Christmas cooking on a budget

You may be tempted to blow the budget to cook for Christmas lunch/dinner next week. But there are strategies you can adopt to ensure that you don’t overspend when it comes to cooking for your loved ones this holiday. Nicolette Dirk chats to Mount Nelson Hotel’s chef Dion Vengatass to find out how you can cut corners when it comes to costly Christmas cooking.
The most affordable meals to cook this Christmas
Vengatass says the best way to stretch your pennies this Christmas is to stick to vegetables and do it right.
“A beautiful simple potato bake, sweet cinnamon roasted pumpkin, honey glazed carrots, creamed spinach, crunchy buttered seasonal vegetables and potato and leek soup are all cheap and easy to make but also really tasty vegetables,” he said.
Shop around for affordable ingredients
Vengatass says before going to the stores you should draw up a precise shopping list and stick to it, without any exceptions.
“Don’t get all your ingredients from one commercial supplier. Opt for buying from bulk stores. Also try to cut out the middle man by shopping from markets because the produce is usually fresher. When it comes to buying your meat go to family-owned butchers as they are also usually cheaper than commercial butcheries,” says Vengatass.
Avoid making expensive treats
Vengatass says Christmas cake is a pricey dish to make because ingredients like preserved fruit and brandy can add up to quite a lot. “If you want to stick to a budget, avoid making it altogether. If you really want it, get one of your guests to bring it along (after all Christmas is about sharing). You could also go to a small local bakery and buy a decent Christmas cake. They are usually cheaper than commercial stores,” says Vengatass.
How can you make a Christmas dish stretch further?
Vengatass says you can work Christmas miracles with a traditional leg of lamb. But a leg of lamb doesn’t come without problems because roasting the whole leg on the bone takes a long time to cook and is challenging to carve. “This is besides all the wastage left behind on the bone,” says Vengatass.
His advice is to get your butcher to break the leg down into the four muscles, then marinade and roast separately from the bone. “It literally takes about 20minutes at 180 degrees Celsius for a beautiful medium roast. Be sure to let the meat ‘rest’ for at least 10 minutes before carving it .This allows the meat juices to retract back into the fibres,” says Vengatass.
He adds that you should also ask your butcher to cut the leftover bones into 2cm pieces and use those bones to make your gravy. This way you use the bone that you get charged for and you have minimum wastage on the actual meat.
Cheap Christmas desserts
According to Vengatass these include steamed pudding, or egg based desserts like crème brulee. For  more budget friendly dishes, click here.