What to cook if you have a vegan coming for dinner
Cooking for a vegan as a meat-eater doesn’t need to be as scary as it may initially sound. Here are a few tips to help you not only get it right but to totally impress your guest.
Dinner party trends come and go. You may have done fondue in the 70s, prawn cocktail in the 80s and waded through a sea of salad recipes in the 90s. However, there is one trend that has been quietly growing since the 1980s and has really taken off since the mid-noughties and it looks well and truly here to stay; and that's veganism.
You can check out some of the easiest and tastiest vegan recipes at Cooking Plan It. You will be surprised that vegan food can be this tasty and easy to prepare.
Years ago, if you had a vegan coming for dinner you’d probably just have given them a salad, but times are changing and now if you find you have a vegan coming for dinner you will need to do more than that… Here are seven top tips from Louise Palmer-Masterton, founder of multiple award-winning restaurant Stem + Glory.
1. Make it delicious
Nature has given us a fifth taste—umami—which in a nutshell means "deliciousness". Often it's the umami in food that makes it "mouth-watering".
Italian food is generally rich in umami and a great choice to veganise if you are new to vegan cooking. Tomato paste is very high umami as are olives, olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes. If you're feeling a little more adventurous, Japanese food is also rich in umami and easy to veganise.
If you feel like going for a classic meal, there are a huge number of vegan burger recipes out there. Add mayo, pickles (high umami), ketchup (high umami) to a meat-free burger. Toasted seeds and many spices are also high umami and can be used liberally. Cumin—vegetable curry? Smoked paprika—vegetable paella?
2. Dream up your ideal menu and then veganise it
Ok, this might not work if you were planning steak and chips, but say you were planning Indian, Italian, Asian or middle eastern—pretty much any style of cuisine works actually. Compile your signature dishes and then google a vegan version.
There are stacks of vegan recipes online and you can literally put in your ingredients, then add "vegan" and "recipe" and you’ll find something.
3. Visit your local health store
If you are not such a keen cook, get down to the health food shop and stock up. You can get vegan alternatives to almost anything now. For example, vegan mayonnaise is easy to make, but there are a number of off-the-shelf versions that are really tasty.
There is even vegan cheese, plenty of plant-based milks and creams too (e.g. soya, coconut-based, oat, rice, almond, cashew…) so even dessert is easy to veganise.
4. Start reading packets
As a non-vegan, you probably don’t know what non-vegan products are snuck into your everyday cupboard staples.
Even now, with veganism on the rise, packets are usually labelled "vegetarian" but not necessarily "vegan". It has been helped by recent changes to the law that allergens have to be written in bold, so it’s quite easy to scan ingredients lists for eggs and dairy which are the main culprits. So be really careful what you use.
5. Search out vegan wine/beer
Co-op is best for vegan wine labelling and there is a really good website which lists all vegan wine, beer and spirits you can buy in the supermarkets. Your dinner guest will really appreciate that you have done this research.
You can even now buy vegan Baileys for festive occasions. Called "Baileys Almande" it’s made with Almond milk and is delicious.
6. Don't forget dessert
Eating out in a non-vegan restaurant and finding a vegan dessert is almost impossible. The best you’ll find usually is a fruit salad! So here’s your chance to shine with your vegan dinner guest.
Raw cheesecake is super delicious and really easy to make. It’s usually made with cashew nuts, and my favourite is raspberry or chocolate.
You literally just blend all the ingredients and pour over a crust made from nuts and dried fruits. That’s for a completely raw version, but you can also buy vegan digestive biscuits (Doves Farm brand—get them on your trip to thehealthh food shop).
Mix crushed digestives with melted coconut oil for a more traditional cheesecake crust.
7. Be creative! Be bold!
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have visited a non-vegan restaurant and asked what they can provide for me only to be offered a risotto or a salad. Worse, when probed that the salad contains that exciting combination of lettuce, tomato and cucumber!
Cooking vegan is easy, a lot easier than you think. It’s also cleaner, healthier and a more sustainable way to live. Rise to the challenge of vegansing your menu. Remember to liberally add high umami vegan flavours and you’ll be on track to produce a delicious and satisfying meal, and your guest will leave super impressed.
About the author
Louise Palmer-Masterton is the founder of multiple award-winning restaurant Stem + Glory; a hip and trendy but accessible plant-based restaurant, serving delicious gourmet vegan food from locally sourced ingredient 100 per cent made on site. Stem + Glory offers all day casual fine dining, fast breakfast, brunch and lunch, juices, smoothies and great coffee. All available to eat in or take away. Stem + Glory also offers mouth-watering and hugely popular tasting menu evenings and special event menus. The restaurants have an extensive vegan bar, offering the best craft beers and fine wines, alongside cocktails, mocktails and smart drinks. www.stemandglory.uk
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