Sunday, 15 December 2013

Hosting Vegetarians for Christmas

So, you've invited the family for Christmas, you've been organised and ordered the Christmas Turkey, Gammon, and bird in a bird in a bird from a local supplier or supermarket, and then...... you find out that one of your guests does not eat meat or fish and is a (shock horror) vegetarian!!

If you are not a vegetarian, the mere mention of the word is enough to send you into a spin, let alone the words "Vegetarian" and "Christmas Dinner"

Well fear not... Here are some useful tips for hosting a vegetarian eater over the Christmas period.

First and Foremost..... Most vegetarians DO NOT wanted to be treated as different to your meat eaters. Just because they happen not to eat meat, this does not mean that they will require a completely separate meal altogether. Most vegetarians I know still want all of the paraphernalia that comes with Christmas Dinner - the roast potatoes, the brussels sprouts, the sage and onion stuffing, the bread sauce - however - they want it veggie style! That means Roast Potatoes without goose fat, stuffing without the meat, and vegetarian gravy rather than meat gravy.

If you yourself are not vegetarian, and you are not used to cooking vegetarian food, perhaps the best advice I can give you is to stick to shop-bought vegetarian food over Christmas. Whilst I'm sure your vegetarian guest will be extremely appreciative of the amount of thought, time and effort you put into any freshly-made dish, the chances are, that despite your best efforts, they would have preferred you not to put yourself out, and to pick the easy supermarket option. Plus, if you do not cook vegetarian food regularly, it is much harder to produce something a vegetarian would like and which would fit into vegetarian Christmas dinner. Although that layered summer vegetable gratin, or cheese-stuffed peppers may look great in the dusty recipe book you have borrowed from the neighbour, the chances are that just going to the supermarket and choosing a meat-free escalope or pie will be much better received - and you could always pass it off as your own!

As I was saying earlier - the Vegetarians want their Christmas dinner too, so choose something which goes with the potatoes, veg and stuffing. Anything that contains a meat-substitute protein is a good bet - a pie/pastry stuffed option could also be a good punt. Try to avoid anything with too much cheese as cheese and gravy is not a good taste combination!

If all else fails, you could also ask the vegetarian to bring their own main course option. Most of the time, they really wouldn't mind, and it takes the pressure off you. Sometimes, vegetarians prefer to do this so that they are happy with what they are eating and everyone is happy.

Animal Rennet
Aswell as not eating meat and fish, most vegetarians will also not eat animal rennet - often found in gelatine and other unlikely ingredients. Don't forget to check other products you buy to ensure they are vegetarian before you serve them to avoid any embarrassing incidences. The most likely culprits are often mousse or jelly based desserts with gelatine in, cheeses with animal rennet in, and believe it or not - some wines and beers also. Again, check, check, check for a happy dining experience.

Cooking
Whilst oven space at Christmas can become a really contentious issue, some vegetarians which not eat anything which is cooked in the same oven space as the turkey or roast potatoes - they worry that the "vapours" will contaminate their food,. Again - perhaps some may see this as a little pedantic, but hey,,,,, respecting other peoples beliefs and all that....

Utensils
Again, depending on the level of "vegetarian" that your Vegetarian guest is, some people who don't eat meat or fish may not be able to bear the thought of utensils having touched the meat and fish, Whilst it is a little pedantic, try to separate utensils into those for use with meat-based products, and those which are purely vegetarian. Whilst the turkey fork is pretty obvious, your vegetarian guest may not want their roast potatoes served with the roast potato fork used on the Duck-Fat roast potatoes. They may not want their stuffing served with the same spoon as the meat stuffing - you get my gist.

Cooking for Vegetarians should not be a stressful experience. The most important thing is communication and clear clarification of the Vegetarian's expectations of what food they will be eating and how it will be cooked.

Wishing you a happy at healthy Christmas entertaining experience for all diners!



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