CITY OF ORIGIN
Anything with salmon in it
HIMSELF IN ONE WORD
Asela Nissanka is the Executive Chef at Cinnamon Red Colombo. His love for experimenting in the kitchen has earned him great admiration from customers and coworkers alike. Asela strongly believes that the art of cooking is like magic and loves to conjure up culinary tricks that are bound to transform any dish.
Q: How does your day unfold?
A: I begin by inspecting the breakfast buffet and ensuring that all aspects of the kitchen are taken care of – primarily the comfort and satisfaction of my staff.
Q: Who inspired you to venture into the hospitality trade?
A: My brother influenced me to become a chef as he was also in the hospitality trade for some time. He encouraged me to follow my passion and make a profession out of it – and that’s precisely what I did.
Q: What was your first dish?
A: A coleslaw salad.
Q: And what do you consider your greatest achievement as a chef so far?
A: The journey of getting here has been an achievement in itself.
Q: Tell us about the most challenging dish you’ve prepared...
A: Wagyu beef definitely tops my list of most challenging cooking experiences. Timing is crucial when preparing Wagyu beef. It has been over a decade since I first prepared it; and it has always been a test of patience, which I believe is an important trait of a good chef.
Q: What are the emerging trends in food and drink?
A: Modern society is extremely health conscious and fitness focussed. As a result, healthy dining is fast becoming the vogue.
Q: Would you have any advice for the home cooks amongst us?
A: It is very important to experiment while cooking. You can look for healthier alternatives to substitute the usual ingredients of a recipe when recreating traditional dishes. There is always a healthier way to recreate a dish by omitting the unhealthy ingredients. Cooking is both an art and a skill.
Q: What are your three favourite ingredients and why?
A: Cinnamon, nutmeg and rosemary are my top three ingredients. Their infusion tends to enhance the flavour of most dishes.
Q: Name three favourite utensils that you can’t do without...
A: Cooking pan, knife and cooking spoon.
Q: Could you share a few cooking tips or tricks with us?
A: Cooking is like magic. There are many tricks to enhance a dish and I can offer some little-known tips.
For instance, if the pasta you are preparing gets overly creamed, it can be rectified by adding some cheese. Another trick for a hard lemon that’s difficult to squeeze is to microwave it on high heat for about 20 or 30 seconds. That will help release the juice easily.
Q: In view of your current role, what future plans do you have?
A: The goal is to continue to reach greater heights in my trade while learning and sharing the knowledge that I have acquired so far with the next generation.
Q: Your advice to aspiring chefs...
A: Love what you do, be honest in your trade and respect the food you cook.
BRAISED LAMB SHANK SERVED WITH GRILLED
POLENTA, BABY VEGETABLES AND LAMB JUS
Marinate the lamb shank with salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary, and keep it in the chiller for two hours. Then pan sear and place it in a deep container. Add all the vegetables and bay leaves into the same pan, and sauté them until the mix turns golden-brown. Then add the tomato puree and cook it for a few minutes.
Add red wine to the mixture and leave it for a few seconds before removing from the heat and mixing it with the lamb shank. Pour the lamb jus over the lamb shank until it’s completely covered and slow cook it for 90 minutes at 130°C in an oven until it’s braised.
Meanwhile, mix the vegetable stock with saffron. Heat the polenta in a separate pan and add the stock to it. Finish it off with cream and seasoning. Transfer the polenta filling to a buttered tray and keep in the chiller until it has cooled. Once set, take the polenta tray out of the chiller and cut into the desired shape before grilling it.
NOTE This recipe serves one.