Christmas: Taking care of veggie guestsPosted on: 24 November 2014 by 50connect editorial
A few tips from the Vegetarian Society on entertaining veggie friends this Christmas.
Talk to your guest in advance
First off, find out whether your guest is a vegetarian or a vegan. Vegetarians don't eat meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish, crustacea or any other product which has been made from slaughtering an animal. They also tend to use free-range eggs. Vegans go a bit further by also cutting out milk, dairy products, eggs and honey.
It's also helpful to remember that vegetarians and vegans, like anybody else, may have food allergies or things that they just don't like. If you're going to cook something special for them, it's well worth a quick chat in advance to make sure that your efforts will be appreciated.
Read the labels
If you're not used to shopping for vegetarians, the main things to watch out for are animal fat, gelatine (which turns up in some desserts) and animal rennet (which can be used in cheese).
Most supermarket cheeses now use vegetarian rennet, so just make sure you choose one with a label indicating that it is suitable for vegetarians. To avoid gelatine, read the ingredients label or look out for products approved by the Vegetarian Society (including veggie jelly crystals for your trifle). Christmas pudding and mincemeat traditionally contain suet, which is a form of animal fat, but many brands now use a vegetable version which tastes just as good.
Whatever you decide to prepare for your veggie guest, allow for a couple of extra portions because the meat-eaters almost always want to try 'just a little'…
If you have difficulty getting hold of the ingredients you find in veggie recipes, try your local health food shop. They will probably also have a good supply of nuts and dried fruit for everyone to enjoy and can usually be relieed upon for a bit of advice.
Keep it separate
If you're having a traditional Christmas dinner, your veggie guests will probably enjoy sharing the roast potatoes, veg and gravy, so cook them in vegetable oil, separately from the meat. Vegetarian gravy granules and mixes are readily available in supermarkets and the majority of stuffing mixes are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, so look out for one that mention this on the packet.
If you don't want to cook a separate dish, you shouldn't have any trouble picking up a nut roast or other ready-made festive option from the supermarket or health food shop. Just bear in mind that some vegetarians enjoy food that looks and tastes like meat, but others don't - check first to avoid an unhappy guest.
Washing it all down
Beers and wines are often fined or clarified with animal products but labeling laws don’t demand that this is mentioned on the bottle. Some supermarkets and wine retailers however do take the trouble to share this information with consumers. Marks & Spencer has in the past won The Vegetarian Society Award for Best Retailer of Vegetarian Wine and Beer.
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