I still hesitate if I should start my post with the Japanese croquettes (korokke), Sri Lankan “lamb rolls” or South-Indian seasoning… To make the explanations as simple as possible, the lamb rolls I saw in Sri Lanka. The Cookbook looked to me like European croquettes, which in turn made me think of Japanese korokke and when I finally decided to make my own modified and simplified version of these Sri Lankan snacks, I realised my improvised seasoning was inspired by certain “village-style” South-Indian recipes… All this sounds like a crazy triple fusion, but the first bite of these croquettes was so obvious, so good, so comforting…. I couldn’t believe my tastebuds! I don’t know if it was the presence of lamb, the refreshingly hot fresh green chilli, the mixture of spices… or the combination of all, but these were by far the best croquettes of my life! In short, if you like lamb, potatoes and green chilli, these soft spicy balls with crisp crust will become your favourite comfort food.
As I have mentioned above, the Lamb Rolls recipe that inspired me comes from the recently bought Sri Lanka. The Cookbook by Prakash N Sivanathan & Niranja M Ellawa, a beautifully illustrated collection of fantastic recipes from this barely known fascinating culinary heritage (I’ve already tested four or five and all proved exceptionally good). As I have mentioned above, I didn’t stick to the recipe at all, changed and reduced the number of spices, skipped the croquette “skins” and, as always, simplified the procedure as much as I could, so check Sri Lanka. The Cookbook if you want to make genuine Lamb Rolls (these cannot even bear this name in my opinion… and the seasoning brings them probably closer to South Indian dishes than Sri Lankan cuisine).
If you want to make first the famous Japanese korokke, here’s my favourite recipe:
TIPS: This recipe is not the quickest one, but potato boiling, meat frying and bread crumb browning processes can be made well in advance. You can cook the potatoes in advance and then reheat in a microwave just before forming balls. You can prepare the meat mixture, fry it and then refrigerate for several days or even freeze. The breadcrumbs can be toasted even a week before!
These croquettes can be reheated in a microwave and even though they are best freshly made, I think the microwaved version is still delicious.
I have baked these croquettes because I try to slim down dishes as long as they stay delicious, but you can of course deep-fry them.
PANKO is the Japanese version of breadcrumbs, but it looks like crisp flakes, absorbs less oil when deep-fried and stays crunchier than any Western form of breadcrumbs. For me it’s simply the best! Luckily you can buy panko on internet (Amazon sells it) and in many Asian, not only Japanese grocery shops. If you cannot get Japanese panko, use normal dry breadcrumbs, but when toasting them, heat some oil first in the pan.
I have used a mixture of ground lamb and beef, but you can use lamb only (or beef or pork or half beef half pork, if you don’t like lamb; for me the lamb’s presence is crucial though).
As much as I love fresh coriander, I must say apart from looking nice, it didn’t change the taste so much, so skip it if you don’t have it or don’t like it particularly.
These croquettes taste great with one or several of those: mayonnaise (yes!!! but good quality one), chilli oil, chilli oil+mayonnaise (why not?), tzatziki or any yogurt-based sauce, sriracha…
Preparation: about 2 hours
Ingredients (makes about 12-13 croquettes; serves three-four people if served with a salad or a vegetable side-dish):
1/2 kg (about 1,1 lb) ground lamb and beef mixture or lamb only
750 g (about 1.6 lb) potatoes (I prefer here waxy, not floury potatoes)
1 big onion, roughly cut into several pieces
4-5 fresh medium hot green chillies (I loved jalapeños here)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon medium-hot powdered chilli (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
3 big garlic cloves
3 cm grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon mustard seeds (I used black, but white is ok too)
1 big egg or 2 small
about 300 ml container filled with panko or dry breadcrumbs
10 tablespoons wheat flour
(chopped fresh coriander leaves-optional, combined with the toasted breadcrumbs)
First toast the panko/breadcrumbs.
Heat an empty big pan at medium heat and spread a layer of panko (if you use breadcrumbs, heat one tablespoon oil first; panko already contains some fat so it’s not necessary).
Watch it closely without stirring and when it starts changing colour, stir it, so that it becomes a more or less uniform golden (I’ve never managed a uniform colour) and so that it doesn’t burn.
Depending on the size of your pan you might need two batches. (The layer of panko should be very thin, maximum 1/2 cm).
Place the onion, the garlic, the ginger and the ground spices (not the mustard seeds!) in a food processor and mix them (a small baby food processor is perfect here).
Put the meat into a big bowl and mix well with spices (the best is using your hand).
Put into the fridge.
In the meantime cook the potatoes until soft (without peeling them).
When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and wait until they are cool enough to be handled.
Take the meat out of the fridge.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a big pan.
Throw the mustard seeds into the pan and fry at low heat until they start popping.
Now add the meat and, stirring, fry it until it’s well cooked, separating well the lumps with a fork.
Put the meat into a big bowl.
Peel the potatoes and mash them roughly with a fork or with a potato masher (I think they taste better when not too smooth), season with salt.
Combine the potatoes and the meat.
Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Prepare three plates: one with beaten egg, one with flour and one with panko (or breadcrumbs).
Shape flattish round patties (mine had a 6 cm diameter), coat them first in flour, then in the egg and then in panko.
Place the balls on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes until they start changing colour and are well heated inside.