Celebrity chef Vikas Khanna’s connection with kids stems vastly from the fact that he hosted a cooking show that featured them as contestants, earlier this year. Now, he’s come out with an entire book of recipes dedicated to them.
“I started writing it three years ago, but we kept debating whether the market was ready,” admits the chef, adding, “But then an Australian cooking show for kids aired here, followed by the Indian version, and they both got a lot of attention. That’s when we felt the time was right.”
The book called Young Chefs includes easy recipes for dishes such as pizza pops, cakes that don’t require baking and even uncomplicated chicken tikka masala. In this interview, he talks about compiling this book and who he looked up to when he started off as a young cook.
As a kid, who were your culinary idols?
It has always been my grandmother. She made eight or nine simple Punjabi dishes, but they always tasted good. It takes great expertise to ensure that kind of consistency. She really encouraged me to follow my dream. Today, it’s very heartening to meet more children who say they’d like to be chefs when they grow up.
Some of your recipes involve the use of knives and stoves. Do you feel kids are ready for such procedures?
We did auditions where kids tested the recipes. If you look carefully, there are exclamation marks at several points in the recipes. They indicate that the kids need to call an adult to help them with that particular step. Lots of research went into making the book children-friendly. Images are the best way to teach them, so we have plenty of those.
What age group are you targeting?
When we launched the book in Mumbai, there was a huge crowd and almost 200 people were left waiting outside the store. The manager was apologising because he had no more copies to sell. Funnily enough, it wasn’t only kids who wanted the book. There were many older people who didn’t know even the basics. I had a tag that read ‘8-12 years’ as the target age group, but I took it out after that.
* 350gm plain flour
* 2tsp ground ginger
* 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
* 125gm butter, diced
* 150gm soft dark brown sugar
* 4tbsp golden syrup
* 1 egg, beaten
* Sweets, currants and icing for decoration
Ask an adult to preheat the oven to 180° Celsius. Line two large baking trays with baking parchment. If you only have one tray, you’ll need to cook the biscuits in batches. Place the flour, ginger and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl. Stir ingredients with a wooden spoon and mix thoroughly.
Rub the butter into the mix using your fingertips. Continue rubbing in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
Stir in the golden syrup and egg until the mix comes together like dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until its smooth. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 5 mm. Use your cutters and cut shapes. Re-roll the leftover dough and cut out more biscuits until it’s all used.
Place the biscuits on the baking trays and bake in the oven for nine to 10 minutes or until golden. Allow the biscuits to cool on the trays. Decorate them with sweets, currants, and icing.
* Pizza dough
* 12 small lollipop sticks
* 2–3 tbsp tomato purée or passata
* 150gm (51/2oz) grated mozzarella cheese
* Half a yellow pepper, sliced
* 6 red cherry tomatoes, halved
* 6 yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
Divide your pizza dough into 12 small balls. Flatten the balls to form circles that are roughly 8 cm (3 inches) in diameter. Insert a stick into each uncooked circle. Spread the tomato sauce over the circles using the back of a spoon. Decorate with grated mozzarella, peppers, and tomatoes.
Bake the pizzas in a preheated oven 180° Celsius (350°F/Gas 4) for 15 minutes. Serve.