British Christmas Food in Brazil (part 2), OR: It’s a Mere Trifle

Yesterday I did my best to convince you all that I’m some kind of super-chef (it’s great having your own blog, you can tell stories that make you sound great). Today I’m going to continue in the same vein by telling you the story of this year’s Christmas day cooking adventure.

Pavlova – a delicious dessert that I didn’t make this year.


After the stress and hassle of last year’s Beef Wellington, I made a point of opting out of the main dish and instead offered to make sobremesa (dessert). I decided to do a pavlova – none of my Brazilian family had heard of this delicious dessert made up of layers of meringue, cream and summer fruits, so it seemed like a great option for wowing them once again. Problem was we ended up being dangerously short of time. And it was stiflingly hot. And we had to make the dessert at our place in Santa Teresa and then transport it across town to my mother-in-law’s house in Gávea. I had visions of arriving across town and unveiling some broken, melted mess.

So we switched to Plan B.


And Plan B was? Trifle! My wife had never heard of it, but when I described it to her she started drooling. We had already bought plenty of eggs, fruit and cream for the pavlova, so we had everything we needed. And let me tell you, if you know some Brazilians you want to impress, this could be the way (and far simpler than Beef Wellington!). If you are Brazilian, then I guess you could make it to impress your friends? Here’s what I did:

Gather together the following ingredients:

  • 1 panettone
  • 4 or 5 tablespoons of Port or Sweet Sherry
  • 5 mint leaves, torn into small pieces
  • Finely grated orange zest
  • Plenty of summer fruits (think strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
  • 250ml double cream

For the custard (Delia’s recipe):

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cornflour
  • Vanilla pod, sliced open lengthways (if you can’t find one, use a few drops of vanilla essence)
  • 275ml Double Cream


  • Find a nice big bowl (we only had an ugly plastic thing, but if you can find a fancy glass bowl it will look really nice). Break the panettone up into chunks about the size of large ice cubes and place them in the bowl. They should reach roughly half way up the bowl.
  • Drizzle over plenty of port and let it soak into the panettone chunks for a few minutes. Then lightly push down on the panettone chunks so that they are squeezed down and together into a neat layer.
  • Now put down a good generous layer of fruit – reserve a handful to put on top. Sprinkle over the orange zest and torn up mint leaves. Put the bowl in the fridge.
  • Put the egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour in a mixing bowl and stir well.
  • Put the cream (the cream for the custard only) in a small saucepan and gently heat it until is is just about to boil. Take off the heat.
  • Slowly add the hot cream to the mixing bowl, stirring well so that the cream mixes into the egg yolks and sugar. Once all the cream has been added, pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and gently heat.
  • Add your vanilla pod (or essence) at this point. Continue to gently heat, stirring all the time, until the custard becomes good and thick. Now remove from the heat and allow it to cool.
  • When your custard has cooled a little, spoon it over the ‘fruit layer’ and spread it around to make a nice even ‘custard layer’ (discard the vanilla pod). Put the bowl back in the fridge.
  • Once the custard layer has cooled, whip the cream (the cream that isn’t for the custard) until it it really thick – if you’re doing this by hand (I was) it will take 5-10 minutes. Spread the cream on top of the custard and now you have your third layer.
  • To finish off, decorate the cream layer with the fruit you reserved. If you want (I did) you can grate some chocolate over the top.

OK, so presentation leaves a little to be desired (also, I went a bit crazy with the grated chocolate), but you see those blueberries? They made this an absolute winner with the Brazilians!

Jeez, does that make it sound really complicated? Honestly, it is actually really easy and although our crappy plastic bowl made it look a bit amateur, it was really yummy and everyone went mad for it. A little tip for success here – make sure you include plenty of blueberries! Seriously, all the Brazilians were looking at these things like they were moon rocks or something!

What a lot of happy faces! Witness the power of blueberries…


OK, I think I have to deal with the fact that Christmas is well and truly over. Tomorrow I will go back to my normal subjects (complaining about stuff, writing about my herb garden, telling you about some new bus, etc…) – I bet you can’t wait!

9 replies
  1. vim
    vim says:

    That sobremesa looks yummy!! And i read somewhere else (on some expat community website) this Delia recipe.. Is she some famous cook? or is this delia recipe for custard some famous recipe?

    and woahhhh for the herb garden. I´ll be starting my indoor Kichen herb garden this week. Planning to pot by this saturday

    1) A famous indian herb called Ajwain ( usually added to traditional indian breads.

    2) Fenugreek

    3) Wheatgrass

  2. tomlemes
    tomlemes says:

    @Vim, Delia is very famous. Would you believe that she has actually become a word in the English language? Interesting, I haven’t heard of Ajwain. Is wheatgrass for something specifically Indian? Or do you use it for its juice, like in healthfood shops?

    @Gritty – that’s funny, someone else just posted that Friends clip on my facebook account! I missed lunch today so right now it sounds pretty delicious. Anyway, I think Rachel was ahead of her time… :)

  3. Joss
    Joss says:

    I totally wanted to make this too but was too lazy to make my own custard and there was a lack of tesco’s extra value custard packets in Angelonis!
    I may attempt it for new year as my fiancé still does not understand what custard is!!

  4. tomlemes
    tomlemes says:

    Hia Joss, I totally recommend it. I always had this idea that custard was really difficult, but I found it really easy. I think the only way you can go wrong is to have the cream too hot when you add it to the egg yolks (=scrambled egg) or add the cream too quickly (=lumpy bits floating in sloppy liquid!).

    My wife is such a big fan of the stuff – both times I’ve made it she has been in awe of me and my homeland! :D

  5. anna
    anna says:

    actually Pavlova is popular in brazil but they dont call it this way. The ingredients are the same or it can very a little bit.

    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Hi Anna, I should have known – it seems like a dessert that would appeal to the Brazilian palette. So i guess it was a good thing that i went for the trifle instead! :-)


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