Rice is Nice
By Cheryl Forberg, RD
Last month, I received a sample of Merguez sausage. I grilled a few for my husband and he was hooked. He even suggested we use it in our Thanksgiving stuffing this year instead of Italian sausage. In case you haven’t tried it, Merguez is a highly spiced lamb (and sometimes beef) sausage that has been enjoyed for centuries in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Since its seasoning is so different than the Italian sausage I normally use for my holiday stuffing, I decided to alter my stuffing recipe ingredients to adapt. Instead of pork, I’d be using lamb. Instead of bread, I would use rice. I normally have some form of dried fruit in my stuffing but this time I decided to use dates. And while I had planned to add pinenuts, it turned out that mine were not as fresh as I hoped so I used toasted, slivered almonds instead.
I found a recipe to make my own Merguez, but then decided to use plain ground lamb in my recipe but kick up the spices - a lot. There are nine spices in all, and measuring them is probably the most labor-intensive part of this recipe. I decided to do a sample run before the holidays to be sure this dish was suitable for a holiday table – it is! However, on the practice run, we didn’t use this as a stuffing. We ate it plain. And we ate a lot of it. In fact, the two of us ate the whole recipe – it’s that good. I must say it was better reheated, when all the spices had a chance to marry with the other ingredients. If you really don’t like lamb, beef would be ok.
And even though the intent of this recipe is to use it as a stuffing, it’s fabulous on its own. But it’s also great as a stuffing for turkey, chicken or any gamebird.
Hashweh (Lebanese Lamb and Rice Stuffing)
This flavorful dish is relatively easy to make. The complex flavors are in part, a result of 9 different spices. Measure them while the meat is browning and you can put this together in a snap. Can be served as a main course, a side dish or used as a stuffing for chicken. It’s delicious the first day, but even better when reheated.
Yield: Approx. 8 cups
1½ cups dry (uncooked) brown basmati rice (I used smoked basmati rice)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb. lean ground lamb (ground beef is ok)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons smoked salt
1¼ t ground allspice
1 t hot paprika
1 t red chili flakes
¾ t ground cinnamon
½ t ground cloves
½ t ground coriander
½ t ground cumin
½ t fennel seed
¼ t ground nutmeg
2½ – 3¼ cups warm broth, divided (I used chicken)
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ - ¾ cup pinenuts or slivered almonds, toasted
½ - ¾ cup chopped dates (or other dried fruit)
Optional garnish – ½ - 1 cup fresh pomegranate arils
Nutrition Analysis for one 1-cup serving
In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes.
Add lamb and continue to cook over medium high heat til meat is barely pink.
Add the garlic and seasonings. Stir well and continuing cooking for 2 to 3 minutes or until spices are fragrant. If there is any excess fat in pan, drain well.
Add rice to pan and stir well; allow to toast for one minute, while stirring.
Add 2½ cups of broth to pan and turn heat to high until broth comes to a boil.
Reduce heat and cover. After 20 minutes, add more broth if necessary and cook until rice is just tender. Remove from heat and keep covered for about 10 minutes.
Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary. Stir in cilantro, nuts and fruit and transfer to serving bowl or platter. Garnish with additional cilantro and pomegranate arils if desired.
Total fat 11g
Sat fat 4 g
Trans fat 0 g
Cholesterol 22 mg
Sodium 450 mg
Carb 30 g
Fiber 5 g
Sugars 7 g
Protein 15 g
Vit A 2% RDA
Vit C 4% RDA
Calcium 4% RDA
Iron 10% RDA