Exotic Summer Hors d’Oeuvre and Aperitif: Merguez and Arak

Here is a simple but exotic little hors d’oeuvre and apéritif duo to spice up your summer dinner party: North African Merguez Sausage Bites and Lebanese Arak.

Merguez sausages are warmly spiced with harissa (a paste made from red chili peppers) and flavoured with fragrant coriander, cumin, fennel, paprika, hints of cinnamon, and garlic. I buy my merguez sausages from Adonis; their version is part lamb, part beef, and really tasty.

A garnish of Torshi Lift looks spectacular on the platter. Torshi Lift is a crunchy pickled turnip served before a meal or with grilled meats. Torshi means sour and lift is the Arabic word for turnip. The bright pink colour comes from adding beets to the pickling process. Second only to the recipe my father-in-law used to make, Adonis sells the best Torshi Lift that I have tasted in our region (ask for them at the olive counter).


Merguez Sausage Bites:

  1. Grill whole merguez sausages slowly over indirect heat first and then for a few moments over direct heat, until fully cooked.
  2. Let rest, and then slice thickly on the diagonal. Skewer two or three together pieces together on cocktail picks. Garnish the platter with picked turnip.

The perfect apéritif to serve with the merguez is Arak: a Middle Eastern, anise-flavoured, distilled alcohol similar to French Pastis but unsweetened. The anise in the Arak will pair well with the fennel notes in the sausage. But watch out, Arak is 50% alcohol. Click here for a link to the Arak my husband recommends, available at LCBO Vintages.

How to Serve Arak:

  1. Take a small, narrow glass (like a Moroccan tea glass), pour in one ounce of Arak and then two ounces of cold water. The combination will turn milky-white. Then add one ice cube (optional). Arak is extremely potent so just have one ounce or they may catch you belly dancing on the table. It is meant to awaken your appetite before the meal; too much Arak will dull it.

I found these vintage Moroccan tea glasses at Curries Music & Antiques in Gravenhurst, Ontario.


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