Friday, 20 December 2013

Frugal Friday...

As I write, the supermarkets are full of people running around in a panic mindlessly filling trollies and baskets with all manner of fancy foods that they would never dream of buying the rest of the year. Why? Because it's Christmas, you know! The season of good profits to all retailers, or something like that! Sure, we buy bits and pieces over and above what we'd usually get - the turkey is a good example, and Mum always pays a little more for a free range locally bred one - we know what goes into it and as a result we know that the meat will taste delicious. The bird will feed us all on Christmas day, and again on Boxing day, and that will more or less be it done. There will be a few "pop them in the oven" snacky bits for Christmas day tea too - which are tasty and make life easier.

Our tradition on Boxing Day is that Mum and I don't cook - well who wants to be slaving over a stove after all the cooking the day before? So whatever people want to eat, it either gets eaten cold, or, if they want to, they can pop it in the oven. This means that by the most part leftovers have been mostly consumed by the end of the 26th - no mountains of wasted food to be thrown away. We also try to remember that actually, the shops are only closed for 2 days - and we don't need to lay in supplies for some kind of siege!

MrEH makes our Christmas cake - a huge and epic affair to his Mum's recipe - always delicious and thanks to a liberal "feeding" with rum, it keeps pretty much forever also - no throwing away manky cake come the end of January! Mince pies - I buy a 1lb jar of fairly basic mincemeat, empty it into a mixing bowl and double its quantity by adding additional fruit, brandy or calvados, maybe some chopped nuts and glace cherries, and then make exactly the number of mince pies that the jar will then stretch to - the first batch are made then the remaining mincemeat spooned back into the jar until I make the second batch a few days later. It's usually tasting even better by then! We don't buy tins of biscuits or chocolates - we wouldn't buy that sort of thing the rest of the year so it honestly doesn't occur to us to buy them at Christmas. If some get bought for us then fantastic, that's lovely!

One of Mr EH's epic Christmas cakes - decorated by me!
To follow Christmas day lunch - some people stick with tradition and go for Christmas pudding, we've always found that a bit heavy though so tend to come up with something else - again you can spend a fortune on buying a posh pre-made dessert, but fortunes can be saved by making something yourself if you're a reasonably confident cook. Last year we had Lemon Meringue Pie which went down a storm, the year before was a New York Baked cheesecake. This year we're planning on a Lemon & Lime cheesecake topped with home made lemon & lime curd. The lemons are the remainder of the net we bought when Ben needed one for the cake, and the limes were bought at £1 for a bowlful of them from the market. The base will be basic digestive biscuits crushed up, with value butter to mix. The curd will use that same value butter too - and will cost us less than the cost of a jar of "posh" lemon curd - we'll end up with probably 4 jars - several of which will go to people as Christmas presents. The zestiness and freshness of lemon works particularly well to follow a large meal like Christmas dinner.

Other great and easy things to make which might get you a better product for a cheaper price:
Pigs in Blankets: Chipolata sausages - long ones can be twisted in the middle to make two - wrapped in streaky bacon. one rasher of streaky does 2 sausages if it's well stretched using the flat of a knife.
Bread sauce - check BBC Good Food for a choice of recipes - it's absolutely simple, I promise! make in advance to the point of adding any cream then add cream with you reheat it on the big day.
Houmous - whizz cooked chickpeas (or a drained tin) with a blob of yogurt, a slug of olive oil, a blob of tahini and a squeeze of lemon juice until you get a smooth puree. Season to taste & add more lemon if needed. Posh up by sprinkling lightly toasted sesame seeds and a drizzle of olive oil on the top when you serve it.
Other dips - soured cream & chive is exactly as it sounds, as is yogurt & cucumber. Greek Yogurt with some finely chopped mint stirred in is gorgeous - leave it aside for a couple of hours once made to let the mint infuse. Salsa - easy - a well drained tin of chopped tomatoes, some very finely chopped onion, a splash of balsamic and as much chilli as suits your taste. Use smoked chilli or add a little smoked paprika if you like for a bit of extra depth of flavour. Add half a spoonful of sugar and stir through well, and add finely chopped coriander leaf just before you serve it.
Coronation chicken - equal parts Mayo & Yogurt, add a good dollop of mango chutney for sweetness, a handful of sultanas and enough curry paste to get the right colour and flavour - trial and error, and again very much subject to taste!
Sausage rolls - basic savoury shortcrust pastry rolled out quite thinly. Remove sausages from their skins and lay on the pastry (the sausages, not you) flatten slightly then roll up. You can add a bit of cheese, or caramalised chopped onion.
Cheese straws - shop bought puff pastry - roll out thinly, sprinkle with finely grated cheese and fold over. Repeat, then re-roll to nearly it's original size. Cut into thin strips, twist and "stick down" by the ends onto a baking sheets. Brush with egg/milk mix and sprinkle with smoked paprika, cayenne or toasted sesame seeds depending on your own taste. Alternately borrow my Mum* - her cheese straws/biscuits are absolutely legendary and the downfall of many a christmas day diet!

So - what are your failsafe fall-backs for home made christmas food? Do you make absolutely everything from scratch, or, like us, buy a few pre-mades in the name of an easier life?

As this is the last Frugal Friday before Christmas, I'll wish you a very happy and cosy Christmas and a healthy and frugal New Year!


(*Not really - any cheese straws she chooses to make will be fallen upon ravenously by our household - make your own!)


Judy Y said...

Love your Frugal Friday posts!

Merry Christmas to you and Mr EH


Robyn said...

Thanks Judy! The same right back to you & yours! xx

Scarlet said...

Wise words as always Robyn. I popped into a supermarket last week to buy pasta and a few other 'normal' items. Other people seemed to have trolleys overflowing with party food, tins of chocolates and biscuits etc. One man had a trolley jam packed with those enormous boxes of jaffa cakes( he obviously didn't know that the cheapo ones are better!)