Vesak, commemorates the three most important milestones in the life of Gautama Buddha – His Birth, Enlightenment and Parinirvana (Nirvana after Death).
Festival of lights, Vesakis celebrated on the day of the full moon in the month of May. It is one of the biggest days of the year and is celebrated by Buddhists all over the world. Buddhists commemorate the important events that took place in the life of the Buddha on this day which also brings with it shifting seasons; namely, thundering south west monsoon rains and the calling of the seas in the east coast.
First comes the birth of Siddhartha Gauthama in Lumbini in Nepal. It is said that his mother Queen Mahamaya was travelling from Kapilavasthu (her husband’s kingdom) to her father’s kingdom to give birth to her first child, as was the tradition. On the way, her son prince Siddhartha Gauthama was born under a Sal tree in the garden of Lumbini.
The second event was Siddartha Gauthama’s supreme attainment as the Buddha, the Enlightened One. At the age of 29, he left his father’s palace in search of the truth, renouncing all worldly possessions and begging for alms in the streets. His search continued through the next few years, until at the age of 35, he attained Enlightenment seated under a Bodhi tree, in a place called Bodh Gaya in India.
The third event was Lord Buddha’s parinibbana over 2500 years ago at Kusinagar. The Buddha was 80 years, travelling with Ananda Thero preaching the Dhamma, but his health was steadily deteriorating. His parinirvana (Passing away) occurred in a peaceful grove of Sal trees in Kusinagar, surrounded by his disciple monks. It is said that the Sal trees, in spite of not being in season, bloomed and shed their pale yellow petals on him as he passed away into Nirvana.
When Sri Lanka wins a cricket match, or if a Sri Lankan citizen or a person of Sri Lankan descent achieves or accomplishes anything, the whole country cheers, and celebrates in honour of them.
Most recently, Sri Lankans all over the world had the immense joy of celebrating 11-year old superstar, Georgia, who won the Junior MasterChef Australia 2020 title. Her stunning achievement has garnered the praise of thousands of Sri Lankans, and made our very own foodies very proud.
Georgia learned to cook at the age of 3, with her first attempt being a classic scrambled eggs and toast dish. Her maternal grandparents are Sri Lankans, and her grandmother Charmaine has been credited with teaching the little super star chef how to cook Sri Lankan cuisine, which ultimately won Georgia the final.
Georgia maintained her calm and collected manner each week, whipping up one amazing dish after another, and receiving unending praise from the judges. She was one of the 14 contestants on the show, along with Ben, Carter, Dev, Etka, Filo, Laura, Phenix, Porsha, Ruby, Ryan, Salvo, Tiffany and Vienna, who beat over 2,000 young chefs during the auditions. Whilst all the young chefs competed as best they could; only Georgia, Carter and Filo made it to the final race, watched over by talented judges Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen.
In the final episodes of the challenge, the young finalists were truly put to the test. The semi-final pressure test gave them maybe a tad over two hours to make a lemon meringue ‘Coronavirus’, (the dessert, not the pandemic!), which was originally made by the world famous pastry chef, Kirsten Tibballs.
The finale however was where the fun really began though. Of course, we all know that Georgia took home the trophy, and impressed both the judges and her mother, with the two-course fine-dining meal she made, but this is how it all went down.
Let’s set the scene. There was an orchestra playing tense music whilst the kids cooked, and to make it even more hectic for them their parents too were there watching them. The challenge was all about fancy dining. Each of the contestants had to make a two-course meal that to serve four people, inclusive of a main, and a dessert. The choice of dishes was theirs as long as it was suitable for fine-dining.
If you look back to past seasons, most participants when faced with fine-dining have gravitated straight to French food, or the smallest dish possible that would probably cost absurd amounts. However, each of the contestants decided to highlight the pride they felt in their individual culture and heritage which shone through in their final dishes.
The contestants were given 90 minutes, and while Filo made fried shrimp and Egyptian spicy rice, and Carter made a super complex lamb and peas meal, our darling Georgia made a trio of curries including pork curry, cashew curry and eggplant curry alongside cucumber raita, papadums and rice. Initially she feared that she had spread herself too thin, but judge Jock Zonfrillo noted she was just ahead of her competitors after the tasting, which had in fact truly wowed all the judges.
Up next, the 90 minute dessert course. Filo produced a hazelnut cake with a mirror glaze, crumble and strawberry sorbet, while Carter made a beautiful vanilla bean panna cotta paired with raspberry sorbet and chocolate soil. However, Georgia turned out a unique dessert which she called ‘Tropical Mess’ – toasted coconut ice cream, brown bread crumbs, plum pearls, plum meringues and a lemongrass granita.
Unfortunately, during her prep she had faced a little bit of trouble as the components of her dish were not cooperating and the dish fell apart. After a quick hug from her mom and some wise words of encouragement, she got back into it and managed to serve it up just right.
Georgia’s maturity however had been on display throughout the competition in how she handled her troubles previously, having been noted for saying “I always try to get everything right, but that’s not how life works”. The judges paid very little attention to the look of the dish but rather to the taste and flavours of it, with Andy even mentioning that he did not even care what it looked like because it was delicious. It sure was enough to secure her win!
