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How to make Christmas dinner for the whole family for just £20

Budgets are tight this year with the cost of living crisis, so we’ve teamed up with internet chefs BOSH! to bring you a Christmas dinner that won’t break the bank.

The Big Issue wanted to make sure everyone’s Christmas day is special this year in spite of the cost of living crisis – so we teamed up with two of the internet’s favourite chefs to design a deliciously cheap Christmas dinner on a budget of just £20. 

Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, better known as BOSH!, create hearty and simple recipes which are adored by hundreds of thousands of people online. Together, we’ve created a meal which will feed an entire family of eight to 10 people — with some leftovers for later. 

The twist? The Sheffield-born chefs are vegan, so this is a meal that will suit almost anyone in your family regardless of their dietary preferences. And if you are adamant about having meat on Christmas Day, you can easily substitute the plant-based sausages for meat ones (we promise we won’t tell the BOSH! boys if you do).  

“We wanted to show the world that cooking vegan food doesn’t have to be boring,” Theasby says. “It can be really tasty and doesn’t have to be too weird. A lot of the vegan recipes that were out there before we started were traditional vegan recipes – braised tofu and poached mung beans – food that lads from Sheffield didn’t really want to eat. We used to cook things like burgers, lasagne and pizza and all the tastes you have that you actually want.” 

Ian Theasby and Henry Firth
Ian Theasby (left) and Henry Firth aka vegan cooking sensation BOSH!. Photo: Andy Parsons

This Christmas dinner recipe has everything – lots of veg, packed with flavour and a whole lot of garlic — and they stuck stoically to the £20 budget. 

It includes the costs of things you probably already have in your kitchen cupboard – like flour, sugar and oil – so the amount you actually spend could be much less. But it’s not what you spend that matters, it’s who you spend the time with.

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“It’s the company,” says Firth. “It’s your family or friends. Maybe you’ve got a waif-and-stray friend who you can invite over at some point.” 

Christmas is going to be really hard this year,” Theasby adds, “but if you’ve got the right people around you, then that time is better. And, obviously, you need the perfect Christmas playlist.”

So get Mariah on repeat and a pen and paper ready. Here’s what you’re cooking:

  • Lots of herby roasted carrots, parsnips and potatoes
  • Perfectly festive cabbage and sprouts
  • Tasty sausage stuffing (meaty or vegan is up to you)
  • A hearty gravy to round it out

Hungry yet? The shopping list below is to get the best deal for your cheap Christmas dinner but it means going to a couple of different shops: mostly Aldi but also Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. You may be able to find cheaper elsewhere but this is the best we could find.

Here’s what you’re shopping for:

Cheap Christmas dinner shopping list:

  • 12 vegan sausages Two packs of Plant Menu Onion & Rosemary Sausages at Aldi (two packs of six for £2.30). If you want to substitute for ordinary sausages, you can get 20 sausages for £1.50 in Asda’s budget range  
  • 12 medium parsnips Two packs of Everyday Essentials Parsnips at Aldi: 98p  
  • 12 medium carrots Three packs of Nature’s Pick Carrots at Aldi: 72p 
  • 4kg medium potatoes Two bags of Everyday Essentials Potatoes at Aldi: £2.10
  • 2 savoy cabbages Aldi or Tesco: £1.30 
  • 1kg Brussels sprouts Tesco loose Brussels sprouts: £1.18 
  • Pack of 4 bread rolls (or any crusty leftover bread). Wholemeal Batch Rolls – pack of 6 at Tesco: 49p 
  • 4 onions Loose brown onions at Tesco: 48p 
  • 2 oranges Pack of five oranges at Asda: 60p  
  • 2 lemons Two loose lemons at Asda or Tesco: 60p
  • 34 garlic cloves (6 bulbs) Two packs of Fragrant & Bold Garlic 45mm+ at Asda: £1.30 
  • 26 sprigs thyme (2 packs) Two packs of Ready, Set…Cook! Cut Thyme 20g at Aldi or Thyme 20g at Tesco: £1.04  
  • 22 bay leaves (2 packs) Two packs of bay leaves at Asda:  £1.20 
  • Olive oil (1 bottle)£1.90 at Asda or Tesco 
  • Sugar (1 bag) Silver Spoon Granulated Sugar at Asda: 75p 
  • Marmite at Sainsbury’s: £2.30
  • Plain flour (1 bag) Asda Just Essentials Plain Flour: 58p 
  • Some sprigs of sage (1 pack) Tesco Sage: 60p

Total £20.42

You could get more for your money and feed more mouths by simply adding more ingredients. The extra vegetables will barely cost you anything, so it doesn’t hurt to chuck in a few extra potatoes. You could also mash the vegetables into a patty the next day with a bit more flavouring, add some of the gravy and you’ve got a fantastic bubble and squeak!

