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Food for What Ails Ya: Lentil Rissoles


Just like Anna Karenina’s unhappy families, everyone deals with illness in her or his own way.

The HH, for instance, when struck with a cold or flu, takes to his (ie, our) bed for two days or so.  He doesn’t talk; he doesn’t watch TV; he doesn’t eat; he barely uses the bathroom. Then, after the magical 48-hour interval, he emerges from the room like someone who’s just attended a premiere screening of Star Wars: still a little dazed, eyes not quite yet adjusted to the light, but somehow energized and ready to get back into the regular world.

I, on the other hand, rarely if ever spend time in bed during the day (no, no, I didn’t mean it that way, silly!  I’m talking about when I’m sick).  Instead, I stumble about and manage to function at sub-optimal levels for as many days as it takes to recover. . . usually the better part of two weeks. Then, one day, I realize that the symptoms are gone–no more pile of soggy tissues beside the bed, no more abandoned cups of tea all over the house, no more tickle at the back of the throat, no more raw, throbbing red proboscis.

Similarly, I think that people who recuperate from illness crave unique foods as well.

When I was 16, I caught chicken pox from the CFO. (Believe me, chicken pox is intended as a childhood disease for a reason; what is usually mild and short-term discomfort for a ten year-old can progress to a full blown health crisis for a teen or adult).  Besides the initial alarm and teenaged angst I felt during the first two days (when I assumed those little pustules were zits rather than pox), I also became incredibly enervated and developed a high (104F or 40C) fever before an insanity-inducing itch enveloped my entire body for about ten days.  I recall spending hours hunched in the bathtub, attempting to submerge myself (face included) under the lukewarm water into which was dumped an entire box of baking soda.  If it hadn’t been a drowning risk, I probably would have slept in that tub.

When I finally began to regain some strength, my mom asked what I wanted to eat.

“I think I’d like some. .  . cottage cheese and canned pears.”

Cottage cheese?  And canned pears?? Neither of these was a favored food; I almost never ate canned anything. Still, my body must have known what it needed. Perhaps there was sodium in the pears to replenish what I’d lost in bodily fluids by sweating so much.  Or maybe my adolescent self still required some protein and calcium. Whatever the reason, it did the trick, and I began to get better.


This past week, as I finally emerged from the quagmire of a heinous virus (not swine flu, according to my doctor), I began to yearn for real food, something other than tea, or broth, or a healing smoothie

“Ess goo suh-er” I said to the HH.  (I lost my voice after the first few days, and it still hasn’t quite come back, unfortunately.)

“Huh?” the HH replied. 

“Let’s cook supper,” I whispered. “How about lentil rissoles?”

“Huh?” the HH replied. (Oh, he had heard me this time; but he had no idea what a “rissole” was).

Like so many food bloggers, my favorite reading material when I have a few minutes of downtime is a good cookbook.  In general, I flip through any new recipe book as soon as I get it home, marking favored recipes with tabs made from torn Post-It notes.  Some books end up with just a few tabs, lonely markers like flags left behind on the surface of the moon, while others are graced with tabs on almost every page, leaving a fringe of sticky notes across the book’s edge.

This recipe for lentil rissoles is one I picked out over a year ago, when I first flipped through Homestyle Vegetarian, a great find at a bookstore remainder bin. Basically, a rissole is a patty or burger that’s been coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried.  I decided to nix the coating/frying and cook these up as a simple yet flavorful burger.  Besides being delicious, these lovelies boast a full 24 grams of protein per serving (2 rissoles).

In about 30 minutes (by then I was too hungry to refrigerate them as directed before cooking–but I think it would have helped), we had a satisfying meal of rissoles and a simple green salad on the table. The end result was slightly disappointing in texture (probably my fault for not refrigerating them first), with a soft and moist interior much like refried beans.  As a result, the patties tended to break up as I transferred them from pan to plate.  (I’m guessing that a Tbsp/15 ml finely ground flax added to the raw mixture would help considerably, or substituting a glutenous rather than gluten-free bread for the crumbs).  But the taste was outstanding.

Not at all spicy, with just a whisper of cumin, the burgers were toothsome and even meaty. While my habitual method with burgers is to blend everything to a homogenous smoothness, in this case I followed the original recipe and made patties with distinct chunks of carrot and whole peas, which provided bursts of slightly sweet, intense flavor in each bite.  Beauty!

