Catering for your veg*n service users this Christmas
When it comes to creating a vegan or vegetarian Christmas meal, in many ways it has never been easier.
Supermarkets, manufacturers and suppliers are all selling a wide range of vegan food items – there are alternatives for almost everything. Clear labelling on vegan options makes the ordering process even easier.
This year, the way that we normally work and celebrate will be different depending on the COVID restrictions. Either way, as carers and chefs it is our job to make sure that the people we look after have the best Christmas possible. This may mean rethinking the way that we would normally do things.
For those living alone, Christmas can be a stressful and lonely time; this year more so than ever. So, let’s pull out all the stops! Vegetarian for Life is here to support and offer advice; we have a great collection of recipes, too. Our team of Roving Chefs can offer online training, and when COVID is finally put to bed, visit your workplace to deliver in person training. Let's all hope that this is as soon as possible.
So, what do vegans and vegetarians (veg*ns) want to have on Christmas day? We are a broad bunch: if you are catering for someone for the first time, ask ahead of time what they would like. Simple and obvious, but could save you and your team a lot of time and effort.
As a main centrepiece Roving Chef, Ollie, recommends an old favourite, the nut roast.
“…they can be rich and packed full of flavour, recipes can be adapted to suit your tastes. Try adding chestnuts and walnuts. You may also like try something different as a centrepiece such as whole roast pumpkin, a Christmas Wellington, or Christmas Stuffed Cauliflower”
I love nut roast and would happily have it on Christmas day. I know it’s maybe a cliché, like vegetarians eating lentils. Well, we do eat these too! Nut roasts can be served hot or cold and also make a good addition to a buffet table.
Pies can also be a good option too: make it a good one and show off your pastry skills. Even if you use ready-made pastry, lattice the top, create festive shapes or even the name of the person going to eat it. Easy to do, and will just give that individual touch. Also many ready-made pastries are accidently vegan too: just make sure to check the label.
If as a chef you are thinking of serving something non-traditional, be a little cautious. I like lasagne and would normally be happy to eat it. Not at Christmas, though. Tradition for one person can be quite different for another. Try not to be complacent about your unconscious bias.
Fake meats products may be something to include. These have been around for a number of years and have become increasingly popular. However, these types of products can divide veg*ns. People gave up meat for different reasons and may, or may not, want foods resembling it. I’m a fan, and will be including some mock turkey as part of my Christmas meal. My cultural association with this is very strong: to not have it would be like not doing Christmas properly. That’s just me. The simple solution is to ask the people you cook for in the lead up to Christmas.
Christmas food of course is not just about the centrepiece on Christmas day. Roast potatoes (not cooked in animal fat), sprouts, parsnips, peas, stuffing, redcurrant jelly, veggie gravy, and even veggie sausage and bacon-style rolls all have their place.
Try our easy, tasty onion gravy. Or for an even quicker option, Bisto original gravy is accidentally vegan too.
Roving Chef, Justina, says:
“A Christmas meal can be easily enhanced by adding a starter and a side dish. Begin with a mildly flavoured starter to 'warm up' the taste buds for the star dish of the celebration. Accompany with a side dish rich in herbs and aromas to compliment the main meal and lift the experience to another level. Be mindful of adding too much salt, because it is not a flavour, it is only flavour enhancer of the flavours brought by natural caramelisation or herbs.”
A tasty starter or buffet option: https://vegetarianforlife.org.uk/recipes/festive-recipes/cream-cheese-cranberry-parcels1
Delicious, festive starter, suitable for all: https://vegetarianforlife.org.uk/recipes/budget-recipes/carrot-ginger-and-orange-soup
Tasty, flavoursome side: https://vegetarianforlife.org.uk/recipes/festive-recipes/festive-gratin
Roving Chef, Claire, reminds us that we should not forget pudding:
“Christmas is a great time to show off fantastic desserts, but remember to hold the honey. It's less obvious than meat, dairy and eggs, but it's not suitable for vegans. Maple syrup, brown sugar or agave are perfect substitutes. Also forget the gelatine – if you are making a jelly trifle or panna cotta that everyone can enjoy, swap gelatine for agar agar or use vegetarian jelly crystals."
This fruit cake makes a great Christmas cake. Perfect served on its own or traditionally decorated with marzipan and icing.
Vegan and gluten-free festive treat: https://vegetarianforlife.org.uk/recipes/festive-recipes/angelic-mince-pies
Tasty, traditional pudding: https://vegetarianforlife.org.uk/recipes/cakes-and-puddings/sticky-toffee-pudding
Christmas calls for cream. My go-to recipe is our protein rich cashew cream.
Don’t forget the custard, too! Try this easy recipe, or for an even easier option; Bird’s custard powder is accidently vegan, just make with plant milk such as soya or oat.
Of course, Christmas dinner is only one meal over the festive period. Plan your menus with thought and care. Take extra care over preparation and presentation. Make sure foods are clearly labelled for both residents and staff and you won’t go far wrong.
Think about those little touches that all contribute to the whole experience: the canapes, the Boxing Day buffet, the snacks, cakes and sweet treats. Plan ahead; don’t let your veg*n residents be an afterthought. With vegan alternatives available for almost everything, ensure your veg*n residents can enjoy the same seasonal treats as everyone else.
If you want to go the extra mile for your veg*n residents join me, Chef Alex, on the 19 November, 2pm for our Showstopping Festive Delights workshop. Book directly on the Facebook Live event link or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Have a safe and happy Christmas.