Cooking a festive meal for your friends or family can be a daunting task at the best of times, but if you’re on a tight budget it’s even trickier.
The cost of putting together a table laden with piles of fresh seafood, roast turkey and fruit-rich puddings can really add up.
But according to Chisholm Institute hospitality education manager Carmel Cammarano, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a delicious and festive lunch or dinner which won’t break the bank.
“Choose simple but tasty recipes with affordable ingredients,” Carmel says. “Regardless of how much money you’ve spent, your guests will truly appreciate the effort you’ve put in.”
If you’re not sure where to start, Carmel has put together these recipe suggestions, which can work during the holiday season, or anytime you have guests to impress.
If you’re hosting a meal, she recommends serving the three dishes together and adding your own side-dishes, such as tabouli or green beans tossed in garlic.
Whole roast cauliflower
This impressive dish works well as a side dish with roast meat, or can be the centrepiece of a vegetarian meal.
Serves: 4 – 6
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 bunch (30g) of fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, chives or chervil)
Salt and pepper
1 lemon (you will need both the zest and juice)
1 large cauliflower, with outer leaves removed 4 tablespoons of good quality sherry (or red vinegar)
400g tin of whole peeled tomatoes
40g nuts (can use walnut, flaked almonds or pine nuts)
Extra virgin olive oil
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Add the garlic to a pestle and mortar with the paprika and half the herbs and make into a rough paste. Alternatively you can mince the garlic and finely chop the herbs. Next, mix in 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Step 2: Zest and juice the lemon. Place the zest and juice in separate bowls and set aside. Trim away the outer cauliflower leaves and remove the stalk so the cauliflower can sit flat.
Step 3: Rub the garlic paste all over the cauliflower, drizzle with the sherry or vinegar, pour the lemon juice on top and place in a casserole pan covered with a lid. Place in the hot oven and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until nearly cooked through. To check if it’s nearly cooked, skewer the cauliflower with a small knife. If the knife goes through with no resistance, it is cooked. If it still feels hard, continue cooking. At this point it should have a little resistance.
Step 4: Remove the pan from the oven, then pour in the tomatoes, tearing or slicing them up into chunks. Sprinkle over the lemon zest and the remaining herbs. Put back in the oven, without the lid, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Step 5: Meanwhile, toast the nuts in a dry frying pan until golden. Once it’s ready, remove the cauliflower from the oven, sprinkle with nuts, drizzle with olive oil and serve.
Festive roast chicken
Both an affordable option and a crowd-pleaser, you can’t go wrong with this tasty version of a classic roast chook.
Serves: 4 – 5
1.8kg whole chicken
500g potatoes, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves (2 whole and 2 crushed)
1 – 2 lemons cut in half
2 leeks, pale section only, sliced
1 bunch spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths
2 cups (500ml) chicken stock
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup thyme, tarragon or mixed dried herbs
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
Step 1: Preheat oven to 150°C. Pat down the chicken to remove any moisture and season with salt, pepper, oil and herbs.
Step 2: Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the cut lemons and the whole garlic cloves. Add the potato, crushed garlic and leek to a lightly oiled frypan and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until lightly golden. Add the spring onion, stock and mustard. Stir and remove from heat.
Step 3: Place the vegetables in the bottom of a deep roasting pan, put the chicken on top and pour the liquid from the frypan over the chicken and vegetables. Roast in the oven, basting chicken occasionally with pan juices, for 1.5 hours or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with a skewer. Cover with foil and set aside for 10 minutes to rest.
Step 4: Sprinkle the chicken with herbs and serve with the potatoes and any other sides.
No bake Oreo cheesecake
Everyone loves Oreos and this indulgent dessert can be made the day before your celebration.
4 packets Oreo biscuits (any variety you choose)
80g butter, melted 60ml boiling water
2 teaspoons gelatine powder
500g cream cheese, at room temperature, chopped
2/3 of a cup caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
300ml thickened cream
Step 1: Line the base and side of a 23cm spring form pan with baking paper.
Step 2: Break up one packet of the biscuits into pieces about a quarter of their usual size. Set aside.
Step 3: Mix two packets of Oreos in a food processor until they are fine crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor, crush the biscuits with a rolling pin. Add the butter to the biscuit crumbs and mix until combined. Transfer to the prepared pan and use a flat spoon or the flat base of a glass to press the crumbs down to form a biscuit base. Place in the fridge until required.
Step 4: Place the boiling water in a small heatproof jug and sprinkle with gelatine. Use a fork to whisk until the gelatine has dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly.
Step 5: Use electric beaters to beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until combined. Gradually add in the cream, then beat until combined and thickened. Beat in the gelatine mixture until combined. Stir in the broken up biscuits. Spoon the cheesecake mixture into the prepared pan. Place in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight until set.
Step 6: Remove the cake from the pan and place on a serving plate. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining packet of Oreos and any other toppings you’d like, such as chocolate syrup or whipped cream.
This article was originally published in December 2020 and has been updated.