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Sep 14, 2011 11:30 AM

Indian Cookbook for Child Chef-to-Be?

Our family has a treasure trove of recipes from our various ethnicities that we are sharing with my 11 year old nephew who loves to cook. Sadly, though we have members of the family from Africa, Europe, China and Cuba, none are expert chefs in the cuisine he wants to learn (probably because of Bal Arneson)...Indian.

Do any of you have recommendations for a user-friendly Indian food cookbook, one who is learning techniques but loves to experiment with new ingredients and spices?


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  1. How wonderful that your nephew is interested in learning to cook. I immediately thought some of Madhur Jaffrey's books would be a good place to start since many of her recipes are quite easy to both prep and cook. I particularly was thinking about Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking... There are many recipes I'm sure a young person of 11 could manage.

    But then I Googled and found this book specifically for children ages 9 - 12.
    The 2nd International Cookbook for Kids, Chef Matthew Locricchio. It contains recipes from India, along with Greece, Thailand, and Brazil.

    1. Madhur Jaffrey's very first book, Invitation to Indian Cooking (which may have been republished under different names, I think has a very good format for you, since it starts with very simple recipes (including stories about how her mom sent her recipes when she left home for collage and began to cook and becomes progressively - while the initial chicken recipe, say has just a couple of ingredients and simple spicing, there is a progression to more complex. ingredients and techniquies - tho indian cooking does not involve many difficult processes. For example very simple chicken and keema dishes. They do work their way up to many more ingredients and longer cooking times, but the book overall is a set of very accessible and workable recipes. I still use it even though I must have 50 indian cookbooks now.

      the kid will need to be able to use a knife or at least a food processor, however, there is a fair amount of chopping and slicing of onions, etc in Indian cuisine.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jen kalb

        Invitation to Cooking was my 1st India cookbook, too, when I married Mr Pine (he's from India). My copy is now dog-earred, splattered, and one edge is crispy burnt (oops, too close to the burner). Still use many of those recipes, and I found the format--easy to more elaborate--a great way to organize a cookbook and eased learning basic Indian cooking.

      2. Nice! thank you both! He is actually more adept than I am at chopping, and he takes care of his "tools" admirably. He also has a small mortar/pestle which he enjoys using. Madhur Jaffrey sounds like an excellent start. Thank you again!

        1. Ruta Kahate's 5 spices 50 dishes would be a great place to start. Since she works with just the 5 spices you learn how different techniques change the taste of the spices and you get a good sense of each spice on its own as well as how they interact with each other.
          The ingredients are easy to find and the directions are clear and concise. Lots of photos too.

          4 Replies
          1. re: chefj

            I just purchased Kahate and Invitation to Indian Cooking on amazon. I think I might keep the Kahate for me, since I am less skilled than my nephew, and need the simpler lesson.
            THANKS all! Also nice that I will be able to converse with my nephew about something he loves.

            1. re: chefj

              Five spices are all very well and there are lots of wonderful dishes - including ones that I make regulatry - that could be produced with these, but the approach hardly presents the full range of Indian flavors. Its a limited, reductive view of Indian cooking.

              Its particularly odd since the "hot spices" - cinnamon,cloves,cardamon, not to mention fennel,bay/cassia leaves and black pepper- used in many meat dishes and garam masala are not on the list, many flavors that an eater of restaurant indian food might expect will be absent. None of the Indian cuisines use only this spice set.

              1. re: jen kalb

                My point is that the lack of complex spicing is a great way to concentrate on technique and learn how individual spices taste and how different treatment of the spices changes the way they taste. This is integral to understanding of Indian cooking in general. Once you have an understanding of the basics doing more complex dishes will be easier. The same way Indians learn to cook at home.
                I do not think it odd that she picked the most commonly used spices. If you look at the spice boxes from India they have 5 compartments and the spices chosen are the same ones you would find in that box. Of course many other spices commonly used but not with consistency and frequency of those 5.
                It is common in everyday cooking especially in South India to have dishes that do not use many of the "warm" spices or any at all for that matter and many would argue that it is the more authentic Indian Cuisine since it was invaded from the north to a much lesser degree.
                I think that the idea that every Indian dish needs to have complex spice mixes is actually more limiting.

                1. re: chefj

                  Your point is well made, but I would still differ with the idea in this context., at least if meat dishes are part of the desired cuisine spectrum. I suggested a book that moves gently from simple to complex and that includes a range of different spicing options. the techniques used in Indian cooking are extremely simple for the most part (cutting/grinding, frying, simmering) until you get into specialized dishes, . the spices in the Kahate spicebox are the very basic and inexpensive ones - as you note they are probably ur-spices which would be found in any villageihiusehold throughout the subcontinent. . .

                  I focussed on the exclusion of the garam spices because their flavors are frequently found in meat cuisine, in addition to vegetarian preparations in many regions.If a cook desires toget a flavor of indian cuisine in its full range - chicken and meat in addition to dal, veg and rice - a broader book would be preferred.. Even in the narrow context of dishes that an american would have tasted, dishes like mattar or saag panir, tandoori chicken or do piaz,dal makhani or biriyani (as typically cooked here) would be outside the range of her spicing due to the exclusion of the garam spices (which are not purely spices of the invader since they are, after all, indigenous)

                  Then too, spices that would normally be included in the spicebox/palette in bengal - say, fenugreek fennel and kalonji - or in tamil nadu - say fenugreek and, black pepper in addition to sesame seeds and fried dal grains.or say, ajwain, widely used in rajasthan and other regions, etc etc.

                  Please note I am not suggesting this book is not a valuable contribution to the available literature, only that the concept may not fulfill the needs of the OP.

            2. Iyer's 660 Curries contains many fairly easy recipes, assuming your nephew is adept at chopping up veggies, etc. My 9 year old has made several dishes from this book and enjoys using a range of spices required in various recipes.