Recipe for Christmas dinner on a budget

Ideally, you’ll read through the recipe ahead of time and again on the day. It really helps to get the plan sorted in your head and to have someone help with all the peeling at the start!

  • Prepping time: 1hr approx (longer if you’re doing it alone)
  • Cooking time: 1hr approx
  • Messing around time: 30 mins
  • Eating time: Probably about 5 minutes, but it will be glorious!

Preheat your oven to 200C on a fan setting and get all your ingredients in easy reach. When cooking big recipes it helps to group them: put your root veg together, your greens together, and then things like the oils, seasoning and herbs together.

A top tip from Theasby: “The thing that will ruin it is if you get flustered. The way not to get flustered is to forward plan. The idea is that you do all the prep beforehand. 

“You prep your carrots and your parsnips and your potatoes and everything’s all laid out in pans. Use the timer on your phone. If you need to write down the timings you can do too, but just being calm and collected is the best way to succeed.”

Then you’ll need some roasting tins, a stock pot, a colander, a grater, some sharp knives and as many saucepans, frying pans and mixing bowls as you can muster. You’re cooking for eight to 10 people here, you’ll be taking up the whole kitchen!

Ready for your cheap Christmas dinner? Let’s get started.

Step 1

First thing you want to do is parboil the carrots and parsnips. 12 of each.

Peel the carrots and parsnips and halve or quarter them, depending on their size. Save the peels in a large mixing bowl for later. You’ll want the carrot and parsnip peels, cabbage spines, Brussels sprouts cuttings and sage and thyme sprigs in there for the gravy.

Get a big pot of salted boiling water on the stove, add the carrots and parsnips to the pot and simmer for 5 minutes and get the olive oil, sugar, herbs and roasting tins ready.

Remove the carrots and parsnips from the pot but keep the water! You’ll need that for the gravy. Transfer the veg to a roasting tin, making sure the carrots are on one side and the parsnips are on the other.  

Step 2

Now we want to prepare the carrots and parsnips for roasting. For the carrots you’ll need:

  • The parboiled carrots
  • 2 oranges 
  • 4 garlic cloves 
  • 3 tbsp olive oil 
  • 2 tsp sugar 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 6 bay leaves
Photo: Andy Parsons

Halve both the oranges and squeeze the juice over the carrots. Lightly crush the unpeeled garlic cloves with the side of your knife. Drizzle the carrots with a little olive oil and then sprinkle over the sugar and a little salt and pepper. Roll them around to make sure they’re all covered and coated then nestle bay leaves and crushed, unpeeled garlic cloves in between the carrots. 

Step 3

Next, prepare the parsnips. Gather:

  • The parboiled parsnips
  • 3 tbsp olive oil 
  • 2 tsp sugar 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 8 cloves garlic 
  • 8 sprigs thyme 
  • 6 bay leaves 

Drizzle the olive oil over the parsnips and sprinkle over the sugar before seasoning with a little salt and a generous pinch of pepper. Stir to cover and coat, same as with the carrots. Lightly crush the unpeeled garlic cloves with the side of your knife again and nestle the garlic, sprigs of thyme and bay leaves in between the parsnips and set the tin to one side. 

Step 4

Now prepare the potatoes.

  • 4kg potatoes (around 24 medium) 
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, plus more to drizzle
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 6 cloves garlic 
  • 6 sprigs thyme 
  • 2 sprigs sage 
  • 4 bay leaves 

With more than 20 potatoes to peel, you’ll probably want a helping hand here! Peel them, and cut them in half so they’re all roughly the same size. They should be no smaller than an egg, ideally. Chuck the peels or put them in a composter.