After the finale, Jock wrote on his Instagram, “I’ve never met an 11 yr old so respectful of others, polite, and with such a passion and understanding of food. Your balance of flavours, taste and technique are well beyond your years. We were truly grateful to eat your delicious food time and time again, and for you to share your heritage and family with us”. Later on, Andy Allen added “Your passion to seek perfection is well beyond your age and you’re going to be something very special in years to come”. Melissa Leong also shared a heart-warming message for the young chef later on after the finale posting, “Georgia. At 11, you are already out-classing kids twice your age in wisdom, self-possession and grace (and obviously culinary talent). I am in awe of everything you bring to the table, and I am just so goddamn hopeful with you as our future. Congratulations little one, you did it!”
Georgia went home with the title, a trophy, a cash prize of AUS $25,000, and the biggest smile. To sum up her experience, Georgia says “Junior MasterChef is the best experience I have ever had.”
The young chef told the Daily Mail Australia that she has no plans for the money as of yet, but she would most likely use it when she is older as she would like to travel and try other cuisines. She added that she would also like to taste the other curries available as she has only had her grandma’s so far!
Reality television series Junior Masterchef has helped open the eyes of the public to the raw creativity and talent of kids nowadays when it comes to churning out cuisine.
Gone are the days of kids being only known as picky eaters. Today, kids are not only more aware of the culinary world, but with television content showcasing some of the world’s best chefs on their own shows, they’re also picking up great tips and techniques as well.
The same can be said about promising young junior chef, Uleena Udabage, who has shared some of her handpicked recipes in this month’s edition.
Speaking to us on her culinary journey so far, Ulleena says that her passion for the art began at an early age in kindergarten, where cookery classes quickly became her favourite. From, there on her favourite pastime became experimenting with new recipes, and baking. Watching cookery programs on YouTube and television gave her the inspiration to try out newer recipes and techniques and fuelled her passion further.
At the tender age of 10 however, Uleena got the opportunity to participate in an event called the Family Cook-Off organized by a well-known spice brand. At the event, little Uleena became the runner up, just behind a 21-year-old trainee pastry chef. She says that this competition helped her brush off any fears, and get used to taking on challenges.
Following this, she was invited by the Housewive’s Association and St. Pauls Milagiriya to do a cooking demonstration, which she says that as a young 11 to 12-year-old chef, she reveled in the love and attention showered on her by the ladies at the demonstration.
After this, Uleena’s profile grew even further, being featured on MTV’s Family Cook-Off as well.
However, cooking is only one aspect of this young, inspired chef. She also balances her time with her duties as the secretary of the Interact Club, as a senior school prefect, as Deputy House Captain, as a member of the school choir, and as a school Swimmer too.
Her free time she says is best spent, working on her main passion, which involves preparing new dishes and inviting guests over to try them out.
Uleena says that through her hobby, she intends to inspire others out there to begin the journey to achieve their dreams at young age and follow their passions towards success.
She is also a strong believer that everyone has a hidden talent, and that all kids should show the world what they can do and who they are.
Tomato basil bites
Fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper
Method – Select one size of tomatoes and cut them in half then gentle scop the seeds and fill it with mozzarella bocks. Place a fresh basil leaf on top and add salt and pepper to taste.
Celery peanut butter sticks
Ingredients- fresh celery stalks
Method – Cut the celery stalk into bite-size pieces and fill the gaps with peanut butter (Sweeten peanut butter) place fresh berries of your choice on top.
Cucumber and tuna bites
Ingredients – fresh green cucumber
Tuna salad (tuna, onions, red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, fresh coriander leaves, lime juice, chickpeas, onions, green chilli, salt, pepper, chilli flakes, olive oil)
Method – Tuna Salad – Chop the red onions bell pepper and tomatoes, fresh coriander leaves green chillies and mix it all in a bowl by adding olive oil chilli flakes lemon juice salt and pepper and finally add the chickpeas, Tuna and mix it well.
Cut thick slices of cucumber and place the tuna salad on top.
Guacamole baguette bites
Ingredients- Baguette, butter, avocado, red onions, green chilli, salt, pepper, cherry tomatoes, lemon juice, honey
Method – Guacamole. in a bowl finally chop up red onions, green chilli, cherry tomatoes and avocado and mix it well until it forms into a paste. Add lemon juice, honey salt, pepper and red chilli flakes.
Cut the baguette into thick slices and toast it in a pan with butter.
Place the Guacamole on top of the toasted baguette and top it off with finely slice cherry tomatoes.
Method – Blend boiled cauliflower milk, melted butter red chili flakes, salt, pepper dried rosemary /thyme.
Boil the spaghetti
In a pan add butter and the cauliflower puree (add milk if the paste is too thick) add the spinach and cook well. Finally, add the boiled spaghetti and serve in a bowl and garnish with parmesan cheese.
rocket leaves, red/yellow bell pepper, green cucumber, green olives, fresh dill olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, salt pepper, Dijon mustard
Salmon cooked in garlic oil.
Marinate the salmon with salt, pepper, lemon juice, chicken stock powder dried rosemary/thyme.
Heat olive oil and butter in a pan and once heated add 3-4 cloves of garlic and fresh rosemary then add the marinated salmon and cook well. When serving top, it with a dried cranberry.
Prepare the dressing with olive oil Dijon mustard, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar salt, and pepper. Chop the vegetable green leaves and mix well with the dressing. When serving top it off with dried cranberry and fetta cheese.
When plating place the salad at the bottom and the salmon on top.