Christmas Dinner, Eat Your Heart Out!

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Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house, people are hungry and demanding a roast. The pressures on you and the standards are set, to make them a dinner they’ll never forget. So make a good plan and to ASDA you go, stay calm and enjoy it and on with the show!

Sarah Boxall: Fashion and Textiles

Christmas is a time for excess and indulgence, so making a Christmas dinner worth eating on a student budget is a task worth putting some thought into. I took on this challenge in first year to cook for 20 friends in my halls kitchen, and so I know a thing or two about character-building cooking-related breakdowns. The key is planning. So let me take you through my twelve ‘Days of Christmas’ tips to create a perfect Christmas dinner on a student budget.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… A plan to keep the day drama-free…

Plan your menu carefully before hand. Don’t leave it until you are wandering around the supermarket. Plan quantities, and if possible work out a budget. It’s like revising before an exam, you can try and go without, but it’s more stressful and you end result will suffer.

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me… Two-for-one deals…

Try and make some smart choices when you are shopping- the ingredients can really rack up so look for deals on ready-made mince pies, old bread for stuffing and deals on veggies. The key to stuffing everyone like a turkey is to maximise the veg-to-meat ratio. Giving them cheap veggies made mouth-watering with a little extra effort will save you buying a bigger bird. For example, value parsnips can be jazzed up to guarantee you have no leftovers. Try part boiling them, and before putting them onto a baking tray of hot oil, toss them in a little flour, grated parmesan and salt and pepper. Or just part boil then roast with fresh rosemary and honey to make them gooey and sweet.

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me… three helpful friends…

Rope in some helpers. On the day you’ll need all hands on deck, otherwise you’re going down with the ship. If you have a lot of people coming, ask friends to bring a dish, like a big cauliflower cheese, because you’re oven won’t take the strain.

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… four budget birds…

Even though turkey is the Christmas staple, when it’s surrounded with trimmings and smothered in tasty gravy, you ain’t gonna care if it’s a corn-fed Waitrose turkey, or an

Sarah Boxall: Fashion and Textiles

ASDA 2-4-1 chicken. My advice is to plump for chicken, as it’s generally cheaper and just as tasty. Ideally buy your meat from a market, where the prices are lower and the standards often higher.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… five hob rings!

Trying to boil all your veggies and get them ready at the same time is a tall order, even for a seasoned cook. My trick is to boil your vegetables early in the day, until they are about 80% cooked, then quickly put them in big bowls of water with lots of ice. This will stop them cooking and they can sit there for hours without spoiling, until you are ready to revive them. All you have to do is re-heat them when the meat is perfect!

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…  a table that needs laying…

There’s no point going to all this effort without trying to set the atmosphere. Hang some decorations, buy some value crackers and make all your friends wear the silly paper hats. If your budget is really tight steal some holly from a bush and make some paper snowflakes. Add some carols, and you’ve got yourself a party.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me… all the lovely trimmings…

Instead of paying for trimming like pigs in blankets, save some cash and make your own. Value bacon and cheap-as-chips chipolatas will be even nicer hand-wrapped. For stuffing, you could save stale bread in the run up to your meal, rub it gently to make breadcrumbs, add herbs and a big knob of butter and voila! Not a pack of Paxo in sight, and pennies still in your pocket.

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… make your sprouts appealing…

Sprouts are staple leftovers, always included on the menu and rarely appreciated. But they are an awesome little vegetable with a little imagination. Part-boil them, then add them to a pan with some friend bacon lardons and even a few chopped nuts (walnuts or pine nuts work well) for a delicious side.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… nine students dancing…

Why not turn your Christmas dinner into a Christmas party? With the mulled wine flowing and the carols blaring, you’ll soon be on your feet wailing ‘O come all ye FAAAIIITHHFUL!’

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… cranberry gravy bubbling…

Gravy is the rope that will hold your raft together. Make it seem gourmet by adding some value cranberry sauce, and a little red or mulled wine for a lip smacking reaction.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me… maris pipers’ piping…

Your roasties are a key element to the meal, so get them right or else! Maris piper potatoes are great for roasting, and don’t need much help to taste amazing. Part-boil them, then add them to a pre-heated baking tray of olive oil, sprinkle salt over them and give them about half an hour on a high heat.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… twelve tummies rumbling…

The table is laid and your decorations hung. The turkey is juicy and the veggies are done. So don’t be a twat and leave it till last, to sit with your friends and get on the lash.

Sarah Boxall: Fashion and Textiles
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