Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Review : Young Chefs - Vikas Khanna

Chef Vikas Khanna released his latest book - Young Chefs - on November 14th (Children's Day) in collaboration with Penguin India / DK Books.

Vikas Khanna is a Michelin starred Chef. As a judge on Masterchef India and Junior Masterchef India he is now a well recognised name and face in most foodie households in India.

The recipes in "Young Chefs" are well illustrated with a lot of them following a photographic step-by-step format, which makes them easy to follow for kids (they can check the pictures to verify consistency, texture and colour). I personally think that the first few pages are the most helpful section of the book. They include a photographic index of cooking tools, preparing ingredients and ways to cook & bake.

The book is divided into 5 main sections – breakfast bites, lunchbox, main meals, drinks, and sweet

Each recipe clearly mentions number of portions, prep time, cooking time and a lot of them also itemise the tools needed for each recipe to be prepared. I think, that is a wonderful idea for young cooks, so they can have all their tools ready along with their ingredients. Some recipes also have doodles of the ingredients and tools used.

There is also a warning sign (white exclamation mark in a red triangle) against recipes / steps which involve hot ovens, hobs, or sharp implements. Depending on the age of your child you can interpret it to mean adult help or adult supervision.

The recipes range from simple boiled eggs and eggy bread (French Toast) to Sweet Corn Fritters, Chilly Paneer, Veg Lasagna and Chicken Tikka Masala. The recipes aren't restricted to Indian staples, they come from all across the globe. But they are all dishes that are exciting for young chefs to cook or eat. Fun facts and tips accompany some recipes.

Its a lovely book to introduce a young chef to the pleasures of cooking, but there are a few things, I hope they can take care of in the next book.
- The recipes for crepes and pancakes are combined on one page in a manner which I think may cause some confusion for a novice cook.
- The recipe for cheese & pesto straws calls for cooked shredded chicken breast in its ingredients but isnt used in the recipe.
- On the page with 4 ways with kebabs - the non veg kebabs have a prep time of 20 minutes, but the prep time for the tofu chunks is 80 minutes. I later realised they had clubbed the marination time with prep time, but it was only for this recipe and not the other 3. Some standardisation will need to be maintained.

My other concerns with this book are:
- Some ingredients like yellow cherry tomatoes, smoked haddock and baby leaf spinach are difficult to find even in a larger Indian metro cities.
- Most recipes call for canned tomatoes and chickpeas and other ingredients. Given the availability of fresh ingredients in India and the side effects of preservatives and sodium in canned products, I would like to see an alternative with fresh produce listed alongside the canned ingredients. 
- The kids pictured in the recipes look so clean and neat, i don't know many young chefs who are so spotlessly clean when cooking. a slightly messy apron seems more natural to me than the pristine cleanliness pictured.

However, these are more minor personal peeves than a vote against the book.

I honestly think that its a great collection of recipes to get a young chef started. Its a lovely gift to present to a young kid and I hope the next edition takes care of the little oversights in this edition.

As Chef Vikas Khanna says in his introduction "Here's to the future Michelin star chef!"

Rating : 3.8 / 5

Note: Young Chefs is not yet available on flipkart or amazon. I was sent a copy of this book by Penguin and it was launched on the 14th, so I'm not sure if it is available in bookstores yet, but keep your eyes open and I'll update the online buying links as soon as they go live.

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