Cooking for a crowd with allergies or health conditions can be a minefield — but these HFG tips will help you glide through the festivies.
You’ve spent many weeks planning what you’ll serve at your Christmas lunch or New Year’s barbecue, when suddenly it hits you —didn’t your brother mention he’s on a gluten-free diet? Come to think of it, your neighbour has recently become vegan, and your niece has a nut allergy. Your plans just got a lot more complicated. But don’t panic!
While you may need to rethink a couple of your dishes, cooking for people with special dietary requirements isn’t a problem: you just need a bit of know-how. And keep in mind that whatever your guests’ requirements, you don’t need to single them out with completely different dishes. So, here’s how to keep your cool.
People with coeliac disease need to avoid all foods containing gluten, a substance found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. While this may sound simple, flour crops up in a surprising number of unlikely products, such as stock cubes and gravy.
Ask your guests what they need to avoid, and if they can suggest some good substitutes. They’ll probably be able to point you in the right direction. And take some time to look around the shops, too — you may be surprised at the influx of gluten-free products like fruit mince pies and traditional Christmas pudding!
Wheat, rye, oats, barley, couscous, durum and triticale
Regular bread, pasta, noodles and crackers
Biscuits, puddings, pastry, cakes, tarts
Many stocks and sauces (including soy), as well as gravies
Sausages or processed meats, like ham and salami
Beer (apart from gluten-free varieties)
Salsa or hoummos
Gluten-free corn chips or rice crackers
Nuts and dried fruit
Vietnamese salad with vermicelli noodles
Barbecued mains, such as steak, salmon or chicken
Gluten-free sausages and burger patties
Quinoa and roasted vegetable salad
Flourless chocolate cake
Fruit and nut bliss balls
Gluten-free Christmas cake
Fresh seasonal fruit
The main challenge when catering for vegans is to make sure they get enough quality plant protein. Simply replacing meat with veg doesn’t quite count! While a vegetarian diet includes ingredients like eggs, milk and cheese, vegans do not eat any food of animal origin, so Christmas fare like roast turkey, pork and brandy custard are off the menu.
However, they’ll love stuffed vegies, or colourful roast veg salads that use legumes, nuts and seeds. Or you can serve salad extras like feta, prawns and cold meat on the side for non-vegans to add to their plates.
Roast meats, such as pork, chicken, turkey and lamb
Antipasto platters with cheeses and cold meats
Dairy-based desserts like ice cream
Seafood, including prawns and salmon
Gelatine, often found in marshmallows and in jellies
Stock and gravies made from meat ingredients
Hoummos and other bean-based dips
Vegetable sticks and crackers
Roasted vegetable salads
Stuffed, baked vegetables (such as capsicum, eggplant and mushrooms)
Vegetable pilafs and grain-based salads
Strawberries dipped in dark chocolate
Fruit-based granita and sorbet
Banana ‘nice’ cream
When catering for any true food allergy you have to be extremely careful, as sometimes even the smallest traces can be dangerous. It’s best to know exactly what your guests’ symptoms are so you can handle the worst-case scenario. If you have a guest with a severe nut allergy, consider not having nuts on the menu, or even in the house, to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.
Store-bought products have to be labelled with potential allergens, so always read the label carefully, and get creative with allergy-free alternatives to traditional Christmas options.
A variety of salad dressings and sauces, especially satay
Some dips, such as pesto, hoummos or cashew dip
Stuffing made with nuts
Many sweets and baked goods, such as chocolates, puddings, biscuits and cakes