I have varying degrees of success with Santa photos. They seem to range from average to absurd.
One year my little man was so anti-Santa that I tried twice to get him on the fat man’s knee before I finally dressed up in a red dress and donned some elf ears. I sat on the throne and Santa, the good sport that he was, stood behind us.
I made a noble elf!
The following year I had two babies to cajole into compliance, the photographer tried to squeeze a rubber chicken to raise a smile.
Not content with simply looking at the rubber chicken, I now have a Christmas 2012 image of my son proudly holding a rubber chicken about a metre in front of Santa while my daughter drooledpon Santa’s arm fluff.
But it certainly marks the years, does it not?
I do love Christmas. The feeling of festivity is always a lovely way to end the year. It’s crazy easy to overspend though, and life just seems to get more expensive when you have a family.
I set myself a little challenge and fed 4 adults and two toddlers on a tight budget in order to share how easily you can still eat like Kings, but not over extend the budget this Christmas.
The menu looked like this –
- Apple and Thyme Stuffed Rolled Pork with Crackling
- Crunchy Smashed Potatoes
- Lemony Green Beans
- Braised Red Cabbage
- ChocCherry Icecream Bomb
What you will need :
For the pork :
- 1.2kg pork loin
- 1 slice of bread
- zest of ½ a lemon
- a good pinch of dried thyme
- 1 green apple, grated
- 1 onion, finely diced (half for this, half in cabbage)
- salt and pepper
For the sides :
- 6 potatoes, washed
- juice of ½ a lemon
- 500g green beans, toped and tailed
- ¼ red cabbage, shredded
- 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, or balsamic or white wine vinegar. Whatever is in the cupboard
- 2 tablespoons butter
- olive oil
For the ChocCherry Bomb :
- 1 litre of vanilla ice cream (cheap is fine. We’re on a budget and we’re fancying it up_
- 1 home brand chocolate sponge roll cake
- 250g fresh cherries
- 1 Cherry Ripe chocolate bar
- Start your dessert first. Pull your ice cream out of the freezer and soften it for a minute. Meanwhile, halve and take the pips out of your cherries.
- Chop your Cherry Ripe Bar into little pieces and stir both your fruit and the chocolate through your ice cream. Leave a small handful of the cherries to the side for garnishing later.
- Pop your ice cream mixture back in the freezer.
- Line a medium sized bowl with a couple of pieces of cling film ensuring you have excess over the sides to help you remove it later. Slice your chocolate sponge roll into 1 cm slices and line the bottom and sides in a single layer.
- Fill the middle with your ice cream mix, then top with more slices of cake to enclose the lot. Place one more piece of cling film over the top and lay a side plate or something on it to weigh it down before popping it all into the freezer for a few hours.
- Preheat your oven to 220C.
- Grab your pork loin and score the skin at 1cm intervals, then butterfly it out so you’re able to stuff and roll it. For full instructions on butterflying your pig, check out this youtube tutorial- too easy!
- Wizz your slice of bread in a food processor or blitzer and then add it to your apple and half of the onion. Toss in your herbs, season and mix well.
- Lay stuffing out over your pork and then roll it up tightly and tie it up with kitchen string.
- Pop your potatoes into a pot of boiling water and leave them until they are slightly soft to the touch. Remove from heat and place them on an oven tray lined with baking paper.
- Using a potato masher or the back of a large spoon give them a good squish until they burst open. Drizzle with olive oil and season generously. If you have fennel or caraway seeds in the pantry, throw some on. If you don’t, try some dried rosemary…. If you have none of this, who cares? Leave it out, were on a budget here. You have bags of flavor going on already.
- Now, pig skin done right is one of the natural wonders of the world but crackling can be a tempestuous beast. I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I’m willing to impart with you.
- Firstly, pat your skin down with paper towel so it’s nice a dry. Then drizzle a little white vinegar over it if you have it. If not, don’t stress. Rub LOTS of salt all over your skin ensuring it goes into the grooves.
- Drizzle with oil, season generously and throw it into the super hot oven.
- For your cabbage drizzle some oil into a large fry pan on a medium heat. Chuck in the remainder of your onion and get it all sizzly and lovely. Toss in your cabbage and stir around for a few minutes. Add the vinegar and stick the lid on and leave for a while, stirring occasionally. This will need a good 30 minutes to braise up nicely and get all soft and delicious.
- When your pork has been in for 10 minutes, whack your potatoes in too.
- After the pork has been in for 20 minutes, turn your oven down to 180C for a further 35 minutes, before removing from the oven and leaving to rest for 10 minutes.
- Be sure to keep an eye on your potatoes. You want them crispy and delicious.
- Throw your beans into a steamer and steam for 5 minutes until just tender but still a little al dente.
- Toss them onto a plate, squeeze them with lemon juice and add a tablespoon of butter. Season and toss.
- If your crackling is not awesome, here’s my grand finale. Remove it from the meat, and place it between 3 of 4 sheets of paper towel. Stick it in the microwave on high for 1 minute. If it requires another minute, give it a shot.
- Carve your pork and serve it all up.
- To serve your ice cream bomb, you pull if from the freezer, remove the top layer of cling film and place a plate on the bowl before flipping it over, using the excess cling film on the sides to help you shimmy it out of the bowl.
- Top with your cherries and if you have some icing sugar in the cupboard you can put a fine dusting over it. If not, no one will ever know it’s not there because they’re to busy saying ‘om nom nom nom’.
Merry Christmas to all of you.
May your plates be full of food and your tables be full of love.