The poster boy for Indian international chefs is back. Everyone Can Cook is a brand new cookbook from the award winning, Michelin starred chef Vikas Khanna. The title of this book may seem rather generic and ‘on the nose’ at first. One would probably open the book expecting a stylised yet simplistic cookbook, encouraging the aam janta to take to their kitchens with more enthusiasm. But on reading Khanna's intro, one is made aware that the title is actually quite a clever pun, alluding to the core subject of the cookbook, which is 'CAN'ned food.
Khanna opens the book with a small anecdote about his first Christmas in America in 2000 where he cooked in the kitchens of the New York Rescue Mission. “It was here that I first saw canned food and the thought that moved me was how cans were touching lives through food,” says Khanna.
Twelve years later, he was approached to conceptualise recipes for a book using canned ingredients. In his own way of giving back to this community that takes great pains to feed underprivileged people, he educates the readers about the industry - “Directly or indirectly, it impacts millions of lives - thousands of families who provide fruits, vegetables, meats to the canneries, people who work at the canneries, people who transport the cans to the market, those who purchase the cans, even those who collect the cans and take them to recycling centres. Artists too create masterpieces using recycled cans,” he writes.
The book is divided into sections that include soups, starters, meat, seafood, poultry, vegetables, sandwiches, desserts, and beverages.
In some cases, the ingredients can raise a slight problem - kippers and apricots aren’t available in India, canned or otherwise.
Canned goods themselves are a sort of novelty in the country.
The culture of cooking out of canned products may seem quite alien to most households here considering the fact that most canned foods available here are quite expensive, negating its original purpose.
The book however will definitely make the Indian audience look at canned food and food in general, in a new light. One of the most ingenious dishes of the book has to be the prawns in tea-infused coconut curry. The traditional South Indian, coastal dish gets an Oriental twist with the infusion of tea flavors, and it's mind-boggling how easily this dish can be made.
Some of the dishes like the Peach and Sundried Tomato Chicken Tartlets, Lamb Goulash, Coconut Curry Mango Chicken, Cheese Chili Soup, Chili Crab Mini Falafels, Roasted Peaches with Coconut Walnut sauce and Orange Lychee Pineapple Juice, may sound exotic and quite complex, but are surprisingly easy to throw together.
The author repeatedly urges the readers to add their own ingredients to the dishes, making them quite open to improvisations. The last page provides a handy conversion table for kitchen measurements, which is quite helpful for Indian audiences.
So if you’re throwing an impromptu party and want to impress your guests, but don’t really have the time, Khanna’s Everyone Can Cook will definitely come to the rescue.