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Beef Katlesi by Vanessa Mehri

This Swahili snack is spiced minced beef surrounded by crispy mashed potatoes. Known on the East African coast as katlesi or chops, these delectable potato packets can be found in various forms throughout the world. Delicious any time of day, katlesi are especially good as a snack or appetizer with some lemon wedges or chutney.

Vanessa Mehri, author of Swahili Food, shares this recipe from her childhood growing up in Mombasa, Kenya. As a skinny child, women would often stop her and feed her these snacks on her way home from school. This comforting combination is sure to be a favorite at any age.

Makes 4 to 6 as a snack or appetizer

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

For the Mashed Potatoes:

8 waxy potatoes, peeled

2 tablespoons salt

For the Beef Filling:

250 grams or 1/2 pound minced beef

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon green chili (optional)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoon coriander, chopped

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of salt

2 cups of vegetable oil, for frying

  1. Add the potatoes to a thick-bottomed pot. Pour in enough water to cover the potatoes and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are soft.

  2. Mash the potatoes using a ricer or the back of a bottle.

  3. In a pan, add the minced meat, followed by all the spices, and cook until the meat browns.

  4. Add in the diced onion, garlic, and chili. Cook on medium heat until the onions are translucent.

  5. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon and turn the heat off. Stir in the chopped coriander. Set aside until the meat mixture is cool enough to handle.

  6. Take 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mashed potato and form a disk shape. Cup your hand slightly and shape the potato mix by gently pressing it into your cupped hand.

  7. Grab a tablespoon of the meat mixture (or filling of your choice) and add it to the center of the mashed potato.

  8. Bring the sides of the potato together and form a ball. Press gently to flatten it ever so slightly.

  9. In a bowl, add two eggs and 1 teaspoon of salt, whisk well.

  10. In a large pot, heat up the oil over medium heat.

  11. Dip the shaped potato patties into the egg, then shallow fry for 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

  12. Drain and serve warm.


  • Chicken or mutton can be used in place of beef

  • Instead of meat, try mushrooms, paneer, or tofu


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