Broad beans, meatballs, flatbread
Merguez sausages are a North African speciality, often made with lamb but also sometimes beef, and richly spiced. Really good, authentic, ready-made ones are a little tricky to find, so Hugh tends to make up my own meaty merguez mixture and shape it into burgers or meatballs. Fried until hot and crisp, the meatballs are fantastic with sweet, young broad beans.
- 750g–1kg young broad beans in the pod
- 1 tablespoon rapeseed, olive or sunflower oil
- A couple of squeezes of lemon juice
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the merguez meatballs
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
- 10–12 black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 500g reasonably coarse lamb mince (not too lean)
- 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
- About 250g merguez sausages, cut into chunks
- 2 flatbreads, pitta breads or slices of sourdough
To make your own merguez meatballs, heat a dry frying pan over a medium heat, add the cumin, fennel and coriander seeds, and the caraway, if using, with the peppercorns, and toast until fragrant, about a minute. Tip into a mortar and leave to cool, then pound with the pestle to a fine powder. Mix with the paprika, cayenne and salt until well blended.
Put the lamb into a bowl, add the spice mix with the garlic, and mix everything together with your hands until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2–3 hours – or up to 24 hours – to allow the flavours to develop.
Form about half the mixture into small meatballs, about the size of a walnut. Keep the rest in the fridge for a day or two or freeze it for another meal (it’s fiddly to make a smaller quantity).
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Pod the broad beans, add to the pan, return to a simmer and cook for 3–4 minutes until tender. Drain and pop larger beans out of their thicker skins; very small beans don’t need to be skinned.
Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the oil. When hot, add the meatballs (or sausage chunks) and cook, turning often, until well browned all over and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Tip in the beans and toss them in the spicy fat. Cook for a minute longer, then give the whole thing a spritz of lemon juice and add a little salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
Warm your flatbreads or toast your bread. Pile the meaty bean mixture on top, along with any pan juices, give it a final squeeze of lemon juice, and serve.