Aubergine and Courgette Bake

The vegetables are coated with bread crumbs and shallow fried, then we add tomato sauce and finish in the oven, we get a dish that is so full of flavour.
INGREDIENTS
1 big aubergine
2 courgettes
1 white onion
3 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves and 2 sprigs of thyme
3 tbs fresh basil
1 tin chopped tomato (400g)
1tbs tomato purée
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp crushed chilli
3 tbs olive oil
150g fresh bread crumbs
2 tbs flour
2 eggs, beaten
150g grated cheddar cheese
For the béchamel
2 tbs butter
3 tbs flour
2 cups milk
1 egg
1/2 cup white wine
METHOD
Wash the vegetables, and cut the aubergine and courgettes into thick slices. Coat with flour, then dip into the egg wash and then breadcrumbs. Heat a shallow pan and sprinkle with some olive oil. Fry the vegetables until golden brown, and keep on one side.
In another saucepan heat the rest of the olive oil, sauté the garlic and onion and add chill, then add the tomato purée, sugar, bay leaves and salt and let it simmer until oil appears on the top. Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems.
In a pan melt the butter, add the flour to make a roux. Then add the milk little by little until the sauce becomes a thick puree without lumps. Add the egg and wine and check the seasoning.
Heat the oven 180*. Arrange an ovenproof dish with one layer of aubergine, then a layer of tomato sauce and the béchamel. Follow in the same way with the courgettes, etc. Finish with the rest of the béchamel, cheese and chopped basil. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with a mixed leaf salad.

© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.

Sweet Potato and Potato Dumplings

This pure vegetarian dish is a favourite in our house! Serve with a simple salad.
INGREDIENTS
1 cup boiled and mashed potato
2 cup boiled and mashed sweet potato
1 cup flour
3 tbs chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
For sauce
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbs flour
3 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup milk
50g grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbs chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
METHOD
In a bowl mix flour, potato, sweet potato, parsley and salt. Cover and keep on the side. In a pan heat the butter and oil, then add the garlic and onion. Sauté then add mushrooms to soften. Add flour, mix well and add milk a little at a time. Remove from the heat, mix in the white wine, basil and salt and pepper. Check the seasoning.
On a chopping board or worktop sprinkle some flour and roll out the potato mixture. Cut as you like into 1 inch pieces.
Boil the water then add the dumplings a few at a time. When they float to the surface, remove from pan and place into an ovenproof dish.
Heat the sauce on a low flame, add the dumplings and sprinkle with cheese and basil. Serve immediately.

© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.

Crespelle

Italian crespelle is often made with a tomato sauce. In my own recipe I use béchamel instead, and tasty almonds flakes. My friends are so impressed with the taste, and I am happy to share this recipe with you all.

INGREDIENTS

500g fresh spinach (washed and drained)

200g leeks (washed and sliced)

50g parsley (washed and chopped roughly)

3 garlic cloves (chopped)

200g ricotta cheese

75g Parmesan cheese (grated)

3 tbs olive oil

Salt and black pepper

 

Ingredients for Pancakes

200g plain flour

2 eggs (beaten)

3 tbs olive oil

200ml coconut milk

1 tsp dry herbs (oregano or thyme)

1/2 tsp baking powder

Salt

Method

Mix eggs, milk and olive oil together

In another bowl, mix flour, herbs, baking powder and salt

Beat both mixtures together until a thick puree without lumps

Keep on one side

 

For the béchamel 

100g butter

75g flour

350ml milk

100ml white wine

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 tsp mustard powder or paste

Salt

 

Method

Melt the butter in a saucepan then add flour, cook until nutty brown

Remove from the heat, add the milk and mix until silky pure without lumps, then add wine

Add mustard and nutmeg, and check the seasoning

 

METHOD

Heat the oven 180*

Heat a pan with olive oil, add the garlic and leeks and cook for around 7 minutes

Add spinach and parsley, remove from the heat and mix well

Let it cool down then add the ricotta cheese and check the seasoning

Start making thin pancakes with a nonstick pan

Sprinkle the spinach mixture in each pancake and roll it up

Arrange the pancakes in a ovenproof dish

Finish with the béchamel, sprinkle with parmesan and flaked almonds

Bake in the oven until golden brown and the pancakes have crisped slightly

 

 


© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.

Ham and Cheese Croquettes

Here is another of my healthy lockdown creations, made with a surprising ingredient – oats! Oats are a gluten-free whole grain and a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. Studies show that oats and oatmeal have many health benefits, including weight loss, lower blood sugar levels and a reduced risk of heart disease. I use oats as a breakfast dish for lots of customers at the hotel, but they make a very tasty and satisfying addition to these croquettes. They make a great snack or appetiser, and also work well as finger food.

