How to cook Christmas dinner for less than $100

LUCY CORRY
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2012

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Some people will try to tell you that cooking Christmas dinner is stressful, expensive and time-consuming. They'll say you need to have all sorts of fancy skills and shiny equipment, not to mention access to a well-tended organic vegetable garden and unlimited funds.

While all those things would be nice, they're not essential. Instead, I'm going to show you how to cook a Kiwi Christmas dinner for six people for less than $100, with a minimum of fuss and no whizzy gadgets.

All the ingredients for this feast have come from the supermarket and there's only a little bit of preparation before Christmas Day. The main thing you have to remember - apart from the fact that no one wants to see you have a nervous breakdown in the kitchen - is that the lamb needs to marinate for 48 hours. So, if you're planning to eat this feast on Christmas Day, here's a plan of attack.

THE SHOPPING LIST

Our ingredients came from Pak 'n Save and came to $92.20, including a bottle of Lindauer Special Reserve.

You will need:

1 leg of lamb

Olive oil

1 bulb of garlic

Chilli flakes or fresh chilli

Brown sugar

Malt vinegar

Soy sauce

Lisa's Feta and Baby Spinach Dip - optional, but it's really good with the lamb

Salad ingredients - salad leaves, spring onions, radishes, red capsicum, sundried tomatoes

1 lemon

1.5kg Agria potatoes

1kg bag of Sujon frozen berries

1 x 250g block of Whittaker's 62 per cent cacao chocolate

1 x 300ml bottle of cream

TWO DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Do the shopping. If you have a friendly local butcher, ask them to butterfly a hind quarter of lamb. If you don't have a friendly local butcher, ring up your local supermarket instead. Supermarket butchers can do all sorts of things, but people forget to ask them. Marinate the lamb (recipe follows). Check there's enough gas in the barbecue.

TWO HOURS BEFORE YOU WANT TO EAT

Take the lamb out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks, then put in a large pot of water. Make the vinaigrette.

ONE HOUR BEFORE YOU WANT TO EAT

Put the potatoes in the oven. Put the lamb on the barbecue - remembering it needs 17 minutes on each side, plus 15 minutes to rest. Get the kids to set the table. Make the salad.

AFTER THE MAIN COURSE

Put the pudding together. Delegate doing the dishes to someone else. Relax!

JENNY AND MARY'S MARINATED LAMB
All you have to do is stick rigidly to the instructions below and you will end up with perfectly cooked lamb. The varying thickness of the meat means that some bits will be well done, others delectably pink, so you can offer your guests lamb to suit their preference. An average leg will feed at least six. Leftovers are great the next day.

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1 leg of lamb, butterflied

Marinade:

3 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp soy sauce

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1 Tbsp chilli flakes (or a couple of dried or fresh chillies, finely chopped)

2Tbsp brown sugar

1/4 cup malt vinegar

Mix the oil, soy sauce, garlic, chillies, brown sugar and vinegar together, then pour over the lamb (in a large, flat dish). Massage it in, then cover tightly with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 48 hours.

Bring to room temperature, then cook for 17 minutes per side exactly. Rest for 15 minutes, then carve.

THE PERFECT ROAST POTATOES

You probably have your own favourite roasties recipe, but in case you don't, here's how we do them at our place. 

1.5kg Agria potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup canola oil

Heat the oven to 220C. Boil the potatoes in salted water until you can pierce one with a knife. Drain well, then return the pot to the heat for a minute or two to dry them out. Shake the pot to rough up the sides of the potatoes - this gives them that all-important crunchy finish.

Put the oils into a large baking dish and put it in the oven for five minutes to heat up. Take it out of the oven and carefully tip the potatoes into it. Return the tray to the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Give the tray a shake halfway through cooking to ensure even cooking. If the potatoes are ready before you are, just turn the oven down low and they'll be fine for 20 minutes or so.

FESTIVE GREEN SALAD

In an ideal world you'd pick all the ingredients for this salad from your garden. In the real world, you're more likely to be grabbing things in a panic from the vege section of the supermarket. Pep up your salad with a mixture of festive colours - radishes, red pepper, spring onions, sundried tomatoes - and give it a kick with a good vinaigrette.

CLASSIC VINAIGRETTE

1 clove garlic, smashed

1/4 tsp salt

juice of one lemon (about 2 Tbsp)

1/2 tsp honey or brown sugar

4 Tbsp olive oil

Put the garlic, salt and lemon juice in a small jar. Screw on the lid and shake well. Add the honey or sugar and oil and shake again until emulsified. This can be made in advance and stored in the fridge.

ICED BERRIES WITH CHOCOLATE SAUCE

You can make this while the others are clearing the table and starting on the dishes. Use New Zealand-grown frozen berries

250g block of dark chocolate, roughly chopped

300ml cream

600g frozen berries

Take the berries out of the freezer and tumble them onto a serving platter or individual bowls. Put the cream into a small saucepan and heat just until it boils. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, then stir well until the mixture is smooth. Decant into a jug, then take this and the berries to the table. Let everyone pour the hot chocolate sauce over the frozen berries.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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