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HUNGER GAMES: A little magic and lots of mess

Let your child cook what she likes even if it sometimes results in a wrecked kitchen and grubby hands
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First Published: Tue, Feb 12 2013. 12 03 PM IST
Strawberry Cobbler with Almond Crust.
Strawberry Cobbler with Almond Crust.
Updated: Wed, Feb 13 2013. 06 48 PM IST
My daughter, I suspect, likes to cook only because she can mess up the kitchen and not be forced to clean up after her. I push her to cook in the hope that my supremely fussy eater will be tempted to try the recipe she has made her hands grubby with.
Right now only one of us is winning this game…but sometimes you have to lose the small stuff to win the big one ultimately.
Vikas Khanna. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint.
Last week I caught up with Punjabi boy Vikas Khanna, a chef from Amritsar who has won two Michelin stars, runs a restaurant in New York, will host Masterchef India for the second time starting 11 March and has just released a book Khanna Sutra: Food Lessons in Love, ahead of Valentine’s Day. While Khanna categorically told me he hopes this book will help more Indian men make their way to women’s heart enroute their stomachs, I could not help but think that the recipes from the dessert section might be a perfect practice ground for kids who want to learn how to cook too. For one, the techniques recommended to whip up these desserts are not complicated. Also, as I flipped through it, I was surprised to find that the dessert section was not overloaded with recipes that needed chocolate. My almost nine-year-old is mostly choco-phobic and refuses to work with any recipe that demands chocolate or cocoa in any form. She is a colours girl you see, and as long as there are red, pinks, yellows and greens in the food, she is happy to measure, mix and knead. With pears, kiwis, apples, mangoes, strawberries and lemons making an appearance in the section and Khanna telling me how one can replace wine or champagne with juices, I saw no harm in letting the tot flip through that section (after all I did not want to be sitting with a pocket dictionary trying to explain what aphrodisiac meant and how pear, apple, and strawberries are classified thus).
Khanna Sutra—Food Lessons in Love: By Vikas Khanna, Om Books International, 184 pages, Rs 895.
While she dissed the cover of the book (she was appalled that Khanna allowed his hands to be dipped in chocolate), two recipes were selected, first by the image and then by reading through the ingredients list. Strawberry Cobbler made the cut because we had 2 boxes of strawberries lying in the fridge and she does not like eating strawberries raw mostly because they are a little sour for her. She asked if we could sprinkle some icing sugar with cornstarch on them after she had butchered them in any shape she wanted (we had to hull the strawberries for this recipe but madame insisted on chopping them in a skewed manner). The second one, Citrus Shortbread was selected I suspect because in the method it was clearly stated that flour, salt, butter, and sugar had to be mixed by hand and then egg, lemon rind, and lemon juice had to be added and the dough to be kneaded by hand not mixers.
We tried making both the recipes over the weekend, and while the Strawberry Cobbler (recipe below) looked prettier, the Citrus Shortbread (recipe below) was tastier. Unfortunately the icing sugar did not do the trick to sweeten the sour berries.
Citrus Shortbread
Serves 4
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
A pinch of salt
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 lemon, peeled and rind finely chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
Juice of 1 lemon
Citrus shortbread.
Method: Combine the flour, salt, butter, and sugar in a bowl. Mix with your fingers until it forms flaky crumbs. Mix in the egg, lemon rind, and lemon juice and continue to mix until the dough comes together. Form into a large ball and wrap it in plastic; refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Roll the dough into 1⁄8 inch thickness, between two sheets of floured parchment, dusting it with flour as needed. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Using a spatula, transfer on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F for 8 to 12 minutes until the edges are just slightly golden brown depending on the thickness of the cookies. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes.
Strawberry Cobbler with Almond Crust
Serves 6
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup blanched almonds, finely chopped
¼ cup packed light-brown sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled (halved or quartered if large)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Method:In a medium bowl, mix together flour, almonds and sugar. Using your hands, incorporate butter into flour mixture until large, moist clumps form. Cover and refrigerate for up to one hour. In a medium mixing bowl combine the strawberries and cornstarch and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375º F. Divide the strawberry mixture in 6 ramekins and sprinkle evenly with chilled flour mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes until the fruit is tender and crust is golden.
(Recipes and images courtesy Khanna Sutra: Food Lessons in Love)
This weekly series which appears on Tuesday looks at what’s new with food and how we are interacting with it.
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First Published: Tue, Feb 12 2013. 12 03 PM IST