Archive for October, 2012

ROYSTON REPORTS, Number 133

Friday, October 26th, 2012

 TROPICAL TOPICS, Sunday 28 October 2012.

 

Greetings from sunny Sri Lanka (in the mornings; rainy in the evenings)!

Essential Art

From Shanth Fernando, the genius behind the Paradise Road ‘lifestyle’ stores and Colombo’s urbane Gallery Café, a text message states: “An exhibition of a private collection of art including Donald Friend (Australia) [who painted in Sri Lanka], Suman Gupta (India),  Chandra  Bhattacharjee  (India) and Ali Kazim (Pakistan) at Paradise Road Galleries.” This exhibition is on NOW, but only until Wednesday 31 October, 10am till midnight daily.  A must see!

 

Donald Friend: detail from mural at Brief, Sri Lanka

Donald Friend: detail from mural at Brief, Sri Lanka

Made in Sri Lanka

Ever adventurous, especially when I am wandering through the maze of shelves in the Keells’ supermarket at the Crescat Mall in Colombo, I discovered something I have never heard of called Italian Table Cheese Scamorza. I now learn that this is a stretched cheese made from curd and usually sold pear-shaped; it is reputed to melt better than mozzarella, and is supposedly delicious grilled.

 

Sri Lanka: locally produced ball cheeses

Sri Lanka: locally produced ball cheeses

  I bought it because it is “Made in Sri Lanka from 100% full cream cow milk, a handcraft product from Negombo.” The price tag said it costs Rs1,400 [£ 6.82; US$ 10.76] a kilo. Taste? Well, since I’m not a fan of pizza or pasta, I am clearly biased and seemed to have missed the ecstasy as implied by the label of “Flavor Delcats.”

More to my liking are the ball cheeses shown alongside it, made in the hill country by Ambewela Farms; pepper and cumin flavour at Rs355 [£ 1.73; US$ 2.73] a ball.

Hotel, Hospitality & Food Fair

Thanks to Charlie Wrey, a British resident in the south of Sri Lanka, I was invited to a Salon Culinaire lunch at the Sri Lanka Exhibition & Conference Centre recently, which he helped organise with exhibition firms Pico and Angus Montgomery.

The Fair featured stalls by companies offering supplies for the hospitality industry. One was run by the effervescent Jane Fletcher seeking orders for the Manacare Village of Hopes & Dreams (Newsletter 108) which produces, among many other things, small bars of guest soaps made by village women.

 

Manacare products include uniforms and soaps.

Manacare products include uniforms and soaps.

The Salon Culinaire featured lunch cooked by teams from different hotels, using ingredients supplied to each team in mystery boxes by Waitrose (the UK supermarket chain that doesn’t have outlets in Sri Lanka, yet).

 

Chaaya Tranz (Hikkaduwa) chefs prepare the starter.

Chaaya Tranz (Hikkaduwa) chefs prepare the starter.

I sat at a table catered by chefs from Chaaya Tranz Hotel (Hikkaduwa) and was fortunate in having an inspired starter of sea food, although its name sounded like a chapter heading from a racy romance novel: “Sun-kissed tomato pesto on top of Lime Nelli.” That was actually the base for “marinated poached seafood served with passion fruit form [sic] and muscle [sic?] greens.

 

Chaaya Tranz (Hikkaduwa) produced this romantically named, and delectable, starter.

Chaaya Tranz (Hikkaduwa) produced this romantically named, and delectable, starter.

The main course was described as “Fresh herbs marinated turkey roulade combination, with braised lamb and fig compote served with roasted chestnut puree and honey glazed petit vegetable and porcini mushroom risotto, turkey jus.” The lamb was meticulously diced, tender and tasty, but it seemed a shame to miniaturise it, even though it looked pretty.

 

Chaaya Tranz (Hikkaduwa); a pretty version of lamb & turkey

Chaaya Tranz (Hikkaduwa); a pretty version of lamb & turkey

Other tables had less exciting menus from the same ingedients. The Bentota Beach Hotel offered “home smoked tuna and shaved pumpkin with teriyaki glaze” and a main course of “Toasted pine nut coated turkey with dried apricot and figs.” Cinnamon Lodge just concentrated on “Christmas Turkey Roulade.” Then the penny dropped: this was early Christmas fare.

 

Olympic Medals for Sri Lanka

 

Gerard Mendis, Chairman of the Chefs’ Guild of Sri Lanka and master chocolatier)

Gerard Mendis, Chairman of the Chefs’ Guild of Sri Lanka and master chocolatier)

At the Salon Culinaire I was honoured to encounter two old acquaintances from the days when time I had a column  (1991-1992) reviewing restaurants for Sri Lanka’s Sunday Observer: Gerard Mendis and Tilak Senaratne.

 

Tilak Senaratne, double gold medal winner)

Tilak Senaratne, double gold medal winner

They had just returned from taking part in the 23rd World Culinary Olympics in Frankfurt, Germany, where every one of the 24-member Sri Lanka team won at least one medal, totalling 15 gold, 14 silvers and one bronze for Sri Lanka’s indefatigable chefs. Congratulations.

 

Gone to Pot

Mosquitoes have become cocktail-time menaces with the recent rain so I have begun to burn a mosquito coil on the veranda as night falls. To collect the ash and give some respectability to the smouldering spiral of pyrethrum, I found this clay pot, actually a miniature brazier used for supporting a clay cooking pot. Cost? About 50p (.75cents).

 

A clay brazier makes a cool mosquito coil pot.

A clay brazier makes a cool mosquito coil pot.

History addict

Kate Spencer, who dropped in with her husband, Tim, for ‘sundowners’ (actually ‘cloudbursts’, given the rain that evening) commenting on my book Guide To Sri Lanka said: “You couldn’t have made much out of it – but we made much out of you.”

 

She was referring to the discoveries – through reading my book – which she and her husband have made during their visits to Sri Lanka over the years. Tim suggested ‘history is a disease’ as an excuse for his addiction to collecting items of historical value. One was a watercolour painting (see Newsletter 54, 22 April 2011) of a Nuwara Eliya scene, which led to him acquiring other mementoes of Sri Lanka, although not a clay brazier.

 

“ADC Quarters, N. Ellia”, unsigned, dated 1891, from the collection of Tim & Kate Spencer

“ADC Quarters, N. Ellia”, unsigned, dated 1891, from the collection of Tim & Kate Spencer

 Quiz Answer

The Spencers brought with them a copy of that day’s Daily News newspaper (23 October 2012) that had an original 15-question quiz by Nalaka Gunawardene and Vindana Ariyawansa. Kate had been astonished to find that she not only knew the answer to Question 7, but that very evening was due to meet the answer: me.

 

Quiz question in Daily News

Quiz question in Daily News

  I’ve been many things in my life, but never before the answer to a quiz question (based on my influence on the Beetles/Beatles). The lucky winner gets some book vouchers.

 

Beat regards

Royston