The €70 Communion Feast: A budget shopping list for a great family spread
Whether it's a Bank Holiday family get-together or a First Communion party, keep it deliciously simple for less than €70.
The bank holiday weekend is a good opportunity to get the extended family round for a casual buffet lunch that, with any luck, you might be able to eat in the garden. Or perhaps you have a Communion party to host, or a birthday or anniversary to celebrate?
Whatever the occasion, the key to successful multi-generational entertaining is picking crowd-pleasing recipes. This is not the time to show off, but rather to choose dishes that have universal appeal, and will be eaten by everyone from granny down to the toddlers. That doesn't mean that the food has to be boring, and it doesn't have to break the bank either, just because you're catering for large numbers. Using the recipes here, you'll feed 20 people generously for less than €70.
So that you can enjoy the event yourself, plan a menu for which everything can be made ahead and served at room temperature. Accept offers of help, and hand the responsibility for pudding over to the guests.
Read more: 11 ways to cut your Communion spend
A whole glazed ham looks wonderful and celebratory, so make that the centerpiece of the meal. And if a whole ham is too big for your numbers, you can always go for half a ham instead. (If you'd prefer someone else cooks the ham for you, Brady's Family Hams are good quality, and they can deliver a cooked and glazed ham to you with a few days' notice. A 4.3kg ham on the bone will serve about 20 people and costs €60 (delivery charge may apply, www.bradyfamily.ie).
With a good selection of salads, there's no need for a separate vegetarian option. I've included a recipe for coleslaw, because it's delicious when homemade, and also for a potato salad, made without mayonnaise. The lentil salad is a terrific accompaniment for the ham, and good bread, a big piece of cheese (perhaps brie?), and a simple green salad will round things off nicely.
The Shopping List
Prices from Tesco
1 whole ham, about 4.5/5kg €25 (fxbuckley price)
pineapple juice €1.19
450g demerara sugar €1.12
3kg small waxy potatoes €2.97
3 packets chives €3.27
1 white cabbage €0.99
1 red cabbage €0.99
8 carrots €1.19
white wine vinegar €1.29
Hellmann’s mayonnaise €2.75
creamed horseradish €0.84
bunch spring onions €0.79
18 eggs €2.85
English mustard powder €1.37
1 litre sunflower oil €1.59
12 shallots €0.95
1 packet basil €1.09
1 packet flat leaf parsley €1.09
3 tins green lentils €2.70
4 x 120g bags watercress/spinach/rocket €6.68
200g Grana Padano €2.99
Packet spaghetti €0.49
1 onion €0.21
350g spinach €3.95
The main event
Whole glazed ham on the bone
You will need:
1 whole fresh or smoked ham, about 4.5/5 kg
50ml pineapple juice
450g demerara sugar
about 60 cloves
Ask the butcher if the ham needs to be soaked. If it does, soak it overnight in cold water. Put the ham in a large pot and cover with cold water and bring to the boil. If there is white froth on the surface of the water, it means that the meat is still salty, so discard the water and start again with fresh cold water. Bring to a gentle boil, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes per kilo. Remove from the water, peel off the skin, and cut the fat into a criss-cross pattern. Stud the centre of each diamond with a clove. Combine the sugar and pineapple juice and make a thick, not too liquid, paste and spread it over the ham. Pre-heat the oven to 250 C / 230 fan, and bake for about 20 minutes until nicely caramelised, basting regularly.
You will need:
1 medium white cabbage
1 medium red cabbage
8 medium carrots, peeled
2 tsp salt
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp creamed horseradish
a bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
Cut the cabbages into quarters and remove their cores. Using a sharp knife, or a food processor if you have one, shred the cabbage and the carrots. Put the cabbage and carrot into a colander and add the salt, sugar and vinegar, toss together, and leave to drain for an hour. Add the horseradish to the mayonnaise to taste - or leave it out altogether if you think that it will be too strong for small children. Squeeze out any excess liquid from the cabbage and carrot and place in a bowl. Add the spring onion and the horseradish mayonnaise and combine.
