Rissoles with Dhal and Rice

Generically rissole refers to a meat or fish-filled croquette wrapped in pastry and fried, similar to an empanada. This version that I learned from a long-ago Sri Lankan room mate (with whom I share a birthday—even the year) uses mashed potatoes in place of the pastry and a spicy meat filling like that used in samosas, an Indian savory.  They are a bit of a bother to make but are well worth the effort. I serve them simply over basmati rice accompanied by dhal, Indian lentils, and topped with a bit of coriander chutney.


For the rissoles

1½ pound potatoes or leftover mashed potatoes

1 onion, minced

1 small chili, minced

½ pound ground beef or lamb

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. grated fresh ginger or ginger paste from a jar

2 tsp. curry powder

1 Tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice

½ cup water

½ cup peas, fresh or frozen

1 tsp. garam masala

1 egg, beaten with a bit of cold water

½ cup corn flakes processed in a food processor to resemble breadcrumbs, or breadcrumbs

Neutral cooking oil, I use Canola oil

For the dhal

4 ounces red lentils (masoor dhal), rinsed and drained

1 Tbsp. oil or ghee

½ onion, finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed then minced

½ tsp. grated fresh ginger or ginger paste from a jar

2 green cardamoms, bruised

1-inch piece cinnamon

½ tsp. turmeric

Garam masala

1½ cup water

1 tsp. salt

For the rice

1 cup basmati rice

1 tbsp. ghee, oil, or butter

2 cups water

Salt to taste


To get everything done at the same time follow this order: prepare the potatoes and filling for the rissoles, start the dhal, make the rissoles but do not bread them, start the rice and complete the dhal, bread and fry the rissoles. Total preparation and cooking time will be about 1 hour to 90 minutes.

The rissoles

Unless you are using leftover mashed potatoes, peel and chop the potatoes and cook in salted boiling water until done, about 15 minutes. Mash until smooth then mix in 1 Tbsp. minced onion and the minced chili. Set aside to cool.

Heat about 1 tbsp. oil in a skillet and fry garlic, ginger, and half of the remaining onion until onion is soft. Add the curry powder, vinegar or lemon juice, and 1 tsp. salt and mix well. Break up the ground meat into the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned. Reduce heat to low, add the water, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the peas, recover, and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove the cover, raise the heat a bit, and cook until the liquid is nearly gone, being careful the meat does not burn. Stir in the last of the onion and set aside to cool.

Divide the potatoes and meat into 6 equal quantities of each forming the potatoes into balls. Moisten your hands to prevent sticking and flatten a ball of potatoes into a disk. Put a portion of the filling in the center and wrap the potato around it. Do not worry if the filling is not completely covered; just squeeze and shape to look like a small potato. Repeat with the rest of the potatoes and filling.

When ready to finish, heat about ½ of oil in a heavy cast iron skillet (the cast iron retains heat and will reduce the temperature drop when you put the rissoles into the oil thus minimizing the amount of oil they will absorb). Roll each rissole in the beaten egg then in the breading. Working in batches of two or three fry the rissoles in the oil, rolling them around frequently, until nicely browned. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel to drain. Serve hot as a snack or over basmati rice as a main dish.

The dhal

Heat the fat in a saucepan with a lid. Fry the onion, garlic, and ginger until golden brown. Stir in the turmeric then add the lentils and fry for a couple minutes. Add the water and salt, stir, cover, and simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. If there is still too much liquid, cook uncovered for a few minutes.

The rice

Heat the oil or ghee in a saucepan with a lid and fry the rice for about 2 minutes. Add the water and salt, cover, turn the heat very low, and simmer for about 20 minutes.


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