During my flirtation with vegetarianism in the early 1990s I learned to make these by experimenting with a recipe from a cookbook in Granny’s impressive collection (I think it was in the Sainsbury’s vegetarian food paperback). The Hungarian paprika flavouring has crept in because we’re often faced with a glut of piros arany, which Babú brings back in suitcase-loads from Hungary, along with csipős zöld paprika, bonfire cheese, Hungarian mayonnaise, pálinka and beigli. Piros arany – either csipős (spicy) or csemege (mild) – is a key ingredient in our bográcsgulyás and pörkölt and it really isn’t essential in these rissoles but they are, frankly, otherwise a bit bland. You could probably achieve a similar effect with Korean gochujang paste, which has become easier to source since Nigella plugged it on TV last year.
Makes 6-8 rissoles
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stick celery, diced
90ml light olive or groundnut oil
250g green lentils
600ml vegetable or chicken stock
1.5 tbsp piros arany (csipős or csemege) or gochujang paste or similar
2 bay leaves
2 bunches of thyme
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley
50g seasoned flour
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a heavy saucepan and cook the onion, carrot and celery on a low-medium heat for about 8 minutes until soft. Add the lentils, stir to coat in the vegetable mix, and then add the stock, piros arany, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil, then cover, turn the heat down and simmer for 40 minutes until the lentils are soft and starting to collapse. Check and stir from time to time: add a little more stock or water if it’s starting to dry out, but be careful not to make it too sloppy because you’ll struggle to shape any rissoles from it! Once the lentils are cooked, remove the bay leaves and thyme and stir in salt, pepper, parsley and 50g breadcrumbs to firm up the consistency. Leave to cool with the lid off until you can handle it with your bare hands: at least 1 hour.
Set up your assembly line: put the flour in one bowl, whisk the eggs in a second, then put the remaining breadcrumbs in a third. Shape the lentil mixture into large round patties and coat each in flour, egg and breadcrumbs in turn. If you need to firm the rissoles up and have time, refrigerate for half an hour or more.
Heat the rest of the oil in a large frying pan and cook the rissoles on a medium heat until browned on both sides and hot all the way through. Finish off in the oven (160 fan) if you’ve chilled them before cooking and suspect they might still be cooler in the middle. Serve with tsatsiki or any sauce of your choice.