Vegetable Pakora

Vegetable pakora is a pure vegetarian dish, which everyone seems to love. There are lots of different versions of this recipe, this one is my very own (popular because of its crunch). Why buy the frozen ones when this is so easy to make at home?

1/2 cup rice flour
1 cup gram flour
2 tbs black sesame seeds
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbs ginger and garlic paste
1 tsp coriander powder
Cold water
Juice of half a lemon
Oil for deep frying as needed
Julien vegetables
2 medium carrot, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 capsicum (different colours), thinly sliced
1 medium courgette, thinly sliced
1 medium aubergine, thinly sliced
1 small cabbage, shredded
In a bowl mix ginger, garlic, sesame seeds with the spices, flour and vegetables. Then add little bit of water at a time making sure the vegetables are coated lightly. Do not put too much water in. Check the seasoning and keep on the side for 10 minutes. Heat the oil. Spoon out the pakora mixture a tablespoon at a time into the oil and fry until golden brown (make sure not to burn them). Finish in a 180* oven for ten minutes before serving. Serve with chutney or raita.


© 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.


(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


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.

Vegetable Stroganoff

Stroganoff is a dish mostly associated with beef, but I invented this version made with vegetables. Adding root vegetables and butternut gives the recipe lots of flavour as well as texture. I think you’re going to enjoy it.


250g sweet potato (peeled and diced)
400g butternut (peeled, seeded and diced)
300g capsicum (red pepper) (seeded and diced)
3 corn on the cob (remove the corn)
200g fresh broad beans
200g fresh green peas
250g white cabbage
250g carrot (peeled and diced)
2 onions (peeled and diced)
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
3tbs olive oil
Small bunch of parsley and  basil
3 bay leaves
1 tin chopped tomatoes
250g cream
180g silver skin pickled onions (from a jar)
Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the oven to 180*. Make a paste with olive oil and fresh herbs, then mix into the vegetables. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the chopped tomato, cream and seasoning into the baked vegetables. Sprinkle the pickled onion on the top and bake for another 15 minutes.

© 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).


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


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.

Meat Loaf

My Dad used to make this meat loaf with three types of minced meat – lamb, pork and beef for special occasions. Recently I made this dish for my staff at the hotel using the same method but using only minced beef. It seemed to go down really well.

1kg minced beef
200g onion (chopped)
250g fresh brown bread (crumbled)
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
3tbs English mustard paste
2tbs olive oil
1 tsp allspice powder
1 tbs crushed chilli
4 tbs chopped parsley, thyme, and oregano (dried)


Heat the oven to 180*. Heat the oil in a pan, add garlic and fry until golden brown. Add the onion, mix together and cook for about 6-7 minutes. In a bowl combine the meat and onion mixture with the rest of the ingredients, mix well by hand. Line a tray with baking paper, shape the mixture into a loaf and bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool slightly and slice. Serve with gravy.

© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.

Mixed Vegetable Stew

This dish is pure vegetarian, and easy to cook. There are only a two spices, which means the vegetables are the stars of the show.

500g savoy cabbage (finely shredded)
300g carrot (washed, peeled and diced)
300g new potatoes (cut in half)
300g green peas
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 onions
1 tbs crushed chilli
5 tbs olive oil
1 tsp cumin and 1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp sugar

Heat the oven to 170*. Mix the cabbage with salt and 2 tbs of the olive oil, and roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Heat the rest of the oil in a pan, add the onion and sauté until soft. Add the crushed chilli, spices and turmeric powder and cook for a few minutes more until the aromas develop. Then add the tomatoes and sugar, check the seasoning and let the pan simmer for another few minutes. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes and carrots, and at the last minute add the green peas. Strain and add to the pan, mixing well. Check the seasoning and serve with rice and a 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


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



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.

Passion Fruit Cake

Passion fruits are available throughout the year in Sri Lanka – we like to use them for juice cordial, and jam is quite popular too. I use fresh passion fruits for this cake recipe.


4 passion fruit, halved
150g butter, room temperature
250g castor sugar
250g flour
4 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut (or desiccated)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbs milk

Icing mixture

Mix together 150g soft butter, 200g icing sugar and passion fruit syrup

To make passion fruit syrup, scoop the passion fruit into a saucepan, add 50g castor sugar and cook on a low flame until it thickens, strain out the seeds and let it cool down. Make sure not to overcook.


Heat the oven to 180*. Line a round cake tin with butter. Mix the butter, sugar and eggs together then add the vanilla, lemon and milk. Mix the flour, baking powder and coconut together. Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture, making sure it is lump-free. Add half of the passion fruit syrup and mix roughly. Transfer the cake mixture to the baking tray and bake for about 35-40 minutes. If a wooden skewer comes out clean then it’s cooked. Remove from cake tin and let it cool down. Cut the cake in half, spread with the icing and decorate as you wish.

© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.

Mushroom Rice

Mushroom are quite popular in Sri Lanka, throughout the country many people are strict vegetarians. We don’t have lots of varieties of mushrooms like in Europe, but there are fresh and dried mushrooms available. I created this rice dish with wild mushrooms, and it has come out beautifully each time I make it. So I thought I should share with you all!


350g mix wild mushrooms ( cleaned and cut)
I red onion (chopped)
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
I cup of leek (white part, sliced)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tomato (seeded and chopped)
3 tbs olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the oil in a pan, add the garlic and fry until golden. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes together with the garlic, then add the mushrooms. Mix well and cook until all the aromas come out. Then add the leeks and tomato, mix well. Remove from the heat, add the parsley and check the seasoning. Cook rice as you like, either plain or tempered. Stir into the mushroom mixture and  serve.

© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.

Lotus Root Curry (Nelum ala Vanjanaya)

Lotus root is a well-known vegetable in Asia – in Sri Lanka we use it for curry and in soup. In London, lotus root is not so easy to find (except in Asian supermarkets) but if you can get hold of it please do try this recipe (my own!). It is full of nutrition and also very tasty.


250g lotus root (cleaned and sliced)

2 medium tomatoes (diced)

I onion (chopped)

2 garlic cloves (chopped)

2 green chilli (sliced)

3 sprigs curry leaves

1 inch cinnamon stick

1 tsp curry powder

1/2 turmeric powder

1/2 mustard seeds

1 tbs olive oil

1 cup coconut milk

Salt to taste


Mix the curry powder with the sliced lotus roots and keep to one side. Heat the oil in a pan and add garlic, onion, curry leaves, chilli, cinnamon and mustard sees. Cook for about five minutes or until the aromas come out. Then add the lotus roots, tomatoes and salt and mix together. Cover and slow cook for about 10 minutes then add the coconut milk. Simmer on a low flame, check the seasoning. When the gravy is absorbed into the vegetable, remove from the heat (make sure no to overcook). If you like, sprinkle with half a teaspoon of roasted curry powder. Serve with rice or bread.


© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.