Jan Kohler makes cooking up a storm easy with ’Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes’

The festive season is almost upon us. With traditional family gatherings coming up, many of us have menus on our minds.

Jan Kohler’s “Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes” might help solve those culinary dilemmas, especially when it comes to sweet-tooth treats.

I must admit, I was impressed by this cookbook. The recipes are easy to understand, which definitely reduces those nerves in the kitchen. Not only that, there are plenty of ideas for kiddies’ party treats.

Jan Kohler gets her kids to lend a helping hand baking a few sweet treats.

In a recent chat with Kohler, she said: “For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved cooking. Even as a child I took great pleasure in laying a beautiful table, making a meal and harvesting veggies from our garden. My recipes are simple because this is what I grew up with.”

Kohler added: “I never intended to pursue a career in cooking so instead, I followed my creative dreams and went into graphic design. My passion in the kitchen continued to grow over the years, however, and my outlet was endless entertaining – I turned into a “feeder”. So many friends kept asking me to share recipes, particularly moms that I spent a lot of social time with as we were raising children together. One group of friends said, ‘Just put it all together in a book for us’, and they didn’t relent until I did.”

A book is an intimate introduction to an author. On what she wanted to convey through “Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes”, Kohler said: “This book really showcases how I do life through food and entertaining. I think it is a reflection of me as a mom who loves to see kids enjoy the food that’s put in front of them; as an entertainer who takes great joy in feeding masses of friends around my table; and as a nostalgist who still cooks recipes from the past with the same love and passion as my grandmothers did.”

The oxtail recipe from “Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes”.

The cookbook is wonderfully broken up into useful sections: Child’s Play, Picnics, The Birthday Party, Cakes, The Parent Party, Feeding the Masses, The Sweet Stuff, Fabulously Frozen and Foraging.

“Over the years, catering needs centred around my children and their activities,” explained Kohler.

“School events often meant picnics on the school lawns for which you’d need to pack your own basket, playdates required fun snacks that might actually get eaten, parties had pressure to produce food that was wrapper- and preservative-free – not that I ever promised sugar-free!

“And while all that was going on, the adults could not be forgotten. When I compiled these chapters it was really as if I was producing a handbook for parents. Chapters of food that would work for certain occasions. That said, once you’re familiar with the chapters, you’ll comfortably gravitate toward the easy, everyday family meals, of which there are many.”

As Kohler pointed out, her interest in food took root during her childhood. The recipes are special to her, too.

“The book is made up of passed down recipes, recipes shared by friends and recipes that I’ve adapted over the years. I’ve been cooking most of them without actually following a recipe for years, and so when I reflect on this collection of recipes, I guess it comes down to those that were unforgettable, easy and ones that I could resonate with,” she added.

The champagne float is the perfect summer drink.

Reflecting on the three recipes in the book that have a special resonance, Kohler said: “So this is where the nostalgist in me comes out. I was lucky enough to have two grandmothers who loved to cook and bake. I have wonderful memories of my Ouma Fransie’s crumpets being served to us as kids during the holidays spent with my grandparents. My children love this for breakfast now, and actually whip it up all by themselves on a Saturday or Sunday morning. For me, my Ouma’s legacy lives on. Similarly, Ouma Ann’s chocolate cake is a regular feature at birthdays or under my cake dome, just because. Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned chocolate cake?

“And finally, I have to mention the oxtail stew. It’s my absolute favourite and brings home childhood memories of not only great comfort food but also learning to cook something in the right way; slowly, with care and patience. Thanks to my parents, I’ve had great food mentors in my life.”

Given the amount of time she spends in the kitchen, Kohler admitted to being lost without her Kenwood food processor and a good, strong spatula for large cake mixes.

“These are two things I couldn’t do without,” she laughed. “In my fridge and pantry, you will always find great quality, whole Italian tinned tomatoes, bottled anchovy fillets and Grana Padano cheese.”

While she loves being a “feeder”, Kohler isn’t a big dessert lover. But when it comes to pasta, that’s a different story – maybe one for another book.

“Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes” is available at book stores and sells for R410.