Christmas feasts can turn into an unexpected nightmare for many reasons. The organic turkey farm goes bust and you end up having to serve some sad, dry thing from a conglomerate supermarket. Great-aunt Gladys causes suburb-wide embarrassment by forcing the whole family to wear homemade reindeer antlers before she’ll let anyone have pudding. And, most horrific of all, your brother shows up with his new girlfriend who shyly announces that she’s vegan and you realise all you have to give her is a dinner roll.
But catering for a vegetarian, or god forbid, a vegan, doesn’t have to be a chore. We’ve gathered an array of ideas and helpful tips to ease the minds of veggies attending carnivorous dinners, as well as those hosts who would like to offer their guests more than a lonely spud.
Although witnessing a giant turkey be sliced up and ravenously devoured may not be your cup of tea, remember that Christmas is definitely not the time to be haranguing people about their food choices. If you’re unsure that your host is aware of your dietary persuasion, let them know in advance and offer to bring a plate with you. There’s nothing worse than both parties making assumptions about the variety on offer or what their guests will eat.
Carla Donnelly, creator of popular recipe blog Easy as Vegan Pie, shares her Christmas horror story with us. “One Christmas, I literally couldn’t eat anything as they’d cooked the vegetables in duck fat,” she recalls. “I had to make a sandwich. It was embarrassing for everyone.”
And what if you’re a kindly carnivore who has vegetarians or vegans coming around for Christmas lunch and you don’t want to be a duck fat-basting jerk?
Firstly, do a little bit of research and check your guests’ preferences – not all vegetarians are happy to eat eggs, dairy or cheese, while for vegans, eschewing animal products usually stretches to include things like honey and gelatine.
Even if you haven’t made it before, you’ll quickly discover that a lot of meaty recipes can be easily adapted to suit vegetarians or vegans by offering a simple substitute like tofu, tempeh and chickpeas.
The internet is spilling over with blogs and websites that offer veg-friendly recipes and cooking tips. Alongside the helpful ‘Christmas’ tag on Easy as Vegan Pie, you can take a peek at the enormous recipe index of Where’s the Beef?, or try one of the nut loaf recipes from Green Gourmet Giraffe – perfect as a compliment a traditional Christmas spread. Think beyond traditional roast vegetables – look for hearty, grain-based salads, spiced vegetable fritters, or even some mushroom burgers if you have the barbecue going. And for dessert, you can forgo a pudding and tackle the rumball tower from Round the World Vegan.
If you’d prefer to work from a cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty is an absolute treasure trove and will be sure to leave both your veggie and carnivorous friends suitably impressed.
A meat-free or vegan Christmas need not be a hassle or something that increases the stress of the season. With a bit of planning and thoughtful consideration, we can all have ourselves a merry veggie Christmas.