Cooking for Vegetarian Friends

Cooking for Vegetarian Friends Lots of meat eaters go into a mild panic on finding out that one of the people they’ve invited over for dinner is that strange creature, the vegetarian. But panic no more, this article tells you all you need to know. First of all, let’s define the term “vegetarian”. A vegetarian is a person who has chosen not to eat meat or fish, or derivatives thereof, or to wear materials such as fur and leather that come from an animal origin. Vegetarians DO eat dairy products and eggs. A good way to think about it is that if the animal (including fish) from which the product is derived had to be killed to get it, then a vegetarian won’t eat it. Confusingly for meat eaters, there are some variations on this basic theme. Vegans do not eat any product derived from animal origin at all, including eggs and dairy. Ovo-vegetarians will eat eggs. The water is further muddied by the vegetarian’s motivation for choosing such a diet; someone who is vegetarian for moral reasons is likely to be very strict about what they eat, whereas someone avoiding meat for health reasons may be happy to eat products like gelatine that are derived from animal origins. Absolutely the easiest way to cut straight through the confusion is to simply ask your vegetarian friend what he or she does or does not eat. This avoids any embarrassment caused by serving something inappropriate and shows your friend that you really care about their dietary choice. The next thing to do is decide whether or not you want to cook one meal for everyone to eat or a separate dish for the vegetarian. This is a personal choice that will depend as much on the mix of people you’ve invited to your dinner party as on your confidence as a cook. Regardless of which route you take, planning and cooking your vegetarian dish is no more complicated than planning and cooking a meat dish. The main problem for meat eaters is replacing the meat part of the meal with a suitable alternative source of protein. There are, in fact, lots available, from proprietary brands of readymade burgers, fillets etc to more basic stables like tofu and lentils. All are really easy to cook. Any recipe that contains meat can be adapted to be vegetarian simply by using one of these alternative sources of protein. Use lentils or soya mince instead of meat mince in chilli-con-carne, spaghetti bolognaise etc, use tofu or lentils in curries, chopped mixed vegetables bound with egg and a bit of cheese for burgers and rissoles. Nut roasts are easy to make and there are lots of recipes available in cookbooks and on the internet, or if all else fails, just buy one at the store and serve with the usual accompaniments to a roast dinner; just remember to make vegetarian gravy! If you decide to use any readymade sauces or similar in your dish, remember to check the list of ingredients for hidden animal products. Gelatine is the main one to look out for, but there are others. If in doubt, only buy products that are labelled as vegetarian. It is often the case that when you decide to serve vegetarian food to the whole party the meat eaters really appreciate having something a little bit different on their plate, and your vegetarian friend will certainly appreciate the effort you’ve gone to. So don’t panic; cooking for vegetarians is actually quite easy.

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