Frugal Christmas Treats

Pavlova cake with strawberry on wooden table

Pavlova cake with strawberry on wooden table

Now is the time of year when the classics come out – sun, family, fun – and summer feasting. For so many of us, our holiday rituals are centred around food, so we thought we would come up with some classic kiwi treats, with our own ‘oily rag’ flair.

No kiwi cook could be whole without knowing how to whip up a tasty pav’. There are lots of pavlova recipes but the key ingredients don’t generally change. And for those with lots of eggs, it is a low cost treat. All you need are 4 egg whites, 1 cup castor (fine) sugar, 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, and 1 tablespoon cornflour.

Preheat the oven to 150C. Beat the egg whites until stiff (when peaks like the Southern Alps form). Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, beating after each. Beat for another 10 minutes or so then sprinkle the remaining ingredients in and mix carefully. Place the mixture onto a baking paper covered tray (baking paper not grease proof paper!), and shape into a circle about 200mm in diameter. Put the pav into the oven and turn down to 125C. Wait an hour then turn the oven off. Leave it in the oven until cold or overnight (this forms the nice crust).

Top your creation with a layer of cream and slices of kiwifruit (of course!), or strawberries and tomato sauce as an alternative (just kidding about the tomato sauce!).

Here’s an idea for a Xmas treat – make gingerbread Santas. Sift 2 cups of flour with ½ teaspoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of ginger. Add ½ cup of sugar then mix in 150g of soft butter then 1 egg. Mix into a dough and add more flour if the dough is too sticky. Place the dough in the fridge for about half an hour then roll on a lightly floured surface until about 5mm thick. Use a cookie cutter to make gingerbread men and a sharp knife to create your own shapes – like santa hats! Bake in a pre-heated 180deg oven for about 10 minutes or slightly less so they are golden brown.

To make icing: add a few drops of food colouring and 1 to 2 teaspoons of water to icing sugar. Use the icing to decorate the santas and act as a glue for lollies and other decorations. It can be great fun for Christmas day – especially if it’s raining!

Holidays are also a time for dining out. Here’s a way to wine (not whine!) and dine out on the smell of an oily rag.

Keep an eye out for kids-eat-free deals.
Have an entrée instead of a main and share a desert – just ask for two spoons – or skip the desert and make desert at home!
The add-ons are usually the biggest cost of dining out. Avoid ordering the drinks by saying “water please” when you are asked for your drinks order.
Take a doggie bag, but instead of giving the leftovers to the doggie have it for a second meal. That way a $25 meal becomes two meals at $12.50.
Gold Card touting seniors should ask if the establishment offers a senior citizen discount.
Keep an eye out for dining discount coupons. The coupons usually appear in local newspapers, in your mail box as junk mail, and even on the internet and are likely to appear more often when trading is a little slow. Read the fine print as often they have conditions attached, like dining on certain days or times.
Sporting clubs and RSAs usually have big good value meals.
If you are going out for a group dinner, ask for a fixed price at the time of making the booking.
Ask if the menu comes with chips and salad/vegetables, before ordering side dishes.
A banquet meal might work out cheaper than ordering individual dishes.
And here’s a final Christmas treat for children (and adults!) from KJ of Wellington: Santa-hat strawberries! “I cut the bottom off each strawberry to remove the leaves and stem (the green bits). Dip the bottom into melted white chocolate then dip into coconut. That makes the fluffy white rim of the Santa hat. Repeat for the tip of the strawberry to make the fluffy white pom-pom. My kids love them.” To melt the chocolate for dipping, break a block of white chocolate into pieces, and put into a metal bowl above a pot of boiling water.

Bon Appétit – and Merry Christmas from the oily rag team!

By Frank and Dr Muriel Newman. Read more here.

If you have a favourite summer tip to share with others, please send it to us by visiting the oily rag website ( or by writing to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.