The end of term is fast approaching at university, and with that, Christmas is only just around the corner. I’m sure everyone living out of college has experienced a similar conversation where you and your flatmates discuss making a group Christmas dinner, all with a faint glimmer of fear in your eyes as you think about the realities of cooking for that many people, but don’t fear, I am here to make those worries disappear quicker than the red wine does around your nan on Christmas day. I think making a flat Christmas dinner is all about being realistic. Do you really think you will fit a whole turkey crown in your tiny oven? Do you need all the trimmings? And does anyone actually like the brussel sprouts you were planning to slave over for hours? Once you’ve accepted these rather brutal realities of a student Christmas, you can certainly make it into a delightful, boozy affair that you’ll be able to chuckle about with your family on the actual day. To help make this a smooth process, I have devised a simple three-course dinner which is relatively cheap and easy to knock up on a student budget.
Your student feast will start with a mini appetiser packed with flavour. These cranberry brie bites are delicious morsels of festive cheer with their cranberry source and chopped pecans, really giving them that special something to make your guests come back for more. This recipe uses a whole wheel of brie which, I agree, is incredibly decadent, but, as we all know, calories don’t count at Christmas, so go wild! This recipe is from delish and makes 24 individual appetisers.
Cranberry Brie Bites
- One tube of crescent dough
- Cooking spray for pan
- Flour, for surface
- One wheel of brie
- 1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- Six sprigs of rosemary, cut into 1″ pieces.
- Preheat oven to 180° and grease a mini muffin tin with cooking spray. On a lightly floured surface, roll out crescent dough, and pinch together the seams. Cut into 24 squares. Place squares into muffin tin slots.
- Cut brie into small pieces and place inside the crescent dough. Top with a spoonful of cranberry sauce, some chopped pecans, and one little sprig of rosemary.
- Bake until the crescent pastry is golden, about 15 minutes.
Now for the main event, the Christmas dinner itself. As intimidating as making a whole feast can be, I think this recipe for a Christmas dinner traybake is much more achievable and student-friendly, so why not give it a go? Worst case scenario, you all have a laugh about all the Christmas-themed calamities. Although the list of ingredients for this recipe is longer than my Argos Christmas wish list in year six, I think most of the components are things you are likely to have in or, if not, they’re not extortionate to buy so, if you and your flatmates all club together and divide the cost, I’m sure it’s achievable. This recipe is from the Good Food website and serves 4.
Christmas Dinner Traybake
- 1kg potatoes, halved or quartered if large
- 100ml vegetable oil
- 300g parsnips, peeled and quartered
- Two red onions, cut into thin wedges
- Four carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 200g brussels sprouts, halved
- cranberry sauce to serve
For the figs-in-blankets:
- One medium aubergine
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp garlic granules
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- Six ripe figs, halved
- 250g halloumi, cut into 12 batons
For the stuffing balls:
- 10g dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- One onion, finely chopped
- Two garlic cloves, chopped
- 100g cooked chestnuts, chopped
- One rosemary sprig needles picked and finely chopped
- Four sage leaves, finely sliced
- 200g fresh breadcrumbs
- One egg, beaten
- 2 tbsp finely grated vegetarian hard cheese
- To make the stuffing, put the porcini in a small heatproof bowl, cover it with 150ml hot water and leave it to soak. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the onion for 10 mins until soft. Stir in the garlic, chestnuts, rosemary, and sage. Strain the porcini (reserving the stock) and finely chop. Stir into the onions and cook for a few more minutes. Tip into a bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, egg, and cheese. Season. Add enough stock (about 60ml) to bring the mix together. Form into 12 balls and chill.
- Meanwhile, make the figs-in-blankets. Trim the aubergine and cut it into 3mm-thick slices along its length using a mandolin or sharp knife. Tip into a bowl and toss with the oil, garlic, paprika and some seasoning. Heat a griddle pan over medium-high heat and fry the slices for 4-6 mins on each side until lightly golden and tender. Working with one fig half and halloumi baton at a time, wrap these in a slice of aubergine, using a cocktail stick to secure them if needed. Put on a plate, repeat with the remaining aubergine slices, fig halves, and halloumi batons, and chill.
- Cook the potatoes in a pan of boiling salted water for 10-15 mins until just tender. Drain and leave to steam dry. Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Heat the oil in a large, shallow roasting tin for 10 mins until very hot.
- Tip the potatoes into the tin, turning to coat. Roast for 20 mins until lightly golden and crisp. Add the parsnips, onions and carrots spaced apart, and roast for 20 mins more until the veg is soft. Add the sprouts, and drizzle with more oil if needed. Toss well. Roast for 10 mins. Add the stuffing balls and figs-in-blankets and roast for 25 mins until everything is cooked through, the stuffing balls and potatoes are crisp, and the veg is tender. Serve with cranberry sauce.
Finally, I think it’s a must to finish off the festive celebrations with a mince pie, the most delicious of all Christmas treats. If you’re already shattered by all the cooking, which I can’t blame you if you are, feel free to buy shortcrust pastry from the supermarket; you can even find pre-rolled pastry, which I would highly recommend if you feel so inclined. These mince pies are packed with festive spices and citrus notes, designed to make you feel merry and bright this Christmas. This recipe is from Tesco Real Food and makes 12 mince pies.
Classic Mince Pies
- 125g unsalted butter, chilled, cubed
- 50g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
- Two medium eggs, 1 beaten
- One orange, finely zested or ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 300g mincemeat
- 2 tbsp brandy (optional)
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- Pulse the butter and icing sugar in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add one egg and half of the orange zest or vanilla, and pulse until combined. Sift in the flour and pulse again until the pastry comes together into a ball. Shape into a flattish circle, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll the pastry on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin. Cut out circles with an 8cm fluted cutter and lightly press them into a muffin tin. Prick the base of each pastry case with a fork. Mix the mincemeat with the remaining orange zest or vanilla, plus brandy if using. Fill each case with a tablespoon of mincemeat.
- Cut out small pastry stars, Christmas trees and bells and place these on top of the mincemeat. Alternatively, cut out smaller circles to create tops for the pies. Brush the edges of the pies with beaten egg and press the smaller circles on top to seal tightly. If sealing the pies completely, make a small hole in the centre of each one (not needed for the star tops). The hole will let steam out. Chill for 10 minutes or until firm to touch.
- Preheat the oven to gas 6, 200°C, fan 180°C. Glaze the mince pies with the remaining beaten egg and a scattering of caster sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the pastry is golden and just crisp. Allow to cool slightly in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar and serve with brandy butter or whipped cream.