Blog post for Abinda by Ellen Charlotte Marie
Christmas and the New Year are a long-held tradition. But not so our food choices in the festive period. Your niece won't tolerate gluten. The mere sight of fish sends your brother-in-law anaphylactic. It's 'roast beef or nothing' for your uncle, your aunt smothers everything in cream sauce, and your dad 'hasn't eaten' if he doesn't get his chips or croquettes.
The point being that in a lot of today's families it's a big ask to cater to everyone's tastes. When it's your turn in the kitchen, it puts you on your mettle trying to satisfy everyone's wishes - giving them a Christmas meal to remember.
Whichever way you look at it, meat tops the menu at a lot of family food fests. When you're a guest, the last thing you want to do, as a vegan or vegetarian, is be that 'difficult' relative who always has to be 'special'. Go easy on yourself, and everyone else, by bringing a few of your own dishes to the party. It's a win-win situation.
When you're the host, you're the head chef! But what do you do? How do you substitute the meat slab, without uncle noticing? How do you serve up a tapestry of flavours and convince auntie to let go of the gravy boat?
You offer your guests all kinds of little dishes, to give them choice. But that doesn't mean slaving all day in the kitchen and stressing out. Make it easy. Focus on varied side dishes, with lots of vegetables, for example. On a nutritious soup, colourful salads and an amazing dessert. And go for quality (store-bought), nutritious, ready-made vegan or vegetarian burgers and spreads, that you just oven heat or bake. You have nothing to prove by making it all from scratch. And don't try to win any Michelin stars either.
Make sure your meals have plenty of protein, in the shape of beans or lentils. They enrich the dish and fill you up, giving you that feeling of satisfaction. Add lentils or black beans to a soup or sauce, top a salad with roast chickpeas or serve a delicious lentil spread on toast. What always works is a flaky pastry, lined with a tasty bean or veggie spread and stuffed with grilled vegetables. People love the crunch.
With these tips even the world's staunchest carnivores will stop thinking about their 'hallowed' meats. I bet they even compliment you on how healthy and delicious your plant-based menu was. So, here's hoping that we get to celebrate with family and friends this yuletide, and banish the spectre of covid, if only briefly, from our minds.