I’m always excited to see cookbooks that cater to a vegetarian diet, and that was pretty much my initial reaction when I received a review copy of “Vicky Goes Veg” by Vicky Ratnani from Harper Collins. If you watch Indian food shows on television you might have caught him on his show that goes by the same name as the book, or perhaps one of his other shows. Vicky Goes Veg is pretty much a collection of the vegetarian recipes, many of which he has cooked on his television show
Whenever anyone asks me, “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?”, I tend to opt for the bad news first. This gets the bad stuff out of the way quickly, and with the good news following, it means things can only get better. And that’s how I’m going to tell you about my impressions about Vicky Goes Veg, first the bad and then the good.
I have a tendency to avoid products, food or otherwise, which are endorsed by celebrities of any kind. I’m the first to agree that I’m probably prejudiced here, but bear with me please. My feeling is that there’s something not quite genuine about such endorsements.
And in India, there’s this belief that if you have Bollywood fraternity on board, your product will sell and whether that particular Bollywood-er knows anything at all about the product is a moot point. So I was prepared to reserve my judgement about a book with fulsome praise from people like Farhan Akhtar, Kiran Rao, Arju Ramphal and Zoya Akhtar. I know that this doesn’t make a cookbook good or bad.
My first impressions about the book were that there was no wasting of time with introductions and other stuff and Vicky Ratnani dives straight into the business of food after a dedication, a one page foreword and a table of contents. Vicky Goes Veg is a beautifully produced and attractive cookbook that is full of some good photography both colour and black and white by Sakina Zojwala.
Then I found a couple things that I personally feel would have improved the book. The first is that nowhere in the book did I see a mention of how many people the recipes would serve. From the couple of recipes I tried out I would guess that most of the recipes would probably serve 2 people. Another is that some of the ingredients in a given recipe are measured in cups while others are in gram measures. This is quite confusing, and it would have been better to stick to one or the other.
The other thing is something I hope is only an exception and not the rule in this book. One of the recipes I tried out (the one for Koshari that is given below), had instructions were a little vague. While I don’t expect recipes in cookbooks to spell out everything down to the basics, I appreciate clarity in the instructions.
The ingredient list calls for “1 cup rice, cooked”, 50gm chickpeas, cooked”, “50gm macaroni, cooked” etc. To my mind, these kinds of instructions would mean measuring out the ingredient and then cooking it (1 cup of uncooked rice measured and then cooked!). But looking at the quantities of other ingredients given which was smaller in amount, I believe Mr Ratnani meant “1 cup of cooked rice”, 50gm of cooked chickpeas”, etc. At least, that is how I finally proceeded with this recipe.
If you look beyond these facts (and you should because there’s a lot in this book that’s good), and that Vicky Ratnani keeps popping out at you in over 1/3rd the photographs in his book, his cookbook has a collection of interesting and unusual recipes which are mix of Western and Indian. You’ll find recipes for salads under “Tossed”, soups under “Blend ‘n’ Blitz”, desserts under “Sweet Tooth”, Party Starters and One-Pot Meals. The recipes are well laid out with a colour coded format for the ingredient list. They’re concise and quite doable without much effort.
The recipes in this book include and Minty Chickpeas and Crispy Okra, Cucumber and Tendli Carpaccio, Everything Green Soup, Soy and Potato Polpettis, Lentil and Charred Broccoli Chaat, Sleek Leek and Raw Mango Pancakes, Barley and Squash Risotto, Braised Plantain with Thai Spices, Granita and Frappetino.
About the author:
Vicky Ratnani is a chef, TV host and food connoisseur. Intensively trained and extensively travelled, Vicky is the Corporate Chef for fine dining at Aurus in Mumbai. His food is an amalgamation of the experiences and tastes he has acquired from his work abroad. His shows on television include the popular “Do It Sweet”, “Vicky Goes Veg” and “Vicky Goes Foreign”
The first recipe I tried from Vicky Ratnani’s book was Koshari. Koshari (also spelt as koshary, kosheri or kushari) is a popular street food in Egypt and considered by many to be the national dish of Egypt. It is made of rice, macaroni, chickpeas and lentils, topped with crunchy caramelised onions and served with a spice tomato sauce. Inexpensive and filling, it’s apparently served in almost every Egyptian restaurant, at home, and on every Egyptian street corner by Koshari vendors.
Koshari is thought to be be an adaptation of the Indian “Khichdi” – a rice-lentils creation which was brought to Egypt in the late 19th century by the British. The British adapted it into a curried rice with smoked fish, boiled eggs, parsley and lemon juice and called it “Khichree” or “Kedgeree” , while the Egyptians added pasta and chickpeas and kept it vegetarian/ vegan.
The recipe below is as it is in the book. I have added my notes in the recipe within brackets, for better understanding. Do use elbow macaroni, other tubular or any kind of macaroni of the same size. Being Indian, I would suggest serving this with plain thick yogurt, a green salad and crunchy pappads or crisps on the side.
This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from Vicky Goes Veg by Vicky Ratnani.