Add the potatoes to a pan, sprinkle in a little salt, cover with cold water, put the pan on the stove and bring it to the boil. When the water is bubbling along nicely, cook the potatoes for 12 minutes until tender. They should be quite big if you’re putting them on for this length, bigger than an egg, so if they’re egg sized you can go for 8-10 minutes. Any smaller is too small.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and “chuff” the edges by tossing in the colander, or put them back in the empty pot, pop the lid on and give them a shake. They’ll look a bit bashed but those fluffy bits will crisp up beautifully when you roast them. 

Photo: Andy Parsons

Tip the potatoes into the roasting tin, drizzle over the olive oil, season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper and stir to cover and coat. Lightly crush the unpeeled garlic cloves again with the side of your knife and distribute them along with sprigs of thyme, sage and bay leaves in between the potatoes, drizzling with more oil to ensure everything is well coated, particularly the herbs. and set the tin to one side. 

Step 5

Now it’s time for the sausage stuffing. Get your:

  • 4 onions
  • 4 cloves garlic 
  • 12 sausages 
  • 4 bread rolls (or any crusty leftover bread) 
  • 4 sprigs sage 
  • 12 sprigs thyme 
  • 4 tbsp olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 2 tbsp Marmite
Sausage stuffing
Photo: Andy Parsons

Peel and finely dice the onions then peel and grate the garlic cloves, and chuck the skin in the bin or a composter. You don’t want to add those to your peelings bowl. Remove the skin from the sausages. Rip the bread rolls into rough 1cm chunks or grate/blitz into large crumbs if using crusty bread. Pick the sage leaves and finely slice them, saving the woody sprigs in your trimmings bowl. Remove the thyme leaves from the sprigs by running your thumb and forefinger up the sprigs and save the sprigs again in the bowl. 

Warm the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and stir for 4-5 minutes, until they’re starting to go translucent, then add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Crumble the sausages, thyme and sage into the pan and stir for 2 minutes. Add the Marmite and stir for 1 minute and add the ripped bread in, folding it all together to cover and coat, until the stuffing mix can be pressed together. Season with salt and pepper. 

Transfer the contents of the pan to a roasting tray and roughly pack the mixture into the tray with the back of a spoon then set the pan to one side. 

Now it’s time to get cooking!

Step 6

Add the tin of potatoes to the oven and roast for 60 minutes. Set a timer for 30 mins though, as that’s when you’ll add some of the other tins. That means you’ve got half an hour for…

Step 7

Photo: Andy Parsons

Prepare the sprouts and cabbage. For now you just want to prep them, so you’ll need to trim the outer leaves off the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half. Add the trimmings to your bowl of peelings. 

Pick the leaves off the cabbage until the middle looks like a billiard ball-sized Brussels sprout, then cut the spines out of the leaves and add them to your trimmings bowl. Lay the halved leaves on top of each other in a neat pile and cut the leaves twice into 3 thick strips. Set the cabbage to one side. 

Step 8

Prepare the gravy ingredients

If you have enough time before putting the parsnips, carrots and stuffing in, now is a good time to gather what you need for the gravy and roughly chop all those trimmings. Don’t start cooking it yet though, you don’t want to be jumping back and forth too much.

Cook the parsnips, carrots and sausage stuffing. After 30 minutes of the potatoes roasting, put the carrots and parsnips and sausage stuffing to the oven and roast for the remaining 30 minutes. Set that timer again so you don’t forget. 

Step 9

Now we want to make the gravy. You’ll need :

  • Peel from carrots, parsnips, sprouts and cabbage 
  • Leftover sage stalk 
  • Leftover thyme sprigs 
  • 4 cloves garlic 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 10 tbsp plain flour 
  • 2 tbsp Marmite 
  • Reserved parsnip and carrot cooking water 
  • 6 bay leaves 
  • 8 tbsp water 
  • Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

Roughly chop everything in your trimmings bowl if you haven’t already: the carrot and parsnip peels, cabbage spines, Brussels sprouts cuttings and sage and thyme sprigs. You’ll immediately notice how fragrant they all are! 

Peel and roughly chop the garlic then warm the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the trimmings bowl contents and the garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes. 

