine

Coming at you once again with a savoury Moroccan tagine perfect for warming you up and comforting your soul. This is my first time both making and eating this dish but I've been meaning to try it for so long. This is a common and popular dish in Morocco. It is Merguez sausage meat (generously spiced lamb or beef with garlic and parsley) formed into balls or "keftas" simmered in a spicy tomato sauce. For the last 7-10 minutes of cooking, eggs are cracked onto the surface of the tagine while the lid of the tagine is replaced. This causes the eggs to steam until they are just set. In most circumstances I prefer my yolks runny but you can cook your eggs to suit your preference.

I went to my butcher shop and got some great Merguez sausages. I didn't know that I was going to make this dish when I bought them. Otherwise I would have made my Merguez from scratch. If you can find Merguez sausages, all you need to do is remove the meat from the casing and you're ready to go (though I recommend adding some chopped fresh parsley if there isn't some already). If you're making it from scratch, just get about 2 lbs of ground lamb or beef (or a combination of the two) add a generous amount of salt, pepper, 1 tbsp hot paprika, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp harissa paste (or dried chilies), 2 garlic cloves finely minced and a couple tbsp of finely chopped fresh parsley. Combine that together and that is a basic Merguez. You can play around with that recipe as you wish. If you're using lamb, I have to insist that you include cinnamon (lamb and cinnamon are beautiful together). Cinnamon is not mandatory if you're just using beef but cumin is essential no matter which you use. Lamb and beef do not bind to themselves quite as well as pork. If needed, use a beaten egg to help bind the mixture together.

I am also using my own clay tagine for this recipe. A tagine (which is is the cooking instrument whereby the dish cooked with it goes by the same name) is a clay pot with a round base and a cone shaped lid. Tagines are traditionally cooked over hot charcoals but you can use them on your stove top. If you use your stove, you will need a diffuser or "buffer" which just means a thin metal pan or tray between the burner and the tagine to not only distribute heat evenly but prevent the tagine from cracking. I just use a cheap pizza pan that I use only for this purpose. Some tagines are very elaborately painted. Those tagines are meant for serving only and are not suitable for cooking. I have a basic clay tagine with some painted designs on the outside but is still suitable for cooking. My tagine looks like this:


If you don't have a tagine, you can still make this dish. Just use a deep skillet or a pot with a tight fitting lid. Just one more note about cooking with a clay tagine on your stove, never go above medium heat. Tagines are designed for slow, gentle cooking. Your patience will be greatly rewarded, I promise.


8 Merguez sausages (which was about 2.5 lbs of meat... Please refer to instructions above if making from scratch)
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can of diced tomatoes (796 ml/28 oz) or the same amount of fresh tomatoes, seeded & diced if in season
6 eggs
1 tsp fresh ground cumin
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1-2 tbsp harissa (North African chili paste)
2 tbsp oil for frying
2 tbsp of fresh parsley, finely chopped (if none already in the Merguez)
Fresh cilantro, finely chopped

If you are using premade Merguez sausages, you will want to remove the intestinal casing. Use a sharp knife to cut along one side of the sausage and peel away the casing. The casing can be discarded. 

If the Merguez you are using does not have parsley in it already, finely chop a couple tbsp of fresh parsley and distribute throughout the sausage meat.


Using your hands, take about a tbsp of sausage mixture at a time and roll into balls. Wetting your fingers lightly with oil will help with this process. You should end up with about a dozen meatballs.

Warm your tagine and diffuser at medium heat and add 2 tbsp of oil. If using a clay tagine, it will take a little longer to heat up than if you are using a pot for instance. Just keep that in mind. Brown the meatballs on all sides in the oil. The goal is not to cook them entirely, just sear the outside. 

Once browned, remove the meatballs and to the same oil, add the onion and garlic. Sautée for a good 6-7 minutes or until the onion softens and just starts to caramelize. A little salt will help break down the onions. Feel free to season with a little pepper while you're at it.


Then add the harissa, cumin, paprika and cinnamon to the tagine. Stir and cook for about about a minute.

Then add the tomatoes and stir well. 

Allow the tomatoes to simmer and reduce for 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Then add the Merguez meatballs and any flavourful liquid that has accumulated to the sauce. Allow to simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. 


Then crack six eggs over the tagine. Add them separately so that they set as individual eggs. Try to aim for areas between meatballs rather than over the meatballs directly. It's not the end of the world if you do, just makes for nicer presentation.

Place a lid over the tagine and allow it to cook for 7-10 minutes, depending on how you prefer your yolks. The steam will poach the eggs into the tagine. Once you are satisfied with your eggs, garnish with fresh cilantro then your tagine is complete and you are ready to dive in. Don't forget to taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. You can eat this with couscous but it is best (and trust me on this one) enjoyed with some crusty bread to mop up that deliciously exotic sauce.

This was such a satisfying meal. It is very easy and affordable to put together and makes for a fantastic, interactive dining experience among family or friends. Guys, I am sorry but I never made it around to making a specific Valentine's Day recipe this year (although last year I made a romantic seafood dinner and 2 desserts for your reference). This may not be the prettiest dish in the world but it is romantic in its own little way and would make for a nice dinner for you and your lover (I know I would appreciate this anyway).

I hope you enjoyed this post. Stay tuned for more.

Much love & respect,


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