Eat, drink and be merry: Christmas food

Eat, drink and be merry

One of the biggest expenses at this time of year is food: last year, the average family spent £170 on Christmas dinner alone. Cutting costs doesn’t mean spending your Christmas Eve in a sordid supermarket squabble over the special offer chipolatas, though. Entertainer par excellence Fiona Buchanan, who runs much-loved Glasgow deli Heart Buchanan, puts together an excellent budget menu for List readers

‘Christmas dinner on a budget is easy, and you don’t have to end up with a can of Spam and a tub of out-of-date potato salad, either. It should be a special meal; it should feel special, and the secret to that is really simple – get a table set, cutlery, water and wine glasses, a couple of flowers and candles on the table, some nice soft music – and turn the telly off! It’s amazing how many people eat even Christmas dinner with the telly on these days. And you just need a simple menu that you’ve taken a little bit of time over. If you’re a bit worried about money this year, this kind of presentation is a really nice way of making even an ordinary, simple menu feel a bit exciting.

‘The biggest money-saving tip is just to set out with a shopping list, if you’re going to a supermarket, and don’t deviate from it. If you just buy whatever you fancy when you walk around, that’s when things get expensive. You can spread the cost in the month leading up to Christmas, too – most shops (including us!) will have a whole load of special deals on, and the trick is to take advantage when you see them. The exceptions to that are buy-one-get-one-free offers, especially on fresh produce – you’re probably just going to end up with a lot of rotting waste in your fridge!

‘It’s difficult for delis and independent shops to compete with supermarkets in terms of price. Obviously, if you buy your food at a deli, and I mean any deli, you know, Ian Mellis, or Delizique, not just Heart Buchanan, you’re going to end up with something far better than a supermarket ‘finest’ or ‘best’ range. But it’s often worth it for things like wine. Our staff know a lot about wine – we drink millions of it – so we’re often offered vintners’ bin-end selections that are too small for larger retailers to take on, and they’re always really great value. We sell a different discounted bottle every week, with tasting notes.

‘Sometimes, getting a budget meal just involves a little bit of rethinking of traditions. Not everyone’s cooking for 15 – if you’re just sitting down with two or four people, just buy enough to feed them. We’ve managed to feed four people on Christmas Day at well under a tenner a head. Going for individual roasted poussin (baby chickens) instead of turkey, for example, will save you so much money. Any good butcher can get you poussin, they work out so cheaply and they’re dead, dead easy to prepare. It takes no effort, you just season them with lemon juice and salt and pepper and a little bit of butter, serve it with rosemary, gravy and roasted winter vegetables.

And it takes so much less time than getting a big turkey; you don’t have to worry about defrosting, or fitting it all in your oven, and you’re not stuck with a million leftovers clogging up your fridge! Everyone’s just got a little individual roasted chicken on their plate, lots of lovely roasted vegetables, so it works really well. And it looks lovely too.’

Fiona and the team at Heart Buchanan have offered to take the pain – and cost – of shopping for Christmas dinner away this year. They’re offering a boxed set of ingredients for a three course Christmas dinner: smoked salmon, salad and melba toast starter, poussin with roast winter veg, and a raspberry, cream and amoretti meringue dessert, plus cooking instructions, at £8.50 a head, exclusively for List readers. Just call them up before Monday 15 December to get your order in, and you can pick up your box of ingredients on Christmas Eve

‘This dinner should all take under an hour to prepare, too,’ she says. ‘And that includes setting the table and yelling at everyone that the dinner’s ready’!

Heart Buchanan, 380 Byres Road, Glasgow, 0141 334 7626. Please mention The List when booking this offer.

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