Veggie mesrane sausage in sauce

Not everyone misses meat, but for those of us who do, this veggie take on Algeria’s mesrane sausage has the perfect amount of bite to satisfy your cravings. Using homemade wheat gluten, protein-packed lentils and local vegetables, this is Algeria’s first ever homegrown veggie sausage!

INGREDIENTS

For the mesrane

  • 1 kilo of wheat flour
  • 3 cups of cold water approx.
  • 50 g of white rice (uncooked)
  • 50 g of brown lentils (uncooked)
  • 2 small carrots (finely grated)
  • 1 small onion (finely grated)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • Half a bunch of coriander (finely chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

For the sauce

  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 4 medium tomatoes (peeled and finely sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon of harissa paste
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato paste
  • 500 ml of boiling water
  • A handful of chickpeas (tinned or soaked and boiled until tender)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Half a bunch of coriander (finely chopped)

METHOD

For the mesrane

  1. First make the wheat gluten, which will provide the chewy “meaty” texture for your sausage. Place the flour in a pile on your worktop and make a small well in the middle. Begin to add the cups of cold water a little at a time, mixing in the flour and kneading everything together to form a firm dough. Add more or less water as necessary.
  2. Knead the dough for around ten minutes until stretchy and smooth. This is important as it will activate the gluten. Then roll the dough into a ball and place into a large bowl. Fill the bowl with cold water until it covers the ball of dough completely.
  3. Leave the dough to soak. The water will become slightly cloudy as the starch begins to wash away, leaving only the gluten behind.
  4. After 30 minutes, wash the dough under cold running water, squeezing it to keep it together and to remove the starch.
  5. The dough will begin to change colour as the white starch washes away and leaves the darker coloured gluten. Keep washing and squeezing until no white patches are left and the water runs clear. You will be left with a stringy, rubbery dough that looks a little like brain (nice!).
  6. Meanwhile, cook the rice and lentils separately until tender in boiling water with a pinch of salt.
  7. Drain the lentils and pulse them briefly in a blender or mash with a fork so they become a little mushy but still retain some texture. Drain the rice.
  8. Blitz the wheat gluten in a blender to break it up. Then mix it together with all of the remaining mesrane ingredients by hand, making sure to squeeze any excess water out of the carrots and onions before adding them to the mix.
  9. Knead the ingredients together, squeezing the mixture between your fingers to break up any large chunks of gluten. You want to achieve a textured but even paste with the flavours spread throughout. Don’t worry if the texture doesn’t seem very sausagey at this point.
  10. Lay a metre-long stretch of cling film across your worktop. Spoon the mesrane mixture into a thick line along the middle of the cling film strip, with the aim of making a sausage that’s around an inch and a half thick.
  11. Then roll the cling film around the filling, squeezing out any air as you go, and twisting both ends to seal them. The filling should be completely encased in cling film.
  12. You will now have one very long sausage. Coil this round in a spiral to form the classic mesrane shape and place it in the top half of a couscous steamer. Bring water to the boil in the bottom half of the steamer, place the top half with the mesrane over the boiling water and cover with a lid. Steam for 30 minutes.
  13. When you remove the mesrane, its texture should have become firm and the sausage will spring back when pressed.
  14. Allow the sausage to cool until it can be handled and then snip and peel the cling film away and discard it.
  15. Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the mesrane for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy. Use a plate to help you flip the sausage without breaking it, if necessary. Serve in the sauce (see below).

For the sauce

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and sweat the onions until translucent, without browning them.
  2. Add the harissa paste, tomato paste, tomatoes and salt and simmer until the ingredients have begun to melt together, stirring frequently. (around 10 minutes)
  3. Add the boiling water and keep the sauce at a rolling boil until it has reduced in texture and the acidity of the tomato paste has cooked away. Around 20 minutes. Adjust the thickness of the sauce as necessary.
  4. Add the chickpeas and heat them through. Then serve the sauce in a dish around the mesrane.
  5. Garnish with coriander and serve with heaps of crusty bread and a green salad on the side.

If the sight of all that water going down the drain bothers you, collect it in a bucket and allow the starch to settle to the bottom. Then you can safely use it to water your plants.