Festive feast

A festive feast

Food is at the heart of many celebrations and these deliciously achievable recipes by Vanya Insull are the perfect inspiration for any occasion

Brownie Trifle

Ready in 1 hour + chilling time × Serves 10–12

I have never been a huge fan of traditional trifle, so I came up with my own recipe using brownie and berries instead. It is soooo delicious and everyone who makes it loves it!


  • 200 g (7 oz) butter, melted
  • 1¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1½ cups self-raising flour
  • 300 g (10½ oz) frozen raspberries
  • 3 Tbsp caster sugar
  • 250 g (9 oz) fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 2 cups cream, whipped
  • 600 g (1lb 5 oz) ready-made custard
  • 125 g (4½ oz) fresh raspberries, to serve
  • 2 x 30 g (1 oz) Flake bars, to serve
  • 1 Tbsp icing sugar, to serve

To make the Brownie, preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) fan bake. Line a 27 x 17 cm (10¾ x 6½ in) slice tin with baking paper.

Whisk together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and cocoa, whisking well after each addition. Sift in the flour and fold gently to combine.

Transfer to the prepared tin. Bake for 20–25 minutes, until cooked through but soft on the outside. Allow to cool, then cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) squares, separate into 3 equal piles and set aside.

To make the raspberry sauce, place the frozen raspberries and caster sugar in a microwave-proof bowl or jug and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir, microwave for another minute, then stir again. Set aside to cool.

To assemble the trifle, arrange half the strawberries in the base of a trifle dish or large serving bowl. Top with a third of the cooled raspberry sauce, then a third of the brownie pieces. Carefully spoon in half the whipped cream.

Add a layer of custard and smooth it to the edges with a spoon. Add another third of the raspberry sauce, a second layer of brownie pieces and then the remaining strawberries.

Add the remaining custard and smooth to the edges, then top with the remaining brownie pieces and raspberry sauce. Finish with the remaining whipped cream and gently smooth the top.

Chill for at least 3 hours before serving.

Just before serving, decorate the top with the fresh raspberries, crumbled Flake, and a sprinkle of icing sugar.

Season's best: grow your greens

Tips and tricks

This trifle is even better if you make it a day in advance and store it in the fridge overnight.

Barbecued Zucchini Salad with Feta Whip

Festive feast

Ready in 30 minutes × Serves 6–8 as a side

Salty, creamy whipped feta is the perfect base for the sweet smokiness of barbecued vegetables and a tangy balsamic glaze. You won’t believe how easy it is to whip up (haha).

  • 2 zucchini, cut into strips
  • 1 capsicum, finely sliced
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and cracked black pepper, to season
  • 30 g (1 oz) rocket or baby spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic glaze

Feta Whip

  • 100g (3½ oz) Greek yoghurt
  • 50 g (1¾ oz) feta
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Place the zucchini, capsicum, and onion in a bowl with the oil and the salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

Grill the vegetables on a hot barbecue until slightly charred and cooked through.

To make the Feta Whip, mix the ingredients until smooth.

To serve, spread the Feta Whip on the base of a platter. Top with the rocket or spinach and the grilled vegetables. Scatter with the pine nuts and drizzle with the balsamic glaze.

Tips and tricks

The pine nuts could be swapped for toasted almonds or sunflower seeds.

Mini Pavlova Wreath

Festive feast

Ready in 1 hour 30 minutes + cooling time × Serves 10

This extravagant festive wreath has been crazy-popular since I released it on my website in 2020. It’s spectacular to look at but actually very easy to put together, because everything can be made in advance and assembled on the day. My huge wooden board is actually made from the lid of a wine barrel!

Mini Pavlovas

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cup caster sugar

Raspberry Drizzle

  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 Tbsp caster sugar

Chocolate Sauce

  • 120 g (4¼ oz) dark chocolate
  • ¾ cup cream
  • ¼ cup passionfruit curd
  • 250 g (9 oz) strawberries
  • 125 g (4½ oz) raspberries
  • 125 g (4½ oz) blueberries
  • 125 g (4½ oz) pomegranate seeds
  • 3 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
  • flesh of 1 mango, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp icing sugar, to dust
  • 1 handful fresh mint sprigs, to serve
  • 30 g (1 oz) Flake bar, to serve
  • 2 cups cream, whipped, to serve
Champagne Margarita

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) fan bake. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

To make the Mini Pavlovas, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form. Add the vinegar and vanilla then whisk again on a slow speed.

Increase the speed to medium and gradually add the sugar. Whisk on high speed for 5 minutes until stiff and glossy.

Spoon 10 rounds of meringue onto the prepared trays. Reduce the oven temperature to 120°C (235°F) and bake for 40 minutes, until crisp to the touch.

Turn off the oven and allow the pavlovas to cool completely in the oven with the door ajar. Once cool, store in an airtight container in the pantry for up to 4 days.

To make the Raspberry Drizzle, combine the raspberries and sugar in a microwave-proof bowl or jug and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir, microwave for another 20 seconds, then stir again. Set aside to cool, then chill until needed.

To make the Chocolate Sauce, break the chocolate into a microwave-proof bowl, add the cream and microwave for 90 seconds. Allow to sit for 2 minutes then stir until smooth. Chill until needed (you may have to warm it slightly before serving).

To assemble the wreath, place ramekins of Chocolate Sauce, Raspberry Drizzle and passionfruit curd on a large serving platter. Add the Mini Pavlovas in a circular pattern. Fill in the gaps with the fresh fruit. Sprinkle with the icing sugar and garnish with mint sprigs and crumbled Flake bar. Serve accompanied by bowls of whipped cream.

Tips and tricks

The Mini Pavlovas, Chocolate Sauce and Raspberry Drizzle can be made up to 4 days ahead of time and stored in airtight containers until needed. You can even slice up the mango and kiwifruit in advance, to save you time on Christmas Day. Feel free to add your favourite fruits. Blackberries, cherries, pineapple, melon, and grapes would all work well. Freshly cut limes can add another pop of green.

Images and text from Summer Favourites by Vanya Insull, photography by Melanie Jenkins (Flash Studios), published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $39.99

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