Eat your heart out: Simple recipes for a special Valentine’s Day dinner

Champagne float, braised lamb shanks and Turkish Delight pavlova — it’s easy to impress with cookbook author Jan Kohler’s romantic menu

11 February 2021 - 06:00 By Hilary Biller
Jan Kohler, the author of 'Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes'.
Jan Kohler, the author of 'Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes'.
Image: Supplied

Champagne float, braised lamb shanks and Turkish Delight pavlova may sound like a fancy restaurant menu, but with these easy recipes from Jan Kohler, you too can cook like a chef this Valentine’s Day.

Kohler, a mom of three and avid entertainer, loves to delight her guests with her clever cooking. In her new cookbook, Pink Gin and Fairy Cakesshe reveals how even inexperienced cooks can create delicious meals and treats without having to stress or spend hours in the kitchen.

The beauty of her Valentine’s Day menu is that while the dishes are impressive, they’re also simple to make. 

“The lengthy cooking time of the lamb shakes makes this dish look like a labour of love, but prepping it is quick, and then you can leave it to cook gently while you get on with other things,” explains Kohler.

Champagne float from 'Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes'.
Champagne float from 'Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes'.
Image: Supplied

CHAMPAGNE FLOAT

A grown-up take on an ice-cream float, this fun cocktail features sparkling wine topped with a scoop of champagne and strawberry sorbet. 

Says Kohler: "The wonderful thing about the frozen sorbet is that it ensures a refreshing, ice-cold drink. The sorbet should be made the day before and frozen overnight."

Ingredients: 

One bottle of champagne or MCC sparkling wine

A punnet of raspberries

Champagne and strawberries sorbet:

250g of strawberries, washed and chopped

250ml (1 cup) water

100g (½ cup) castor sugar

500ml (2 cups) of your favourite bottle of pink bubbly

The juice of 1 lemon (approximately 60ml)

Method:

  1. To make the sorbet, combine the water and the sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until the sugar has melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Once the sugar mixture has reached room temperature, place it in a food processor with the strawberries and liquidise the mixture. Slowly add the lemon juice and champagne, taking care with the fizz. Expect some froth.
  3. Pour this mixture into your ice-cream maker and set it according to the manufacturer’s instruction to make sorbet. Churning the mixture for about an hour will give you the right consistency, but the sorbet won’t set because of its alcoholic content. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, place the mixture in a container with a lid and put it in the freezer. When it has just frozen, return it to the food processor to liquidise and refreeze.
  4. Alcoholic beverages need a lower freezing temperature, so you need to transfer this to the freezer and leave it at least overnight.
  5. When you’re ready to make your float, use the sorbet straight from the freezer, making sure you use a really cold bottle of bubbles too. 
  6. Pour the sparkling wine into wide brimmed champagne glasses or martini glasses and then place a neat scoop of sorbet into the champagne. Expect a bit of fizz. Float a few raspberries on top and add a mint sprig if you desire, then serve immediately.
Braised lamb shanks from 'Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes'.
Braised lamb shanks from 'Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes'.
Image: Supplied

BRAISED LAMB SHANKS

"If you’re looking for something special to cook for your loved one this Valentine’s Day, this braised lamb shank dinner for two is sure to win hearts," says Kohler. 

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

2 lamb shanks (around 500g each)

Olive oil for frying

Salt and meat seasoning 

250ml (1 cup) white or red wine

250ml (1 cup) chicken stock 

1 x 400g tin of chopped Italian tomatoes 

1 onion, quartered

1 clove of garlic, peeled

15ml (1 tbsp) origanum 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Place the shanks in a flat roasting pan drizzled with a bit of olive oil. Salt and season them and place them in the hot oven to brown for about 15 minutes. 
  3. Once they’ve got a bit of colour, remove them from the oven. Add the wine, stock, tomatoes, onion, garlic and origanum to the pan. Tightly cover the pan with foil (shiny side down) and return the shanks to the oven.
  4. Turn the heat down to 140ºC and continue to cook the shanks for another 4 - 5 hours. (This timing will depend on oven variation and how tender you'd like the meat to be). Check the liquid level every hour or so as you don’t want them to dry out.
  5. When they are tender enough to fall off the bone at the slightest touch, they are ready. These can be served over a bed of mashed potato or creamy polenta, or just with a side salad.
Turkish Delight pavlova from 'Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes'.
Turkish Delight pavlova from 'Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes'.
Image: Supplied

TURKISH DELIGHT PAVLOVA

"This show-stopping pavlova is much easier to make than you would imagine," says Kohler.

Serves: 8 - 10

Meringue:

5 egg whites

280g castor sugar

5ml (1 tsp) of baking powder

10ml (2tsp) corn flour

5ml (1 tsp) white vinegar

5ml (1 tsp) rose water

Topping:

500ml (2 cups) of whipping cream

250g of rosewater Turkish Delight, chopped into small pieces

A little icing sugar, for dusting

A handful of pink rose petals, to garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease and line a flat baking tray.
  2. In a dry bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, and then gradually add the castor sugar, a large spoonful at a time, while you keep the mixer going. 
  3. Once all the sugar is in, your meringue should be stiff and shiny. Using a very large baking spatula, gently fold in the baking powder, corn flour and vinegar. Add the rose water last, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl until everything is thoroughly mixed in.
  4. Spoon this mixture onto your baking sheet, making a circular formation. Try to create something that resembles a cake, with swirls and peaks.
  5. Pop your meringue into the oven, and immediately turn the temperature down to 150°C. The baking time should be anything from an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. To check if it’s ready, open the oven door and gently tap the meringue. It should be firm and dry to the touch. If you’ve achieved that around the one-hour mark, don’t overcook it because you want it to have a soft, marshmallow-like texture in the middle.
  6. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly to let the meringue cool completely.
  7. To serve, carefully peel the paper from underneath the meringue and place it on a flat platter or plate.
  8. Whip the cream into soft peaks and pile it on top of the meringue. Then add the Turkish Delight pieces, dust with a bit of icing sugar and decorate with rose petals for a grand finish.

'Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes' by Jan Kohler, R410, is available from jankohlercooks.com