Into the mouths of babes

Cooking coach to Bollywood’s best, Rakhee Vaswani has a few tips and treats for the brats


Eggs Benedict.
Eggs Benedict.

You can’t say she didn’t warn you. Rakhee Vaswani is described as a “celebrity chef and culinary expert” on the cover and endorsed by some of Bollywood’s best inside. That’s the caveat with which you venture inside and, for what it’s worth, Picky Eaters never veers too far from form.

The premise of the book is simple: You might have spent your youth dancing your way to the top but if your child comes back from school raving about her classmate’s lunch, you’re a failure. And in these “have-it-all” times, what’s a poor parent to do, but step up? Strangely—or maybe not—that is the cornerstone of the book: To be “a MasterChef mummy or, in some post-feminist cases, daddy”.

If you can overlook that—as well the you-can-do-it tone of gentle hectoring—Picky Eaters, while not violently original, does a decent job of reiterating common sense: eat together, involve the kids in shopping and cooking, avoid stress at mealtimes. This, the first section of the book, with its combination of reassurance and blithe confidence (“If you follow my advice, your kids will slowly get accustomed to their schedule and their complaints will also reduce.”), may call for a bit of eye-rolling, but Vaswani redeems herself in Part Two, the Recipes.

Dalia upma
Dalia upma
The focus, intelligently enough, is very much on what the child wants to eat, rather than what she should eat; consequently, the recipes don’t shy away from maida or cream or cheese (though they also suggest healthier alternatives such as barley or milk), or using store-bought lasagne sheets and bottled seasoning. Divided into Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and a section each on party food and cooking with the kids, Part Two includes some classic dishes (though for the life of me, I can’t see anyone whisking up a Hollandaise sauce for Eggs Benedict on a school morning), but it’s the quick, fuss-free rips on restaurant-style ‘children’s menu’ dishes that are likely to find more takers. Lunchbox ideas, for instance, include Lebanese Wrap with Hummus and Chips, Teriyaki Chicken and Veggie Noodles and Oats and Moong Dal Tikka Frankie.

Vaswani also offers plenty of advice on disguising abhorred vegetables, substituting labneh for cream and skipping the fish sauce altogether in favour of smiling faces: To a non-parent, the level of manipulation may seem truly epic but, of course, that’s not the readership being addressed here.

On the “I wish” side of the balance, I missed an index of the recipes and better photographs (at least one seemed completely out of focus). Also, there should’ve been some clarity on the age-group of the children who are to benefit from the book: A six-year-old’s needs can hardly be equated with a sixteen-year-old’s.

Banana Pancakes

Ingredients

Flour: 200gm

Baking powder: 1tbsp

Baking soda: Half tsp

Salt: Half tsp

Sugar: 30gm

Egg: 1

Milk: 1 cup (200ml) skimmed milk/buttermilk

Butter: 1tbsp, melted

Bananas: 2, mashed

Maple syrup: as required

Whipped cream: as required

Method

1. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt in a bowl and keep aside.

2. In another bowl, mix the milk, butter, egg and mashed bananas.

3. Add the flour mixture, taking care not to over mix it.

4. Heat a flat griddle or pan over medium-high heat.

5. Spoon drops of 1 and a half - 2tbsp of the batter on the hot griddle and when bubbles appear on the surface of the little pancakes, flip them over to make them golden brown on both sides. A minute or two on each side should do it.

6. Serve hot with maple syrup and some whipped cream.

Picky Eaters And Other Meal-Time Battles By Rakhee Vaswani published by Random House India, 183 pages, Rs.299

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