What's the difference between rissoles, meatballs, hamburgers and meat patties?

The word for Italian meatballs, polpette, comes from the Latin pulpa.
The word for Italian meatballs, polpette, comes from the Latin pulpa. Photo: William Meppem

Can you please explain the difference between rissoles, meatballs, hamburgers and meat patties? B. Schultz

While they have much in common, the hamburger has traditionally been a fat round dish, thicker in themiddle as they are traditionally made by slapping mince between two hand. Meatballs are round, as are rissoles, and patties round and flat. In the days before mincers, pounding meat was an honourable profession. Butchers would place strips of meat in large mortars and pound them to a pulp with a pestle. The Italian word for meatballs, polpette, comes from the Latin pulpa. If you are making polpette and are short for time, buy Italian sausages from an Italian butcher. Squeeze out small 20¢-sized pieces from the skin and roll them into balls and fry them in some oil or pancetta lard. The word rissole, in all its forms, comes to us via French rissole from the Latin russeolus, meaning "to redden". This perhaps refers to the red pulped meat, which was originally encased in pastry. You'll find this pastry concept of "rissole" in the Portuguese rissois cammaro – a cheesy chopped-prawn-filled deep-fried pastry, or the Indonesian risoles. Imagine a fried crepe filled with bechamel and chicken. Then there were the classic rock-hard, deep-fried beef rissoles, coated in cornflake crumbs, sold in the Coles cafeteria in Melbourne until its closure in the 1980s. Patty comes to us from the French pate and refers to a disc of grilled ground meat. In the colder parts of the British Isles it is not uncommon for them to be dipped in batter and deep-fried. (But then in the colder parts of the British Isles it is not uncommon for anything to be dipped in batter and deep-fried.) The hamburger starts in Germany as a large patty made with minced beef, onions and seasoning. The Hamburg steak travels with German immigrants to the US and ends up between two pieces of bread with salad sometime in the late 19th century.

Roast pumpkin. Skin on or off? P. Coulthard

Chef Nick Anthony from Masons of Bendigo in central Victoria makes one of my all-time favourite pumpkin dishes. He takes kent pumpkin and cuts it into wedges, cleans the interior, seasons the flesh and roasts it in a hot oven to cook and colour it. He does not remove the skin. It's served with crumbled sharp cheddar cheese and a gratin of hazelnuts. It is so simple but so delicious as is the skin, now soft and slightly chewy. Different pumpkins have different skin thickness. There are the good old thick-skinned Queensland blue and jarrahdale and these are best peeled. Thinner skinned varieties such as kent, jap, and butternut can be cut with the skin left on and then roasted. Be sure to oil and season all of the pumpkin pieces by placing them in a bowl and drizzling over ample extra virgin olive oil and sprinkling with salt. Peeled pumpkin skin and pips can be added to other vegetable trim to make stock. It adds a dark, pleasingly bitter note.

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