Add 6 tbsp of the flour to the pan, and stir to cover and coat. Add the Marmite to the pan and stir to cover and coat too. Add the reserved water from the carrots and parsnips and the bay leaves, then bring to a gentle boil before lowering to a simmer for around 20 minutes. It should be timed to coincide with your oven cooking.

Why is this gravy so special? Theasby says: “Our gravy is waste-not-want-not gravy. You’re basically taking all the bits that would ordinarily go in the bin, like the vegetable peels, sprout ends, the boiling water that you’ve cooked carrots and parsnips, all of that goes into the gravy to get the maximum flavour from every part of the veg that we’ve used.”

Image: Andy Parsons

Step 10

While the gravy is bubbling away, let’s cook the Brussels sprouts.

  • 4 cloves garlic 
  • 1 lemon 
  • 2 sprigs sage
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Peel and grate the garlic and zest the lemon. Pick the sage leaves and finely slice them, throwing the stalk in the gravy. Warm the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and fry for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to move the sprouts around in the pan. 

Brussels sprouts
Photo: Andy Parsons

Add the garlic, lemon zest and sliced sage to the pan and stir occasionally for 3-4 minutes until the sprouts have taken on some colour. Season with salt and pepper and turn the heat down to low to keep them warm. Squeeze over some lemon juice to taste. 

Step 11

Then cook the savoy cabbage.

  • 1 lemon 
  • 4 cloves garlic 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil  
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Zest the lemon and peel, grate the garlic cloves and put the kettle on. Add the savoy cabbage to a colander, put the colander in the sink and pour over boiling water from the kettle to shock the cabbage — this means they keep their colour and crunch. Warm the olive oil in the pan over a medium heat, add the garlic and lemon zest and stir for 1 minute. 

Add the savoy cabbage to the pan and fold it around with a spoon for 2 minutes. Squeeze lemon juice over the cabbage to taste, and season to perfection with salt and pepper. Turn the heat right down to keep the cabbage warm. 

Step 12

Christmas dinner
Photo: Andy Parsons

Now finish the gravy. Pour the contents of the gravy pan into a saucepan through a colander or sieve to catch all the bits. Use the back of a spoon to squeeze the veg for all their excess juices. Put the saucepan of the smooth gravy on the stove and bring to a gentle simmer. 

Mix the remaining 4 tbsp flour and water together in a small bowl to form a slurry. Add the slurry to the gravy to thicken and stir to combine. Continue simmering and reducing the gravy until you have the right consistency. Taste the gravy and season to perfection with salt, pepper, more Marmite and sugar if you think it needs it! 

Time to serve your Christmas dinner. Take the tins out of the oven and set them down on heat-proof mats. Transfer some parsnips, carrots, potatoes, sausage stuffing, Brussels sprouts and savoy to each plate. Ladle a generous helping of steaming hot gravy over each dinner, take the plates to the dining room and tuck in. Happy Christmas! 

Here’s the reference list for everything if you need it. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the carrots

  • 12 medium carrots 
  • 2 oranges 
  • 4 garlic cloves 
  • 3 tbsp olive oil 
  • 2 tsp sugar 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 6 bay leaves

For the parsnips 

Christmas dinner
Photo: Andy Parsons
  • 12 medium parsnips 
  • 3 tbsp olive oil 
  • 2 tsp sugar 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 8 cloves garlic 
  • 8 sprigs thyme 
  • 6 bay leaves 

For the roast potatoes 

  • 4kg potatoes (around 24 medium) 
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, plus more to drizzle
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 6 cloves garlic 
  • 6 sprigs thyme 
  • 2 sprigs sage 
  • 4 bay leaves 

For the sausage stuffing 

  • 4 onions
  • 4 cloves garlic 
  • 12 plant-based sausages 
  • 4 bread rolls (or any crusty leftover bread) 
  • 4 sprigs sage 
  • 12 sprigs thyme 
  • 4 tbsp olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 2 tbsp Marmite

For the gravy 

  • Peel from carrots, parsnips, sprouts and cabbage 
  • Leftover sage stalk 
  • Leftover thyme sprigs 
  • 4 cloves garlic 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 10 tbsp plain flour 
  • 2 tbsp Marmite 
  • Reserved parsnip and carrot cooking water 
  • 6 bay leaves 
  • 8 tbsp water 
  • Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

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