Kids enjoy cooking, but are often sent out of the kitchen. This is odd because cooking is a skill we all need as adults. In India, most girls learn to cook when they are very young by helping their mothers, but boys are rarely encouraged. Here in America, where both parents often work outside the home, girls and boys can help in the kitchen and get this important training at an early age. Many of my cooking class students—particularly the men—wish that they had been taught to cook in their youth.
So kids, for this Father’s Day, make your dad a simple breakfast using the following recipes, and then keep on cooking. There are cooking classes designed for beginners that allow teenagers to attend. Do a google search and get into the kitchen!
Plan your menu and shop for ingredients ahead of time. Trying these recipes once before Father’s Day is also a good idea. This simple menu of sheera (hot cereal using cream of wheat or rice) served in the shape of a heart, a fresh fruit boat, and masala chai (Indian tea made with milk and spices) should take about two hours including preparation, serving, and clean-up. The recipes are easily adapted to a vegan or wheatless diet.
This easy recipe, called sheera in Gujarat, is also known as suji halva in other parts of India. Sheera can be served as a light dessert or for breakfast. It is simple, but can become an elegant entrée as in this recipe.
1 cup uncooked non-instant cream-of-wheat or cream-of-rice cereal
3 tablespoons butter or soy buttery spread
2 cups hot (but not boiling) water
¼ to ½ cup sugar or honey (if you use honey use less and add later; don’t cook it)
2 tablespoons cashew pieces
¼ cup or less golden or black raisins
a few pinches of cardamom or cinnamon powder
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the cream-of-wheat or rice. Stir-fry over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes until the grain turns golden. Set aside.
In a separate pan heat the water and add the sugar. Cook gently for 5 minutes but do not boil. Add the sweetened water to the stir-fried cream-of-wheat or rice and blend well. Reduce the heat to very low and add the cashew pieces and cardamom or cinnamon powder. Continue to stir-fry until the sheera turns into a solid mass. This should take about 5 minutes.
Transfer the sheera onto a serving platter and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Then shape it into a heart by patting with hands or a spatula. You may want to use a paper stencil heart to help establish the shape. Decorate the heart with raisins, either by outlining an inner heart or writing a message such as “I Love Dad.” Serves four.
FRESH FRUIT BOAT
1 large ripe pineapple, papaya, or cantaloupe to make two fruit boats
½ cup each strawberries, bananas, kiwis, and apple
juice of ½ lemon or lime
a handful of cashews or almonds
You may need to ask an adult to help you carve the boat as this can be cumbersome. If using a pineapple, cut the whole fruit, leaves and all, lengthwise using a sharp serrated knife. Then discard the thick middle stem. For papaya or cantaloupe, slice the fruit in half and remove the seeds. Scoop the ripe pulp out in chunks, leaving the outer shape to be the boat.
Cut the fruit pulp you removed from the boats into smaller chunks. Hull and slice the strawberries. Peel and slice the kiwis. Cut the apple into chunks. Mix all of the fruit together in a bowl and sprinkle with lemon or limejuice. Fill the two boats generously with fruit and decorate with nuts. Chill until ready to serve. Serves four.
Most desi dads would love chai in bed on Father’s Day, and it is very simple to make. Once you learn how to make this brew yourself, you will never buy the cafeteria chai again!
Indian tea is always brewed in water and milk that have been boiled together. You can make vegan chai by using soy milk.
4 cups water
2 cups milk or soy milk (low fat is okay)
several pinches of ground cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves
2-3 heaping teaspoons of good quality loose black tea (combine half-and-half strong tea such as India black with a flavorful Darjeeling found in Indian grocery stores)
1 tablespoon (or to taste) sugar or honey
Heat the water and milk together in a saucepan. Add the spices. Allow the mixture to come to a full boil. Pay attention, and turn off the heat when the liquid begins to rise. Add the tealeaves, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and allow the tea to steep for five minutes. Strain and serve with your choice of sweetener. Makes enough for Dad and Mom.
Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, author of Flavors of India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine lives in San Francisco where she is a manager of Other Avenues, a health food store. Her daughter Serena Sacharoff is an illustrator and art student.