The HH proclaimed these a huge success and happily ate two.  We had ours plain, but because of their mild flavor, I bet these would be stellar with a chutney or even a few slices of avocado and a dollop of salsa.  Still, that’s just how I’d eat them.  I imagine everyone else will deal with the burger in her or his own way, of course. 

Lentil Rissoles

adapted from Homestyle Vegetarian


These patties are perfect for an everyday dinner, and would be wonderful jazzed up with an array of toppings and served in a toasted bun.

1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp (10 ml) ground cumin

1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander

2 cups (480 ml) vegetable broth or stock

1 medium carrot, finely diced

1 cup (250 g) red lentils, picked over and washed

1-1/2 cups (120 g) fresh whole grain breadcrumbs (I used millet-quinoa bread, but I think a spelt or whole wheat would actually work better here)

2/3 cup (60 g) walnuts, finely chopped (I ground mine in the food processor)

1/2 cup (90 g) frozen peas

3 Tbsp (45 ml) chopped flat leaf parsley or cilantro

Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven.  Cook the onion, garlic, cumin and coriander over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until the onion has softened.  Stir in the carrot, lentils and broth. Slowly bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked and pulpy, stirring frequently to stop them from sticking and scorching. Remove the lid during the last 10 minutes to evaporate any remaining liquid.  The mixture should be fairly mushy and there should be no liquid visible on the bottom of the pot after you run a spatula across it.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the breadcrumbs,  walnuts, peas, and parsley. Form into eight 3-1/2 inch (8 cm) round rissoles. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until they are firm (this is the step I skipped–I would advise doing it).

Spray a nonstick frypan with olive oil spray and heat over medium heat. Cook the rissoles about 4 minutes on each side, until the outsides are browned and crispy and they are heated through.  Makes 8 rissoles.  May be frozen.

Last Year at this Time: Barley and Hazelnut Salad

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs


35 comments to Food for What Ails Ya: Lentil Rissoles

  • I remember having chicken pox as a child. We had this Pinosol or something that went in the water, it was awful and smelly but my goodness did it stop the itching!


  • Your description of having chicken pox as a teen made me extremely grateful that I had it as a child!
    Those patties look very good, wether you’re in recovery mode or not!


  • Ricki, I had chicken pox when I was 20. Ghastly it was.


  • K

    Your introductions never fail to amuse me!
    I am so close to having all the ingredients to make these too, alas, my bread basket (aka my freezer) is void of all bread products at the moment…


  • These sound fabulous!!!

    I hope you feel better soon!

    I think the recovery differences between men and women must be universal. My husband reacts exactly like yours, while I react exactly like you and continue to solier on feeling like I died somewhere along the way but my body hasn’t quite realized it yet.


  • Oh Ricki, you poor thing! I’m so glad you’re feeling better! I am super impressed that you were able to make these gorgeous patties while you were still recovering! As always, you are amazing!

    P.S. I love the Anna Karenina reference… 🙂


  • Glad you are on the mend! These rissoles look yum! Think tonight’s dinner is decided!


  • Wow these remind me of one of my childhood comfort foods! I don’t remember much of me having chicken pox, just the itching. I hpe you feel well soon.


  • hope you are well and truly on the mend – these sound like just what the doctor ordered – we had lots of rissoles when I was little – and when we asked my mum where someone was she would say round like a rissole! never thought of them as sick bed food but they probably weren’t as healthy or yummy as these


  • Feel better!

    I had chicken pox as a child. My husband thought he did as well.. then about 2 weeks before we got married he got shingles (he was only 24 at the time), he is an old man at heart! Haha! I guess he never got the pox!

    These look really yummy, I love lentils!


  • Mom

    Lentils and carrots are one of my favorite combinations but I never came across a rissole before – maybe we called it something else. These look like a perfect fall supper dish and a brand new way to enjoy lentils!


  • Jes

    Breaded and deep fried anything sounds to me like a recipe for health! Those look delish. Much better than cottage cheese and canned pears 🙂


  • Feel better soon! I had chicken pox twice, because I didn’t get it bad enough the first time. I think I got it for real in like Grade 2, and all I remember was that I got to stay home and make Easy Bake oven goodies. And it was itchy, but that part I don’t remember so well.


  • I love patty-like things for dinner. It was like a big a-ha moment when I realized I could make ‘burgers’ out of other stuff. never gets old. haha! And I remember when I was a kid my mom would make me ANYTHING I wanted when I was sick. Same idea, that your body will crave what it needs I guess. But I usually went for pastina – I doubt my body needed white flour pasta and butter but who knows?


