Everyday Favourites by Vanya Insull
I worked with Vanya when she started out as a magazine designer so I’ve been fascinated to see how she has gone from creating pages to creating recipes.
A self-confessed fussy eater, Vanya discovered a latent love of food when she began her design career on Taste magazine. Reading the recipes and working on photo shoots with the talented cooks and design team awakened her taste buds, inspiring her to became more adventurous in her own cooking and food choices.
As the years went by she worked on other magazines, got married, had children, then in 2016 the family made a lifestyle change, moving from Auckland to Taupo. With time on her hands, Vanya explains in her book’s introduction, she began making videos of what she was cooking. She posted these on her Facebook page, VJ Cooks. The followers gathered, Vanya went onto Instagram, and yet more followers liked her recipes and videos. With a stash of recipes looking for a home, Vanya then developed her own website, vjcooks.com. And now many of those recipes have found their way into her new cookbook.
Vanya’s food style is for easy, tasty meals and sweet treats the whole family will love. Her book is simply but deliciously presented, each recipe accompanied by a gorgeous full-page photo of the completed dish. There’s plenty of tempting variety for the family dinner table, from light summery meals to hearty, slow-cooked winter warmers. Her two young sons have given their special seal of approval to recipes that feature a “Kids’ Fave” stamp. Simplicity is key, as is ingredient availability, so what you don’t already have in your pantry can be easily picked up at your next supermarket shop. I found a double batch of One-Pot Mince and Pasta was a no-fuss way to feed a family crowd. Equally easy and light on dishes, Baked Mediterranean Meatballs and Rice uses pre-made meatballs and is cooked all together in the oven then given a tangy flavour lift with a Minty Yoghurt Sauce. For something richer, try the Creamy Tuscan Chicken – delicious on pasta. As Vanya suggests, many of the recipes can be adapted by using other meats or vegetables, meaning you can cater to your own tastes or seasonal availability.
When it comes to the sweet chapters, I highly recommend the Gingerbread Loaf - it’s superb and so easy to whip up. The Raspberry, Coconut and White Chocolate Muffins are pretty moreish too. I also made the Chocolate Weet-Bix Slice, but instead of the Peppermint Icing featured here, I topped it with some leftover chocolate ganache – still delicious. The Vanilla Sprinkle Cake is another winner – especially with the kids - and looks so pretty with speckles of rainbow colour.
Everyday Favourites is a great book for those starting out as home cooks as well as being a source of new inspiration for anyone feeling a little jaded with their kitchen repertoire. There are many more recipes I’m keen to try and, in my view, while the internet has its place (it was certainly instrumental in Vanya’s success), you can’t beat a book on the bench when it comes to following a recipe!
Reviewer: Rowena Mara Allen & Unwin