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Bedford Gazette

THE

Food Features

ARTof

“Cooking Up A Storm”

Photo Sam Stern by AP Photo Staf

By Molly Gordy

S

am Stern has been a passionate cook for as long as he can remember. This is his first cookbook. It’s brilliant.” That succinct review on the inside jacket of “Cooking up a Storm” is accurate, if somewhat immodest, for it was penned by none other than Sam Stern. That it comes off as mischievous rather than arrogant is a tribute to the talents of this spiky-haired 15-year-old from England, whose self-styled “teen survival cookbook” is captivating multiple generations of readers on both sides of the Atlantic. With its bright print, ample photographs, easy-tofollow directions and versatile menus, the book (Candlewick Press, $16.95) is the perfect gift for a son or daughter heading off to college. The recipes range from homey (Silver Dollar Pancakes) to exotic (My Friend Joe’s Thai Green Curry), with plenty of vegetarian options. A front cover featuring an author as handsome as your dream prom date is a definite plus. But what sets “Cooking Up a Storm” apart from other beginners’ cookbooks is its tone: blunt, humorous, enthusiastic and unmistakably adolescent. Its authenticity was apparent when San Stern gave an impromptu cooking lesson in New York City in early August to three teenagers recruited by The Associated Press to test recipes from his book. “ I wanted to write a book for kids like me in our own voice,” he explained in a lilting Yorkshire accent while his three students chopped and stirred. “Some of my friends didn’t eat well because their parents work long hours — they’re doctors and such —

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and I thought it might be nice to kind of point them in the right direction. They needed someone to give them a shove.” Sam needed no shoving. The son of an antique-book dealer and a Shakespearean acting coach, he’s the baby of a blended family of five children who all cook, and is 10 years younger than the next in line. By the age of 3, he was helping his siblings knead bread. By age 9, he was combing his mother’s cookbooks for recipes to make on his own. “The first thing I tried was gazpacho,” said Sam. “I had no idea what it was; I just thought it sounded cool.” By age 11, Sam was watching all the cooking shows on British television and competing in the kitchen with his brother Tom, 21. “He likes to take over,” Sam Stern said with a laugh, “so I take up the challenge.” When the Tom left home for medical school, he sent text messages home requesting recipes from the family files. “We had never written them down, so my mom assigned me that task,” said Sam, who was 13 at the time. “It had to be simple enough to fit in a text message. That gave me the idea of putting them in a book to teach kids my age to cook.” He divided the recipes into categories that reflect their function in his life. The result is chapters with titles such as “When Friends Stop By,” “Exam Survival,” “Party, Party, Party” and “Impress Your Crowd.” With his parents’ help, Sam pitched the concept to an agent, who promptly got him a contract with Walker Books, a London publishing house. Sam completed the manuscript during his summer vacation — “Well, technically,” he confides. “Then I had to chop it all down again, for I wrote far too much.” T h e book’s publication in Britain last October caused an immediate sensation. Sam made the rounds of the

morning television talk shows, and was invited to cook at a charity gala with his culinary hero, Jamie Oliver. “I was so nervous, I was like ‘Oh! Dear!’” Sam recalled. “But everyone was really nice to me, so helpful, and after it felt so good!” Robust sales in Britain led to publication of the U.S. version this month by Candlewick, and an appearance on the NBC Today Show. He has a contract to write three more cookbooks, including one divided by flavors — “You know, like sweet, sour, salty and such” and another according to the time needed for preparation, “like, 10, 20 or 30 minutes.” Will success spoil this unassuming young man before he even graduates high school? Not to worry. Sam refuses to view any of his taped televised appearances — “It would be too weird watching myself ” — and purposely gave his friends the wrong airing dates so they’d miss his shows. Nor is there much of a buzz about him at school, he insists, despite his trans-Atlantic fame. “We have several outstanding athletes, including boys who’ve played cricket and rugby for England (against other countries),” he said. “So publishing a cookbook is not that big a deal.” The recipes below from “Cooking Up a Storm” were prepared successfully for The AP by untrained cooks ages 13, 16 and 17. When served together, the dishes make an elegant three-course meal suitable for a dinner party. “They were easy to make, they taste good, and I could even serve them to my parents,” said Darby Nelson, 17, an incoming senior at Bronx Science High School. “This great Thai-style soup is so sweet you could almost believe it’s not healthy,” says Stern, “but it’s full of great body boosters and improves night vision.”

Cook up your own storm Carrot Soup With Coconut and Cilantro

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led , p ee r e g oves h gin lic cl e of fres r a g c 2 h pie s 2-inc n onion ns a e 6 gre green be p peas a p n u 1c gar-s rn u s p 1 cu baby co oil 1 cup broccoli unflower s 1 cup espoons same oil l e 2 tab espoon s l 1 tab of sugar h er c p l) Pin and pep uce l) iona a d t s n p half, rn a y o a ( n i t o Salt poon so option ilantro u ( s m, c eas and c its. c i a e r e d t T m e i . l p 1 r p all b of 1 al) inge chop ans, Juice espoons s (option ate the g t the be li into sm dd the r u A l o 2 tab p cashew garlic. G thwise. C he brocc ntil hot. e other u e h t g 1/4 c chop th ions len s. Break ng pan u te. Add t 5 more i n r ly Fine green o al length large fry r 1 minu n. Stir fo y sauce e n o o r f h o i t o t 4 g r e so i slice hort dia wok r and sti ach add . Add th . Makes a n s r e i e g e g o n s n p i l t i ee in ep us gin the o betw s, if and nd p ns. Heat s, garlic , stirring ar, salt a r cashew egetaria g v n o onio s in turn with su tro and- dish for n e i n n o i g veg es. Seas ice, cila as a ma t u minu e lime j e dish, 2 h t id and gs as a s n i serv

4 tablespoons butter 1 medium onion, chopped 10 carrots, peeled and chopped 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped Handful of chopped cilantro 4 cups of canned vegetable stock or water, or 3 cups water plus 1 cup canned chicken stock 1/2 cup of canned coconut milk Juice of 1 orange 2 limes, cut into wedges Salt and pepper Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Tip in the onion with a pinch of salt. Cook gently on low heat for about 5 minutes to soften without browning. Add the carrots and potatoes. Stir. Cover and leave to sweat for 10 minutes. Add the cilantro, stock or water, coconut milk, orange juice, a squeeze of lime, and some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the carrots are soft. This could take 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the carrots. Let cool, then liquidize in a blender until smooth. Reheat gently on a low flame, stirring, and check seasoning. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing. Makes 4 servings

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