Sunday, May 21, 2006
Madeleine # 4: Mechoui al Harissa
This Madeleine has so many memories encoded in its DNA, that I really don't know where to start. It has been a staple of our family celebrations for almost as long as I can remember. So not knowing where to start, I did what every self-respecting independent woman of 30-something does. I called my mum.
It turns out that the 1st time she prepared this, was at the suggestion of my dad's boss in Burundi (who was from Madagascar). My dad's boss had a knack for inviting people to big bashes, and at the last moment something would "go wrong", so everyone would end up going to my parents' house and my mum would prepare a fantastic feast. Again.
For this 1st bash of the sort, my parents made one major mistake: they ordered the meat a bit too fresh. "Fresh", as in alive. With soft fur and a liking for eating out of your hand. Needless to say, the lamb - because that's what it was - did not end up on the roasting spit. It was our pet for the next 2 years, and even moved house with us.
So my mum ordered one of the lamb's less fortunate and especially less alive colleagues, and thus started our Mechoui tradition. For those of you who have been to French village fetes, or have travelled in North Africa, you will know this dish, and that's also why we call it a mechoui and use harissa. What the Malagasy term for it is, I have no clue, but I'm sure it tastes the same whatever you call it. A rose by any other name and all that.
Of course, I tend to avoid preparing a whole roast lamb in our 2 bedroom flat in central London (landlords are not as accomodating as they used to be...). But a smaller piece of the beast does the trick nicely as well.