Potato salad with chives
You will need:
3kg small waxy potatoes, unpeeled
2 packets fresh chives, snipped into small pieces
extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt
Simmer the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and, when they are cool enough to handle, slice into discs and arrange in the serving dish.
Sprinkle with the chopped chives and a couple of pinches of flaky sea salt, then drizzle with olive oil. The salad will have more flavour if assembled while still warm and served at room temperature.
Lentil and watercress salad
You will need:
6 medium egg yolks
6 heaped tbsp English mustard powder
freshly ground black pepper
135ml white wine vinegar
900 ml vegetable oil
75mls cold water
12 shallots, sliced finely
1 packet each basil, flat-leaf parsley, and chives, finely chopped
3 x 380g tins cooked green lentils
4 x 120g bags watercress/spinach/rocket
Place the egg yolks, mustard powder, pepper, salt, and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk together, and very gradually, drop by drop, add the sunflower oil until emulsified, whisking all the time.
Season to taste and add a little water so that you have a mayonnaise-like consistency. Add the sliced shallots, chopped herbs and cooked lentils.
When you are ready to serve, warm the mixture through and stir in the watercress so that it wilts a little.
Don't throw it out !
Leftover ham can be put to many uses. Pasta sauce, frittata, and of course good old hang sangwiches are just a few ideas...
For an Irish version of carbonara (totally inauthentic but still delicious!) for two, add 100g of chopped ham and 50g grated Parmesan cheese to 3 beaten eggs. Season with black pepper and add to hot cooked pasta.
For a ham and spinach frittata for four, sauté a finely chopped onion in a little butter in a frying pan until soft. Add 350g fresh spinach (thick stalks removed) and sauté until wilted.
Remove the spinach mixture from the span and squeeze out the excess water and chop. Beat eight eggs in a bowl, add 100g chopped ham, 100g grated cheese and some cold diced potato if you have it. Add the spinach and season with freshly ground black pepper.
Add another knob of butter to the pan, swirl it around to coat the pan, and add the egg mixture.
Cook over a gentle heat until nearly solid, then add a little more grated cheese to the top and finish under the grill.
Taste test: Pesto
It's been described as middle-class ketchup, and there's hardly a fridge in the country that doesn't have a tub of pesto ready to be drafted into service with pasta for a quick supper, as a condiment for fish, or to make a dull sandwich a little more interesting. The best pesto is the one that you make at home, with basil that you've grown yourself, but realistically you'll be buying it.
Happy Pear: Lovely Basil Pesto, 180g - €4.99 in SuperValu, price elsewhere varies 9/10
Very cheesy, and so good that we would eat it with a teaspoon straight from the tub. Delicious, despite being made with cashew rather than the correct pine nuts.
Avoca: Fresh Basil Pesto, 157g - €5.45 9/10
The joint favourite, and the most intensely basil flavoured of the pestos we tasted. Made with pine nuts, this one is the real deal.
The Butler's Pantry: Basil Pesto, 190g - €4.95 8/10
Made to The Butler's Pantry's recipe by Janet's Country Fayre, this pesto has plenty of basil - 40pc, way more than any of the other pestos - and tastes really good.
Genovese: Fresh Pesto, 180g - €4.99 7/10
You'll recognise this pesto by the gingham-patterned lid of the glass jar. It's widely available and a fine basic pesto, ideal with pasta.
Marks & Spencer: Green Pesto, 130g - €2.24 5/10
We liked the whole toasted pine nuts but there was too much lemon and not enough basil in this pesto and it tasted insipid.
Lidl: Meadow Fresh Green Pesto, 140g - €1.89 4/10
Made with rapeseed oil and olive pomace oil, this pesto looked good but tasted bland. Nothing special.
Tesco Finest: Pesto with Fresh Basil, 130g - €3.49 4/10
Too much salt and lemon gave this pesto a sharp taste that we didn't like.
SuperValu: Green Pesto, 150g - €2.49 3/10
Very salty, and with the consistency of a smooth dressing rather than a pesto. Not great.