TOWN OF ORIGIN
IKA Culinary Olympics Silver Medal
Avocado Guacamolewith Sashimi Tuna
HIMSELF INONE WORD
Nimal Rajapaksha is the Executive Pastry Chef at Cinnamon Bentota Beach and widely known for his work ethic in the kitchen. Having achieved his dream of winning a silver medal at the IKA Culinary Olympics, he strives to go the distance and create divine desserts, which are unique and challenging.
– Compiled by Ashwini Vethakan
Q: What was your first dish?
A: Cinnamon apple strudel, which I got right on my first try! You could say that was the motivation I needed to be brave, and move on to more inventive and complicated dishes.
Q: As a chef, how does your day unfold?
A: Being a pastry chef is a pretty sweet job. It offers a chance to develop and test new and inventive dessert recipes, as well as sample some of the world’s finest ingredients, confections and sweets.
The kitchen is a place that tests every milligram of a person’s essence and calls for a perfectly balanced recipe of humility, hubris and skill. That’s basically how it is as I strive to unfold yet another day of success.
Q: Who inspired you to venture into the hospitality trade?
A: Chef Rohan Perera. He was the former Executive Chef at Heritance Ahungalla and my inspiration when I began work. My ambition was to sit in his chair someday soon.
Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement as a chef?
A: I was awarded a silver medal for my plated dessert and chocolate pralines at the IKA Culinary Olympics 2012 held in Frankfurt. This was a dream of mine as a pastry chef and it came true.
Q: Tell us about your most challenging cuisine?
A: Mastering Saudi Arabia’s Bateel chocolate, which is made with pureed dates and infused with chocolate pralines. Trying to balance the dish in all aspects – such as taste, complexity, nutrition and texture – was an extremely complicated task.
Q: What are the emerging trends in food and drink?
A: The most interesting trend that’s emerging is alternative diets since healthy ingredients and plant based dishes are becoming more popular.
Q: Your advice for the home cooks amongst us...
A: Focus on the basics such as making churros or a simple cake, or keep it very simple with a bread and butter pudding.
When I cook for myself at home, it’s all about simplicity – I don’t let it get too complicated. And what’s most important is that home cooks use good ingredients and seasonal produce.
Q: What’s your favourite ingredient?
A: Chocolate. It’s prepared from the fruit of the Theobroma cacao tree, which when translated means ‘food of the gods’ in Greek.
Q: Name three favourite utensils that you can’t do without...
A: Pallet knife, garnish tongs and fancy scoop.
Q: Any cooking tips or tricks…?
A: Most desserts are balanced with salt and liquor but many chefs don’t do this because it’s an art to add those two ingredients into your dessert. Learn to control the temperature and retain your colours as much as possible.
Q: Tell us about your future plans...
A: I want to start a small business with my products and recipes, and create a brand for them.
Q: Your advice to aspiring chefs would be…
A: Make sure you are doing it for the right reason – i.e. the love of food, process and service. If it’s money you’re interested in, the best advice is to move on.
When you’re starting out, work in scratch kitchens and accept all the positions as part of the learning process even if it means earning less. Do it for the willingness to learn and genuine passion. Work hard and honestly.
HOMEMADE FRUIT YOGHURT WITH PISTACHIO CROQUETTE ECLAIRS
300 ml---fresh milk
Diced fresh fruit (strawberry, mango, pineapple, orange, jackfruit, grapes, pomegranate and apple)
PISTACHIO SUGAR CRUST DOUGH
A drop of green colouring and vanilla essence
60 ml----fresh milk
100 ml---fresh milk
Boil the fresh milk and sugar, and keep aside to cool. Get a fermentation process going by adding curd into it and sifting it through a sieve. Store at about 35˚C for six hours. Once firm, transfer into a chiller and store.
PISTACHIO SUGAR CRUST
Mix the brown sugar, butter, flour, pistachio puree, green colouring, vanilla essence and a pinch of salt to prepare the dough. Rest the dough, sheet it into a thin layer and cut according to the size of your eclairs.
Mix water, fresh milk, butter, sugar, salt and boil it all until the sugar is dissolved. Once the liquid bubbles, add flour and remove from heat. Stir consistently until a doughy texture is obtained and gradually add the eggs.
Pipe the eclairs onto a baking tray and sprinkle pistachio crust on top. Preheat your oven to 185˚C for 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 140˚C and bake for 12 minutes.
Boil the milk and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Add cornflour, beat the egg yolks in and then remove it from the heat. Include the butter and stir in the praline cream. Let it cool and then pipe it inside the eclairs.
Plate all mediums together.
This recipe serves six portions