  • Courtney

    Glad to hear you are feeling better 🙂 I *love* red lentils, and those flavors all sound soooooooooooo delicious! Much more appealing than cottage cheese and canned pears, if you ask me 🙂 I always wanted soup…I don’t know why, but my mom would always make soup and that is what I would eat when I started feeling better. And now? I make myself soup as soon as I can function enough in the kitchen to make something! Old habits die hard, I guess…



  • Once you feel well enough to cook, you know you’re on the road to recovery! I’m glad to hear you’re getting better. 🙂


  • I am glad you are feeling better now Ricki! I love the comparison you made about your husband and the Star Wars movie, lol.

    The rissoles sound tasty! I especially like the addition of walnuts to the mixture. I’ll have to give these a go!


  • Never heard of these before but they look tasty. Just made lentil soup last night.
    Glad to hear you are feeling better, I think it’s the change of weather we are feeling a bit off here at our house.


  • love the anna karenina reference, and i’m also a member of the post-it flagging upon cookbook purchase club!


  • Liz

    I’m glad you’re feeling better Ricki! I love that you wanted cottage cheese and canned pears post-chicken pox. I am a firm believer that cravings are your body’s way of telling you what nutrients you need. Though, I must need a lot of antioxidants from chocolate…. 😉


  • hmm, i have been sick for what seems like forever now. this cold has been nasty! hope you are feeling 100% soon!

    these do sound yummy 🙂


  • SO true different feelings and definitely sickness makes me crave different things. Lately I’ve been really stressed and the result is I feel sick thinking about veggies..I think because they are so filling. But my smoothies have been working great


  • oh man, i’m sorry you weren’t feeling so well, Ricki. i hope you’re 100% now, my friend. i remember when i got the chicken pox, i think i was about 10 and my mom got so excited that i finally caught them that she made my brother & sister hang out with me a bunch so that they would also catch them. i want to say that once our neighbor found out we all had the chicken pox she sent all four of her kids over to play with us so that we could all be a bunch of sick ‘n itchy kids all around the same time. ah ah ha! is that bad parenting?!

    being sick makes me crave the weirdest stuff, too. last time i wasn’t feeling too great it was tortilla shells with peanut butter spread on them, and i also started eating a lot of roasted broccoli with ketchup. so weird! but listening to your body and honoring what it’s wanting is a great thing – and i’ve gotta try your lentil rissoles! dan and i always have lentils on hand and your rissoles sound like such a yummy success and they look like the need to be in my belly!


  • Those look awesome! You’re lucky HH helps you when you’re sick. The only food I get is cereal and I’m of the lay-in-bed-and-look-miserable-variety when I get sick.


  • What perfect “sick day” food! Both healthy and comforting. 🙂


  • Happy to hear you’re feeling better! I’ve never heard of rissoles either but they look delicious. I should eat more lentils!


  • I think you come up with the most wonderfully creative and delicious whole food patties! New book idea perhaps?


  • Sorry to hear you’ve been sick. I guess it’s that time of year. The risoles look delicious. Yay for not breading and frying them!


  • Having recently recovered myself, I am sympathetic! Lovely lentil cakes.


  • Ooh, Lentil Rissoles sound delightful!


  • […] amaranth flour, carrots, celery, gluten-free, healthy, lentil patties, lentils, vegan    The Lentil Rissoles that Ricki featured on Diet, Dessert, & Dogs reminded me of how much I love the combination of […]

  • These were yummy!

    We altered the recipe slightly based on what we had on hand. We used pumpkin seeds (chopped them/ground them in the vitamix), no carrots, no celery, and no parsley/cilantro. We used only a little cornmeal, otherwise there was no breadcrumbs, it was mainly green lentils. We added a touch of Bragg’s soy sauce, paprika, sage, celery seed, and diced green bell pepper.

    It almost didn’t hold together with all of the onion and peas. But we did bake them instead of frying them on the stove-top, so maybe that affected the cohesion and texture? These were slightly thicker than our usual veggie burgers, so they stayed slightly soft in the center and crisped a little on the surface.

    Very tasty patties. Thank you for this recipe! My only question was how the texture and binding was for you… 🙂


  • Made these exactly as the recipe states, including refrigeration, and they worked out perfectly. Served with corn on the cob, fresh green beans and a little homemade tomato sauce. Delish. Thank you 🙂


  • […] The Lentil Rissoles that Ricki featured on Diet, Dessert, & Dogs reminded me of how much I love the combination […]

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