Vikas Khanna Posts

Vikas Khanna’s “My First Kitchen” and Jamie Oliver’s “5 Ingredients”

I love cooking. It is my stress buster. I read recipe books, experiment with dishes and those that come out well, I note in my handwritten recipe book. A collection that has handwritten recipes in it of at least four generations of men and women. It is always challenging to balance nutritious meals with simplicity and within affordable budgets.

The other day my eight-year-old daughter asked me while I was writing down a recipe in my book whether it was essential for everyone to write and consult recipes. This is coming from a kid who prefers to learn cooking by watching me in the kitchen rather than consult recipes. She has been assisting me in the kitchen from before she could walk. This may sound like a tall claim but it is true given that I would plonk her on the kitchen surface and get her to pluck leaves for a salad or help mix cake batter. Soon she was using the rolling pin and stirring dishes on the stove. Of course all under supervision! Anyway, getting back to cooking in the kitchen with beginners.

When I was doing my undergraduation, some of my classmates would proudly claim that they had never set foot in the kitchen and did not even know how to make a cup of tea let alone boil an egg. I was horrified. Not necessarily that these were mostly girls from conservative backgrounds and were soon to be married off, so how would they survive in their new homes? I was truly concerned about their well being as it requires all your wits and more to learn to negotiate spaces in your marital home. But I was also horrified at another level. How could their parents have brought up their children in such a manner so that they did not even know the basic survival skills of cooking? This is not a socially coded gendered preoccupation. It is basic survival skills.

Modern living is very strenuous and is full of stresses. It does begin to prey on one’s health too. Given the shortage of time reliance on fast foods and takeaways is inevitable. The growth of this industry can be gauged by the mushrooming of apps that provide delivery of food packets from various outlets to their customers. It is undoubtedly a booming industry. Having said that if with a little planning and stocking up on ingredients putting together a nice dish without too much fuss is easily done. Those with familiar with cooking can easily rustle up something even at the end of a long and tiring day at work but there are many others, first timers to the kitchen, who are unable to proceed without instructions. For such scenarios, easy-to-learn and easy-to-consult recipe books, I came across — Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients and Vikas Khanna’s My First Kitchen— published a few months ago. Both are magnificent hardbacks with full-page colour photographs and extremely easy instructions on putting together dishes. To an experienced eye many of the recipes in the books are fairly balanced nutritionally while to a beginner they seem like easy-to-rustle-up tasty dishes. The plus point for both the recipe books is that there is practically no fancy equipment or ingredient required to create the wonderful creations shown.

Jamie Oliver has been known for many of his recent publications to do full page spreads of every single recipe he mentions. It is a very generous allowance from his publisher but it is understandable given how well his books sell especially at Christmas time. And this is exactly the element that makes his cookery books ever so attractive as every single recipe is well illustrated and thus easy to consult. So even if you miss understanding a particular step of the process, it all comes together upon seeing the picture accompanying the recipe. The food photographs in the book are of excellent quality, a feat that is unfortunately not achieved by most cookery book publishers. His philosophy of cooking has always been on the quick, easy and nourishing. And it comes through in the recipes collected in this particular book with recipes such as Speedy Steamed Pudding Pots, Chocolate Orange Shortbread, Smoky Mushroom Frittata, Creamy Mustrad Chicken and Peachy Pork Chops. All easy to make as long as the ingredients are handy.

In a similar vein is Vikas Khanna’s My First Kitchen, a collection of basic recipes  (mostly Indian) that are easily turned out. For instance Pumpkin Orange Soup, Creamy Beetroot Spine, Roasted Basil-Sesame Chicken, Sprouted Lentils with Coconut and Tamarind and Green Papaya with Clove-Nigella Scent. These are only some of the recipes. Most of them are easy to make but these are most certainly meant for a cook based with easy access to a variety of ingredients.

So to all those wishing to eat at home and perhaps learn a few recipes try these two cookbooks, a good start for your forays in to the kitchen.

To buy on Amazon India 

Vikas Khanna ( Hardback and Kindle)

Jamie Oliver ( Hardback and Kindle )

3 November 2018 

Diwali 2017!

In June 2017 while inaugurating the National Reading Mission programme the prime minister of India said that instead of presenting bouquets people should gift books. A great idea! During Diwali, festival of lights associated with the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity, folks gift presents to each other. Why not books?

Here are my recommendations of some beautiful books. It is an eclectic list of books meant for readers of all ages. Diwali is an excuse to indulge oneself. Why not buy delicious books as gifts?!