 

INGREDIENTS
1 cup porridge oats
1 cup chopped cooked ham
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 vegetable stock cube
4 tbs chopped spring onion
4 tbs grated hard cheese ( any, but I use parmigiana)
5 tbs chopped parsley
3 tbs chopped onion
1 medium carrot (peeled and diced)
2 tbs olive oil
200g breadcrumbs
4 tbs plain four
2 egg whites
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Make a béchamel
2 tbs butter, 4 tbs flour, 1 cup cold milk
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour, mix well and cook for a few moments. Remove from the heat and add the cold milk a little at a time until the sauce thickens. You will need 1/2 cup of béchamel for the recipe.
METHOD
Boil the water and dissolve the vegetable stock cube. Cook the porridge oats until they are cooked but not runny. Keep on one side. Heat the oil, add the onion and cook until soft. Then add the ham and raw carrot. In a bowl, mix all the rest of the ingredients together and add the béchamel a little at a time. Roll the mixture up with clingfilm (see photo) and keep in the fridge for one hour. Arrange three shallow bowls, one with the flour, one with the beaten eggs, and the other with the breadcrumbs.
Take out the rolled mixture and separate with a knife into even sized shapes as you like them. Coat with flour, then with egg wash, and finally with breadcrumbs. Fry until golden brown. Serve with garlic mayo and mustard.

© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.

Mung Bean and Coconut Lasagna

This is my own creation, and it came out with quite a special flavour. Simply add coconut milk and boiled mung beans. Instead of meat you can use only vegetables if you’re looking for a vegetarian dish.
INGREDIENTS
300g mince meat of your choice (chicken/pork/beef)
300g mung beans (green gram) (soaked overnight and then boiled)
2 tins (800g) chopped tomato
1 onion (chopped)
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
3 tbs parsley ( chopped)
150g cheddar cheese
75g Parmesan cheese
6 lasagna sheets
3 tbs butter
3 tbs olive oil
3 tbs flour
2 cup coconut milk (fresh or powder)
1 tsp mustard paste
Salt and pepper
METHOD
Heat the pan, add meat and  cook for about 10 minutes.  When meat is cooked, remove the fat. Boil the mung beans (green gram), mix with the meat and keep on one side. Heat a pan, add olive oil, garlic and onion and sauté. Add chopped tomato, bay leaf and thyme and cook slowly until the sauce becomes thick and rich, then add the salt and pepper.  Check the seasoning, remove the bay leaf. Grate both cheeses and mix with the chopped parsley. Then combine the tomato sauce with the meat and mung beans.
Melt the butter in a pan, add flour and cook until well combined. Remove from heat, add the milk little at a time and mix so there are no lumps. Add mustard paste and heat on low until you get a thick sauce. Remove from the heat, add salt.
Heat the oven to 180*. In an ovenproof dish spoon one third of the meat sauce into the dish, then cover with some fresh lasagna sheets then the coconut sauce. Sprinkle some cheese. Repeat until you have 3 layers of pasta. Cover with the remaining sauce, sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until the top is bubbling and lightly browned.

© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.

Orange and Chocolate Cake

This is my own recipe for orange and chocolate cake. It is soft and has amazing flavours.

INGREDIENTS 

175g soft butter

3 eggs

2 tbs milk

3 tbs fresh orange juice 

1 tbs orange zest 

1 tbs cocoa powder 

1 tsp baking powder

200g self-raising flour 

175g light muscovado sugar 

For the filling 

350g double cream

50g sugar 

100g unsweetened chocolate (melted in a double boiler)

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

2 tbs orange liqueur or Cointreau 

70g roasted cashew nuts

METHOD 

Preheat the oven 180*C/ 350F. Line a round cake tin with baking paper.  Mix together cocoa powder, baking powder, flour and orange zest in bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the other ingredients until there are no lumps. Add the dry ingredients in three batches to the wet ingredients, folding together until smooth. Pour the cake mixture in to the cake tin, bake for 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool down.

To make the filling – add the double cream and sugar to a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until you get a smooth paste. Fold the cream mixture into the melted chocolate and mix well. Mix orange juice with the liqueur.

To assemble – cut the cake into two layers and sprinkle with the orange juice mixture. Spread the cream mixture, stacking together carefully. Finish the cake as you like.


© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.

