No matter what time or day your party is at, the Christmas menu is what steers it in the right direction. If you are like the majority, your party will host traditional meals likely to involve roast chicken, turkey, ham, as well as other trays and trays of meats. This may become a slight problem when your invite list involves vegetarians or vegans, and with plant-based diets becoming increasingly popular, you are all the more likely to have one over.
Some meat eaters find vegetarian and vegan diets somewhat impossible. It’s difficult to envision a menu that has select restrictions, especially when you’ve never experienced them before. While it may seem like a struggle at first, the options available really don’t differ from a meat-eater’s. The main difference being you can’t stuff a whole pumpkin with spices, cook it and play it off as a main course.
When making the decision to cook up an intricate feast for your vegetarian friends, the best advice is to never rely on packaged and pre-prepared dishes. Scrounging through the freezer section looking for an easy option is not ever going to actually be the easy option. Lots of packaged and frozen foods are off limits, as they usually contain some form of meat, and, when you’re working with a vegan, almost all are off limits. So homemade is the best option.
To start, work with vegetables. Choose some seasonal vegetables and roast them, fry them, marinate them or make a mash. This is an easy way to load up on side dishes, and you can use the exact same flavours and spices as you would with your meats. However, variety is crucial, and don’t expect every vegetarian to be happy with a giant bowl of veggies. Dips and crackers are always a plus, breads with herbs, bruschetta and toasted loafs all work great to fill up your vegetarian’s plate.
Mains are easy too. Think of what you would usually cook, and discover a meatless alternative to that. While your guests are working their way through the turkey roast, make a nut roast on the side. While meat pies and stews scatter the table, leave some space for vegetable curries and pastries. Quiches, tarts, pies and pasties are great alternatives, and fairly easy to prepare. You can even ask your guest what they would enjoy beforehand to get some inspiration.
If all else fails, if your cooking skills are sub-par, resort to artificial meats. Sausages, bacon and even chicken strips can be found in specialty stores and even major supermarkets that cater for vegetarians and vegans. Although they aren’t the most adventurous option for your guests, they definitely will satisfy, so don’t leave the option out.
Lastly, dessert, which is the easiest to work with. If you have a vegetarian, you will be happy to know that most traditional desserts like tiramisu, pudding and trifles are fine, but watch out for sweets and cheesecakes that may contain gelatine. For vegans, focus on fruit-based desserts. Cream and milk can be replaced with dairy free substitutes (coconut, soy, nut milks), and a dark chocolate that’s over 70% cocoa is usually a solid vegan option.
The most important thing is that you make your friends feel welcome. Nothing’s worse than feeling like you haven’t been thought of at a party, so provided you have made time to make plenty of options for them, you will have a happy guest.