Book Review | Phirni Custard with Mixed Fruits … from Everyone Can Cook by Vikas Khanna

“The first meal was an object lesson of much variety. My father produced several kinds of food, ready to eat, without any cooking, from little tin cans that had printing all over them.”
Mary Antin

Phirni Custard with Mixed FruitsEveryone Can Cook… yet another new cookbook from award winning Michelin starred chef Vikas Khanna. I loved his earlier ones, ‘My Great India Cookbook’ and ‘Modern Indian Cooking’. Vikas writes for the global audience, and his books are full of food stories and personal connects. The title of this book seemed rather straightforward… or so I thought. I expected a simple, basic cookbook, encouraging everyone to cook. The catch lay in the word CAN!

Phirni Custard with Mixed Fruits Surprise! Surprise! The can refers to the CAN in the tin industry as in canned foodstuff. Possibly a first in this genre of cookbooks that I have seen in India, I was a little skeptical when I received the book for review. It was only when I read Vikas’s foreword, that I understood and appreciated his sentiments behind the book.

Phirni Custard with Mixed Fruits He talks about his first Christmas in America in 2000 where he cooked in the kitchen of the New York Rescue Mission. In his words, “It was here that I first saw canned food and the thought that moved me was how cans were touching lives through food”. Twelve years later, he was approached to conceptualise recipes for a book using canned ingredients. In his own way of giving back to the community, he educates the reader about the industry through this book.

Directly or indirectly, it impacts millions of lives – thousands of families who provide fruits, vegetables, meats etc. 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. In India, rag pickers are considered the main cog in the recycling wheel; they work in underprivileged conditions. For every copy of the book sold, Hindustan Tin Works, the brainchild behind the book, will contribute a part of the proceeds towards the upliftment of this underprivileged community.

Everone Can Cook is a reflection of just how large-hearted he is. I didn’t realise that the canning industry supports such a large community, fosters relationships, helps farmers. Of course it gets the freshest produce preserved for consumers with little loss of nutrition too. The good thing about steel, the primary material used to make cans, is that it can be recycled infinitely without degradation of quality. Recycled cans also inspires art … Andy Warhol type art, or recycled can art!!

Andy Warhol Soup Can ArtLiving in the plains of North India, we don’t realise how blessed we are. We tend to take fresh produce for granted. How often would you reach for beets and carrots in a can, or say canned mushrooms? India is not a huge user of canned foods. It is only now that you see shelves in local bazaars lined with canned foodstuff, a lot of it imported.

Phirni Custard with Mixed Fruits Yet in retrospect, cans were the accepted norm in certain food areas when we were young. Cheddar almost always came out of the round Amul tin, baked beans on toast {a standard of the armed forces breakfast menu} canned again. How can I ever forget condensed milk? We grew up on it, stealing spoonfuls out of the can when no one was looking.

Dark Chocolate Orange Yogurt Eggless Cheesecake 7Cut to now, condensed milk is something I always have on hand. My favourite cheesecake, Dark Chocolate Orange Yogurt Eggless Cheesecake has a can of condensed milk as it’s main ingredient, as do my eggless brownies. Of course my version of Saffron Rice Pudding also uses it. Other canned things I like to stock up is tomato puree, coconut milk & cream, and fruit bits. I did a delicious Tropical Cream Pie with canned fruit bits a while ago … won me first prize in a contest!Tropical Cream PieEveryone Can Cook is divided into easy sections like starters, soups, meat, poultry, vegetables, desserts, beverages etc. I hope it will make the Indian audience look at canned food in new light. The book offers refreshing ideas and innovative ways to use canned food. The good thing is that it makes you think differently.  I especially liked the Peach & Sundried Tomato Chicken Tartlets, Lamb Goulash, Coconut Curry Mango Chicken, Cheese Chili Soup, Chili Crab Mini Falafels, Roasted Peaches with Coconut Walnut sauce & Orange Lychee Pineapple Juice. So much you can cook out of a can!

Phirni Custard with Mixed Fruits The phirni custard was delicious; the fruit pairing quite interesting. It’s a book that makes you think out of the box can! It also makes one appreciate the contribution of the lesser known canning industry to our food centric lives, an industry we tend to take for granted. Did I mention the pictures in the book? Beautifully styled and leaping off pages!

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

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Comments

  1. That’s sounds a interesting book….Cake looks droolicious…..and so the phirni…love the addition of fruits…a yum makeover to regular phirni…..clicks are awesome….

  2. Exquisite and wonderfully fruity! both the custard and cake look truly mouthwatering. This book sounds interesting.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  3. wow my jaws just dropped looking at this stunning click I love all ur recipe and the jokes that u say on facebook loving u dear.

  4. Hi deeba,
    Is the consistency thick … I cup rice means ABT 200 gms rice.
    Wld try the recipe soon.

    Sana

  5. Hi there, just popped over to let you know that your link to Food on Friday: Jams, Jellies & Relishes was featured in my Need Some Inspiration? Series on Carole’s Chatter today. Cheers

  6. Deeba , I just loved the way you arranged those colored fruits on top of white phirni. I hardly use canned soup since I cannot control the sodium content but canned beans like chickpeas, fruits and jams are really useful.

  7. Love Phirni and the book looks interesting. I enjoy your pictures and the cakes oh my God, no one can make it look that interesting.

  8. your pictures are always an amusement for me. Missed blogging and following your posts for 1 year, i m glad to be back to the Blog world and now I must read all the posts i missed by your Deeba! :D

    and that kheer…….what can i say….just want to devour it now! craving some good ol’ kheer now.

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