Stuffed Mushrooms

This is a pure vegetarian dish, tasty and very easy to make as a main dish or an appetiser. I use brie cheese, but any type of cheese works as well.
INGREDIENTS
10 Portobello mushrooms
500g spinach (washed and drained)
1 onion (chopped)
2 garlic cloves (chopped)
2 tbs olive oil
1 tin sweetcorn (150g)
100g grated cheddar cheese, or brie
Salt and pepper to taste
METHOD
Heat the oven to 180*. Peel the mushrooms and arrange on a baking tray. Heat a pan with a oil and saute the garlic and onion. Then add the spinach and corn, cook briefly to retain the green from the spinach then remove immediately from the heat. Check the seasoning. Stuff the mixture into the mushrooms and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for around 8 – 10 minutes until the cheese has melted.

© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.

Oven Baked Felafel

Felafel is one of the Middle East’s most popular vegetarian dishes, suitable for breakfast, lunch or supper. It’s also one of my favourite finger foods. On a recent trip to Athens, Greece, I came across a small cafe on a high street that was selling only felafel. The queue was always miles long, so I was curious about their success. Having tasted their felafel, I decided I could do far better. I experimented with a healthier version cooked in the oven, rather than deep fried, and I am very happy to share my recipe with you.

INGREDIENTS

(For best results, if you can find dry white beans soak them overnight in cold water, drain then roughly grind)

1 tin chickpeas 240g

1 garlic clove (chopped)

3 tbs fresh lemon juice

1 tbs lemon zest

5 tbs freshly chopped parsley and mint

1 tbs fresh chilli (chopped)

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

2 tbs olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

Heat the oven 175*. Drain the water from the chickpeas. In a food processor, blend them coarsely (making sure not to form a paste). Transfer to a bowl and mix the rest of the ingredients except for the oil. Check the seasoning. Form into small balls or any shape you like. Heat the olive oil in a l0w flame and seal the felafel balls until just brown. Transfer to an ovenproof tray and bake for 15 minutes. Serve with tahini paste.

Tahini paste

1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup tahini

1/2 tsp cumin powder

2 tbs finely chopped parsley

salt to taste

Mix the ingredients together, then check the seasoning.


© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.

Tortilla Bake with Chicken

This is my own idea and recipe, which I first made for a lunch party for friends. I used chicken and creamy leeks, which came out really nicely, but you can do it as a pure vegetarian dish by substituting tempeh or just vegetables instead of the chicken. Or try seafood (just make sure not to overcook it).


INGREDIENTS 

8 sesame tortillas (or plain tortillas)

400g skinless boneless chicken (marinated with 1/2 lemon, 1 tbs crushed chilli, 1 tbs soya sauce, 2 tbs thyme, salt and pepper in 2 tbs olive oil)

250g leeks (sliced, washed and drained well)

I tin chopped tomato

2 tbs olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 tbs sugar

50g sour cream

100g grated cheddar cheese

3 tbs chopped parsley

METHOD 

Heat the oil in a pan, add garlic and fry until golden brown. Then add onion and sauté until softened. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and sugar and cook on a low heat. When it starts simmering and oil appears on the top, add the salt and pepper until you are happy with the seasoning then remove from the heat.

Heat the oven 170*. Cook the chicken and allow to cool. Slice the cooked chicken roughly and mix with the sliced leeks. Roll the mixture up into the tortillas and arrange in an ovenproof dish, then pour over the tomato mixture and top with cheese.  Cook for 25 minutes, when the cheese melts and turns golden on top. Remove from the oven, add sour cream and parsley to finish.

Serve with a mix leaf salad.


© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.

Stuffed Peppers

This summer I have decided to introduce some of my recipes based on well-known international dishes from my travelling experience, and my working experience as a chef in a London five-star hotel kitchen. I start with a pure vegetarian dish, stuffed peppers.

Stuffed Peppers

INGREDIENTS

700g mixed peppers

500g cooked rice

250g grated cheddar cheese

300g mixed vegetables (mushrooms/spring onions/carrot)

100g packet of sage and onion stuffing mixture

50g chopped parsley

3tbs olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

METHOD

In a pan heat the oil, add chopped mushrooms, spring onions and grated carrots and cook for about 10 minutes. In a bowl mix together the rice, parsley, sage and onion mix, cooked vegetables and half of the cheese. Check the seasoning. Wash the peppers and carefully slice the lid off (you can chop this and use it in the recipe), and de-seed. Fill up the peppers with the rice mixture, and arrange on a baking tray or dish. Sprinkle with the leftover cheese and bake in a hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

 


© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.