Dayanita Singh: Museum Bhavan   An extraordinary publishing achievement is to package the mind-blowing exhibition curated by photographer Dayanita Singh into this nifty, limited edition, box. Every piece is unique. A timeless treasure!

The Illustrated Mahabharata This has to be one of the most scrumptious books ever available. It is a retelling of the Hindu epic with beautiful illustrations and layouts.

The Chocolate Book

Scholastic Book of Hindu Gods and Goddesses

Hungry to Read

Diwali Stories

Bloomsbury Academic’s Object Lessons list is fantastic. For instance, BookshelfVeil, Dust, Cigarette Lighter, Silence etc.









Vikas Khanna’s richly produced collection of recipes My First Kitchen 

Rehearsing Freedom : The Story Of A Theatre In Palestine 

Words from the Hills  A beautifully illustrated diary combining the talents of Ruskin Bond’s remarkable words with the stunning watercolours of Gunjan Ahlawat. A must have!

Vikas Khanna – two books

In the past few months I have received two books related to Vikas Khanna, an award winning Michelin starred Indian chef. One is a picture book, The Magic Rolling Pin, and the second is Shaken & Stirred — a collection of 101 non-alcoholic blend recipes. In India he has also acquired a fantastic fan following among children ever since he was a judge on MasterChef Junior, India. He comes across as an affable and a pleasant presenter, whose warmth radiates from the television screen or in still photographs circulating on the Internet.

Vikas Khanna, DK, April 2015Shaken & Stirred is a collection of 101 recipes of cooling drinks. The book’s release has been timed well with the onset of summer in North India. Reading some of the recipes such as “Sassy Peach Karat”, “God’s Own Drink” made with lemongrass stalk and coconut milk, “Orange Pepper Samba”, “Rose Sunrise Refresher” and “Kokum Granita” makes you want to sip them immediately. The food photographs accompanying the recipes are outstanding. ( Indian publishing has come a long way from producing insipid pictures in recipe books. Instead the pictures in this particular DK book have a razzmatazz that is magical. Most of the photo credits go to Vikas Khanna.) But I have my reservations about many of these recipes. They seem exotic and many of the ingredients seem impossible to get locally or available at an exorbitant price. It is interesting that for a man hailing from Punjab, who learned his cooking from his grandmother, there is not a single recipe with mango given. At a time when chefs like Jamie Oliver make cooking seem so easy and are not averse to being influenced by flavours worldwide, I cannot help but feel that Vikas Khanna’s recipes are much like what the Indian authors of the diaspora are doing with literary fiction — their memories of their time spent in India are sharp but are being recreated with a panache using words, acceptable to an international palate. Vikas Khanna is doing something similar with cuisine.

Speaking of his grandmother, The Magic Rolling Pin, is a hagiographical picture book recounting Vikas Khanna’s childhood. The images areCrossword-InorbitMalad-VikasKhanna-TheMagicRollingPin-14Nov2014 computer created showing a happy young boy intrigued by the kitchen, his Biji bustling about cooking and later their involvement in the langars organised at the Golden Temple, Amritsar. But it is a complicated picture book since the reason for its publication does not seem to be the target audience, instead it is capitalising on the success of Vikas Khanna. As an idea it is worth considering, only if the book had been produced with care, focusing on the quality of illustrations, providing accurate information ( a reference to “golden clothes for Baisakhi” is accompanied by an illustration of the boy wearing red clothes) and being technically sound in laying of text involving repetition of words and using phonetics. There is far too much emphasis on the young boy in the illustrations making the text unidimensional, with little detail in the page layouts making it difficult for a child to get involved with the story, since a young reader clamours with comments like, “Show, show”; “Look, look” and “Did you not notice the detail before? I did!”. A good example of picture books that are technically sound and use bland computer illustrations are the Ladybird “Read it Yourself” series. Maybe these could have been emulated in the production and design of The Magic Rolling Pin, otherwise it is an excellent opportunity lost of introducing children to reading via an idol they admire.

Having said that, both books will remain with me for a long time since they are a good insight into Vikas Khanna, the chef, the humanitarian and restauranteur.

Vikas Khanna The Magic Rolling Pin Puffin Books, Delhi, India, 2014. Hb. pp.40 Rs 299

Vikas Khanna Shaken & Stirred: 101 non-alcoholic blends to lift your spirits DK, Penguin Random House, New Delhi, India. Hb. pp. 250 Rs 899

11 May 2015 

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