We all have friends with specific dietary requirements, or know of kids who are just plain picky. So when you’re planning an event at home, take the stress out of hosting with these simple tips, covering everything from recipes for kids to what to cook when you have a vegan coming to tea. Taking up the challenge could be a great opportunity to incorporate new ideas into your culinary repertoire!
Serving for Special Diets
First up, when you send round the invitations, make sure to ask whether your guests have any special dietary requirements, so you know well ahead of time and can plan menu adjustments. Once you know which diets you’re catering for, here are some ideas on how to cook for each:
- Gluten Intolerant: cakes and sauces can often be made gluten-free very easily – just substitute gluten free flour for your usual flour. Dough-based dishes, however, such as bread and pizza, can lose their elasticity if made with gluten-free flour. Try a seafood or meat-based main with lots of vegetables and potatoes or sweet potatoes on the side – you might even be able to avoid having to track down any special ingredients entirely this way.
- Vegan: most people have a few vegetarian dishes in their repertoire, but cutting out cheese and eggs can prove tricky. Indian cuisine is a great option, as many dishes in this style are naturally vegan (as long as it doesn’t include paneer, a type of cheese). For dessert, shop-bought puff pastry is almost always vegan and makes an impressive base for a tart.
- Lactose Intolerant: almond, soy or hemp milk all work well as substitutes for cow’s milk, depending on the recipe you’re using. Coconut cream can add richness to dishes, while for buttermilk try substituting one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar per 250mls milk substitute. Also bear in mind that lots of pre-prepared foods like bread and sauces contain lactose, so check the labels carefully.
- Nut Allergy: this can be tricky to cater for, as nuts are hidden in lots of common foods, so again be sure to read labels carefully before you buy. Soy and satay sauce will also often contain nuts, as can pesto and many salad dressings. But cutting out nuts still leaves plenty of options, from Mediterranean-style dishes to hearty Baltic stews.
On the other hand, if you’re planning your event at a restaurant, check reviews carefully and ring up beforehand to ask whether they’ll cater for the special dietary requirements of your guests.
Cooking for Kids
Kids will often find richer, dinner-party style food overwhelming, so if you’re hosting kids at your event, you may want to think up a different menu for them. Recipes for kids tend to be simple: think pasta, soups or schnitzel. Something a little more interactive that will encourage them to try new things is giving them the opportunity to prepare the food themselves: try making fajitas with bowls of different ingredients they can add in the centre of the table. If you have a theme for your event, kids can enjoy it too, whether that’s autumnal seasonal ingredients like apples and squash, or even unicorn-style rainbow recipes for kids.
Of course, the type of event will play a big part in deciding which dishes you prepare, and if in doubt, you can always ask friends to contribute something, making your job as a host considerably simpler!