Chef Mark Smith, executive chef, The New Kenilworth Hotel, never wanted to get stuck in a regular 9-to-5 job. Smith, who grew up in Sri Lanka, was a foodie who was also fascinated by cooking. He went to study at the Ceylon Hotel School in Sri Lanka, and eventually moved to Australia. Melbourne turned out to be a dream destination. But despite the fact that hes worked at 5-star hotels in Dubai, Melbourne, Colombo and Goa, Smith still considers stand-alone restaurants his best training grounds.
I became more versatile while working in restaurants, he says. With his passion for food, it came as no surprise when Number 18, the restaurant in Colombo where he worked as executive chef, became the first place in Sri Lanka to be featured in Condé Nasts Hot Tables list in 2008.
Specialising in Continental and Italian cuisines, Smith found his forté in pairing these cuisines with Asian spices and herbs. He uses green chillies in Italian pesto and coriander and red chillies in crab linguini. Hes also a firm believer in using fresh local produce. But you cant go over-the-top with fusion cuisine, says Smith who feels that too much experimentation might prove to be disastrous.
The chef suggests that a New Years spread is best kept simple. Here are three of his signature dishes.
4 salmon steaks with skin 1tbs mustard paste 2 tbs of finely sliced spring onion
For mix A 2tbs black peppercorns l1tbs coriander seeds 1tbs fennel seeds 1tbs cumin seeds 4 cardamom pods 4 cloves l1 cinnamon stick
For mix B 1 onion, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, chopped 1-in piece of ginger, chopped 1tbs fresh curry leaves, chopped l1tsp chopped lemongrass Salt to taste
Roast and grind the ingredients of mix A. Sauté ingredients of mix B in some oil. Allow both to cool and blend the mixtures together with spring onions and salt. Moisten the final mix with some oil or melted butter. Place the salmon steaks skin side down on a tray and spread some mustard paste on top. (This helps the spice mix to stick to the fish). Apply the spice mix in an even layer on the salmon. In a hot pan, cook the salmon on its skin-side first in some oil. The skin should be crispy. Remove, place on a tray and finish cooking the salmon under a hot grill. Serve with some sautéed spinach or a warm potato salad.
SLOW-BAKED LIME TART
For the tart 300gm flour, sifted 200gm chilled, cubed butter 100gm fine castor sugar 1 egg
For the pastry Juice of 8 limes and the zest of 2 limes 400ml fresh cream 300gm castor sugar 6 eggs
Mix the ingredients for making the tart in a food processor until you have a crumbly texture. Mould the mix into a dough with your hands, put in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Remove and using two sheets of plastic wrap gently roll out the paste to less than 1cm thickness. Line a tart mould with the dough and refrigerate for some time before baking it at 160°C for 20 minutes. Once baked, set aside to cool. Next, reduce the lime juice and the lime zest over heat until it is 1/3 the original quantity and cool. Meanwhile, mix the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until the sugar dissolves. Then, add the lime syrup and whisk in the cream thoroughly. Set aside for an hour. Now, strain the mix and pour gently into the pre-baked tart mould. Bake in a slow oven at 100°C. Served with vanilla bean ice cream or double cream on the side.