Food tips for your Gluten Free or Vegetarian guests this Christmas, brought to you specially by your resident GF and Veggie members of the Reynolds Team.
Ahhhhhh Christmas! The time of festive cheer and tight trousers! If like us you have food allergies or you are a Vegetarian, the holiday season must be enjoyed with a little caution, especially when eating with friends and family (and you’re not the chef). One of the main obstacles to overcome is psychological. That horrid feeling of being worried about what you’re eating and also that you’re being annoying or a pain to cater for. This can bring ridiculous amounts of anxiety and stress. It’s so embarrassing to say “I’m so sorry but I can’t eat this” or to find yourself dribbling as the rest of the party enjoy tasty afters whilst you choke down a yoghurt!!!
If someone mentions you are expecting a Vegetarian or Gluten Intolerant guest for dinner, you get an instant headache just thinking about it, correct? Do not fear! It’s not as bad as you think to cater for special dietary requirements and we want to make everything as easy as possible for the hosts and guests.
We’re here to help, offering the guest and the host a guide to a Gluten Free and Vegetarian Christmas, made easy, because we can as Gluten Free and Vegetarian guests ourselves.
Here are our top tips to surviving and enjoying the good stuff – for guest/s and host/s!
Find out what’s good and what’s not for your GF or Veggie guest. Check the strictness of the Vegetarian and the levels of intolerance for the GFG. Vegetarians definitely don’t eat fish or meat, if they are vegan that’s veggie plus dairy free and often mistaken for a vegetarian is the ‘Pescetarian’, who won’t eat meat, but will eat fish (so not strictly a Vegetarian at all, they just don’t ‘do’ meat!). I am a strict Vegetarian, so when asked, I usually say ‘no creatures’ and that just about covers it! Not everyone is as strict, some are stricter and if you have allergies or religious restrictions on diet it varies, so just share this with your hosts!
Give people plenty of notice that you have a food intolerance or dietary restrictions, we know it seems basic but you don’t want to insult your hosts!
Always bring a few little bits with you so your hosts don’t feel uneasy. A small jar of gravy or Vegetarian stock cubes, some gluten-free bread rolls and don’t forget a tasty little dessert (or you may end up with that yoghurt!!).
What to look out for
- Many people are not aware that gluten is everywhere from basic herbs and spices to stock and also gravy.
- Be mindful of breaded meats, crackers, dips and any sauces. If your/their allergy is severe, you will know that even someone guilty of double dipping can literally be a pain in your backside!
- If you are a GF guest, get a little plate of all the things you can nibble and add a few rice cakes or crackers from your Gluten Free stash. Most sauces (especially white) are thickened with flour so if in doubt, leave it out!
- There are so many GF options now and also wonderful sites like BBC Good Food that have some brilliant recipes and easy to make dishes like smoked Salmon terrine, bacon balls and even mince pies! Get creative and bring a plate or two! You can always enjoy any left overs at the Turkey Curry Buffet on Boxing Day!
- Avoiding animal by-products is the key, so cheese is ok for non-vegans (lacto Vegetarians), just make sure it has a ‘v’ on which means it is made from vegetable rather than animal ‘rennet’ (the binding agent).
- In sweets and desserts, make sure they don’t include gelatine (usually from beef), some whey (derived from non-veggie cheese making) and cochineal (pink/red food colouring from insects!).
- Most major supermarkets are clued up on the ‘dos and don’ts’ and will mark things with a (usually green) ‘V’ if it’s suitable, so this makes things even easier.
- Generally you can replace whatever the ‘meat’ to the ‘two veg’ part of your meal is for a Vegetarian equivalent. Replace your ‘joint’ or ham etc, with a nut roast, pumpkin pie or similar.
- Quorn is a healthy, low fat and veggie option (but not gluten friendly), so if you are making a pie for example, if it’s a mince pie, replace the mince with Quorn mince or a meat and vegetable pie, replace the meat with Quorn chunks. Quorn and tofu (use the firm tofu variety) take on the flavours of the spices they are cooked with, so marinade overnight or simmer for a while on the hob, so they absorb those flavours. Visit BBC Good Food for some great recipe ideas or the Vegetarian Society for more information on Vegetarianism.
If you are hosting, don’t forget to ask about likes and dislikes as well, even if your guest is a veggie or gluten intolerant, there are still personal tastes to consider, so please ask us about that too. We already think we’re being difficult and may not want to give you anything else to worry about. I love mushrooms for example and they are often placed in Vegetarian dishes, which is great for me, but not so good for other veggies I know who have an intolerance to the fungy!
We don’t want to make a song and dance about it and you shouldn’t have to if you are a GF or Veggie guest. We’ll discreetly navigate a whole days’ worth of GF or veggie goodies to our plates without having to ‘come out’ to the room, “’I’m Intolerant to Gluten, allergic to Prawns and partial to wine” or rattle on about what happens to you should you encounter your nemesis food or the reasons behind your eating habits! You don’t choose an intolerance, it isn’t a fad or a passing phase and if you’re a veggie it’s a lifestyle choice. The worst thing we (or you) can do is stress about it and get yourself on edge!
To all those having ‘people like us’ to dinner, we thank you! Everyone, be prepared, follow the above suggestions and remember enjoy yourselves, after all it’s Christmas!!!!