Eating on a budget - Christmas Dinner
The majority of students will head home over the festive season so before we all packed up, my housemates and I always made time to get together for a fantastic home cooked Christmas Dinner.
As you know this is an expensive time of year, and with not much money to spare for luxury meals, we always thought of different ways to make this meal reasonably priced but as tasty as possible – so here’s how we cooked our Christmas dinner on a budget.
Choosing where to shop & what to buy
There are plenty of places to get all of your Christmas dinner items. We opted for one of the budget supermarket chains as this allowed more room to get different items such as Christmas napkins, crackers and even a bottle of wine so it felt much more festive!
Before we went shopping, we all agreed on a budget of £7.00 each to make sure costs were low and it didn’t end up more expensive than a meal out.
Budget supermarkets offer some great deals on meats and vegetables so that you can really load your plate as part of this meal.
We decided on two meats for the meal - Chicken and Gammon as our two meats for our roast, although not conventional it offered something for everyone. Although one housemate was pained at the idea of not having the traditional turkey.
Apologies also to any vegetarians who may be reading. My housemates were all meat-eaters so we didn’t need to offer a veggie option, but there are plenty of alternatives for those on a special diet.
Shopping list… (Serves four)
• Large Chicken (£3.39)
• Unsmoked Gammon Joint (£2.65)
• Parsnips (69p)
• Carrots (49p)
• Broccoli (49p)
• Brussels Sprouts (69p)
• 2 loose Red Onions (28p)
• Cauliflower (89p)
• Butter (65p)
• Flour (39p)
• Milk (99p)
• Streaky Bacon (95p)
• Pre-made Pigs in Blankets (£1.29)
• Pre-made Stuffing (£1.49)
• Maris Piper Potatoes (£2.00)
• Finest Goose Fat (£2.00)
• Crackers (£3.99)
• Napkins (59p)
• Bottle of Vino (£3.99)
Final total: £27.90
Let’s get cooking...
With a shopping list that immense it can be difficult knowing where to start first, so it’s great to start with peeling and chopping all the vegetables. Once all your veg has been prepped, place some of the carrots and both chopped onions around the edges of a baking tray.
Now place the chicken on the baking tray and spread over a generous amount of butter to cover the skin. Place the streaky bacon on the top of the chicken, in a zig-zag pattern until it’s fully covered. Wrap the whole thing in foil and place in an oven, pre-heated to 180°. The chicken will take around 1.5 hours to cook so you’ve got an idea of how long you’ll need for everything else!
Now it’s arguably the most important part of Christmas dinner – the roasties!
Peel and chop the potatoes and place into a saucepan of boiling water for around 10-15 minutes or until they start to soften. Drain the water and shake the potatoes around in the pan so they go fluffy on the outside – this will help them crisp up when you roast them.
Pop them on a baking try, brush over some goose fat (use vegetable or olive oil if you’re a vegetarian) and place them in the oven along with the chicken.
If you have a big enough oven, then you can also cook the gammon at the same time. Just place on a baking tray, cover in foil and pop in the oven. Most students don’t have large ovens that can accommodate a lot of food, so it might be a good idea to cook the gammon in advance.
Sprouts. Love them or hate them, they’re an integral part of the traditional Christmas dinner. We all loved them and wouldn’t be without them as part of our festive celebrations! Once peeled and ready, cut an X shape into the bottom of the sprouts (this helps them to cook through). This has caused unfathomable arguments through the years in our house as everyone thinks they have the best sprout technique (it’s me, of course!)
If you’ve got a large saucepan, then cook the sprouts along with the broccoli and the remaining carrots all in the same pan to save time and space.
In a separate hob, place the cauliflower into a saucepan to boil for around ten minutes, at the same time add equal quantities (100ml) of butter, milk and flour in a warm pan to create a thick white sauce – this will happen over the space of the ten minutes that the cauliflower is boiling. Once the sauce starts to take up some thickness add in chunks of cheese and stir until the cheese has dissolved into the sauce.
Pour the cheese sauce over the drained cauliflower and place in the oven. At the same time prepare the stuffing and place in the oven with the parsnips and the pigs in blankets.
Whip off the foil on the meats in the oven, this will allow them to brown up and crisp nicely.
Around this point, the chicken should have been in the oven for around an hour - with just over half an hour to go you can probably allow yourself to have a ten minute break!
Come back to the vegetables in the pans, turning them on a mid-level heat for the last 20 minutes. Turn any vegetables that are in the oven, such as parsnips or cauliflower cheese. At the same time, drain the juices from the tray holding the chicken, pour this into a pan and keep hold of this – you’ll need it for your gravy. After 10-15 minutes the meal should be almost done, anything that looks like it needs a bit more time cooking or boiling, leave to the end.
One of the last things to do is make a gravy, add a spoonful of flour or cornflour to the meat juices and stir on a constant simmering heat. Feel free to open up the wine, pour yourself a glass and add a glug to the pan for good measure.
Once the hour and a half is over, place everything one by one onto each dish and voilà, the meal is almost ready. Grab your crackers, stick and share a fun, easy on the wallet meal with your housemates!