Friday, February 19, 2016



Chef Vikas Khanna’s latest book, “Shaken and Stirred” promises to “refresh, soothe, revive and energise”. It delivers on its promise. “Unlike the rest of the world, India has a lot of non-spirited drinks. We all have vivid memories of our comfort drinks. For me, it was warm milk, scented with cardamom, sometimes garnished with almond slivers,” says Khanna.

Vikas Khanna is an award-winning, Michelin starred Indian chef, restaurateur, food writer, filmmaker, humanitarian and the host of the very successful TV show MasterChef India. He was also the host of another well-received television programme – Twist of Taste – on Fox Traveller. Vikas Khanna is based in New York City.

“Shaken & Stirred” is a dazzling collection of non-alcoholic drinks, including some timeless classics and exciting modern recipes with a smorgasboard of delectable options. These drinks do not take much time to make and yet taste so good. These versatile recipes allows one to play with one’s imagination and create drinks for any occasion, while keeping the pure flavour and wholesome goodness of the ingredients intact.The book gives a methodical and step-by-step recipes for creative drinks for different times and occasions. Easy to put together, these recipes clearly indicate the time taken, number of persons who can be served and also special equipment required, if any. The recipes are original and innovative. They use uncommon fruits and vegetables as well and have a variety of ingredients that make the concoctions truly titillating. The book has separate information on ingredients used and techniques and equipment required. It is a visually appealing book with excellent photographs accompanying each of the 101 recipes selected from the author’s huge repertoire. It also packs loads of information on making the drinks which have interesting flavours. For example, star anise has been used in mint iced tea.  Sandalwood and basil seeds have been infused with lime juice and pomegranate juice and mixed with jaggery and coriander sherbet.  Vikas Khanna has even used the recipes of roadside vendors selling ‘Jal Jeera’ and ‘Nimboo Pani’ for creating new flavours in his book. It is always relaxing to create magic in one’s kitchen or bar and  also on one’s palate. The drinks are not very heavy on the purse. Its effects are verily uplifting and ideal for the Indian summer.

Besides an interesting introduction, the book has 10 categories of recipes in ten chapters with meaningful names such as Refresh, On the go, Soothe, Revive, Savour, Chill, Restrain,Trick and Treat, Inspire and Raise a Toast. There is a chapter on techniques and equipment and an index on recipes.

“One of the most important aspects of anything we eat or drink is pleasure. We are bombarded with scents and flavours every day. These experiences can be stored with surprising vividness for a very long time. We all have childhood memories of our ultimate comfort drinks. Some kids wake up to the smell of coffee and for some it’s a fruity, juicy morning. For me it was warm milk scented with cardamom, sometimes garnished with almond slivers. I spent most of my childhood experiencing flavours and tastes of foods and drinks from around India. The nostalgia of perfumed cardamom chai in a clay pot, steaming my nostrils, and the kokum-flavoured coconut milk served before a lavish spread of south Indian delicacies still lingers on. I learnt how to combine the woody flavour of cumin with the liquorice taste of star anise or cool mint with lemony coriander. I remember creating a thick jam in Kashmir, using the sweet-tart flavours of cherries and combining them with the slightly liquorice flavour of fennel seeds.
Inspired, I embarked on a quest to collect and catalogue as many flavours and scents from foreign cultures as possible. This collection of drinks is a fruition of all those experiences and insights”, says Vikas Khanna. The above sums up the author’s passion behind the book. He is truly an authority on eclectic cuisine and non-alcololic drinks and an epicurean’s delight.

Vikas Khanna has risen from humble beginnings. He used to sell ‘chholey-bhature’ and ‘paneer pakodas’ in the streets of Amritsar. When he was a seven-year-old, his grandmother used to take him to the Golden Temple to make breads. Then in 1990 at the age of 19, he started his own eatery with just Rs.8000 which his mother and he earned by selling sweaters in a school. With that money he bought 24 chairs, 23 plates, two small frying pans and one tandoor. He always dreamt of opening one of the biggest restaurants in the world. He fulfilled his dream when he set up his restaurant in New York called ‘Junoon’.

There are some unknown aspects of the author’s personality. He is a great lover of poetry. He reveres the famous Urdu poet Ghalib. and calls himself a great fan of Ghalib Saheb. He even recites Ghalib’s kalam.There is yet more to Vikas Khanna  than Ghalib and international food and non-spirit drinks. He is a very down to earth man and has extraordinary knowledge on Indian spices .
Vikas Khanna has also authored a book titled Utsav. It is a 1200-page tome. It is priced at a staggering Rs eight lakhs. “This is going to be one of the world’s most expensive books. It’s an exclusive book. I just want the world to know that Indian food matters and Indian cuisine is the mother of all cuisines.” He is also planning a book on 100 varieties of rice available across the world.

Allow me to let you all into a few secrets. I have decided to 1) give my  grandaughters a terrific surprise when they come home next with ‘Cindrella’s Chocolate’, 2) to my daughter, a foodie, ‘Sandalwood and Basil Seeds on the Rocks’, 3) to my wife, a great lover of dogs, ‘Cherry,Cherry Everywhere’ (Cherry is our pet dog’s name) and to my son-in-law a great connoisseur of drinks, ‘Goji Berry Shakeratto’. I will treat myself with ‘God’s Own Drink’. To whom should I gift a copy of this book?  It is a no-brainer .To my son-in-law of course. In addition to his Stanford MBA and a fabulous job in Mumbai, he is a qualified bartender from the State of California. I will now be assured of my favourite non-alcoholic drinks when I visit him and his family. All of you too will drool over the eye-catching names and go bonkers over the drinks.

‘Three Cheers’ to Vikas Khanna for a wonderful book containing an incredible collection of recipes and pictures. One is reminded of one of the verses in Omar Khayam’s ‘Rubaiyat’ translated into English by Fitzerald: “Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough, a Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse and Thou beside me singing in the Wilderness - And Wilderness is Paradise enow.”

Shake it or Stir it, you will love it anyways.