What do I feed my vegan guests?
You are not vegan, but your friends are. And you have invited them over for a meal. What do you give them to eat?
To your vegan friends, the answer is simple: nothing of animal origin.
And it can’t be easier, the vegans think. Vegans know how to avoid the animal products lurking in everyday products. Usually, they learned this through trial and error. But now, they can interpret food labels.
Also, to vegans, the best, tastiest, easiest and most plentiful food is vegan. In their mind, they see a vegan table laden with food. There is anything you can think of, from curries to pasta, tacos, burgers, wraps, bowls, bakes, fries, fritters, soups and salads. And everything is colourful and yummy.
Not so, to an uninformed non-vegan dinner host. In your mind’s eye, you probably see a salad leaf on your vegan table. Maybe a bunch of them. With some tomato slices. And cucumber.
All other vegan food exists in a grey, unknown area.
I know someone who says, “It’s too difficult to feed vegans. I prefer to take my vegan guests out to dinner.”
Unlike him, some non-vegans are clued up about veganism. But to many, vegan food is alien. It is undefined, exotic, definitely abnormal.
Vegan food usually carries the stamp: funny food.
No wonder. Because, well, aren’t vegans themselves a bit funny?
Vegans are fighters against the accepted norms of society, which is killing, eating and using certain “non-pet” animals. They make a stand against huge, established and immensely wealthy corporations, such as the meat and dairy industry, big pharma, food suppliers and cosmetic houses.
And also, vegans battle against the biggest part of the population. This includes most of their family, often even their parents and children, as well as friends and colleagues.
In incomprehension, society regards them as off-beat. Weirdos.
They are the brunt of jokes.
How do you know someone is a vegan? They tell you.
And: Vegans say you are what you eat. (Picture a heap of almonds): Ah, vegans are nuts.
Vegans say: I told them I’m vegan. They told me a bacon joke.
Non-vegan: I eat only very little meat. (Vegan pictures a dead, bleeding pig, saying): Great, I’m only very little dead…
Vegans also say: If you want to get rid of someone fast, start a sentence with: As a vegan…
To non-vegans, the weirdness of vegans goes much further than jokes. Vegans get a certain look on their face when you mention something normal like, say, milk. If you dare say the word meat in their presence, they stride off in disgust. Or worse, lecture you.
They don’t wear leather or even plastic.
Before they buy anything, they check it for labels and logos.
And they know the names of people that you have never heard of. Like Earthling Ed.
They also know what Jacquin Phoenix is up to these days. And Robert Downing Jr.
Vegans have seen documentaries about the abuse of animals that are killed for meat. Perhaps you should try to see it for yourself?
Also, vegans use foreign words and know what they mean. Like sentient, speciesism and carnism.
Without batting an eyelid, they talk about raising their children without good old fish fingers and chicken nuggets. They use cloth nappies for their babies.
They picket slaughterhouses, rescue animals from certain death, open animal sanctuaries.
It is as though vegans want to take over the world.
But you invited them to dinner, they accepted, and they are coming.
To be honest, you are not even sure what a vegan is.
Anything that does not have anything animal in it. Meat, fish, and poultry are out.
Also eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.
(Read about the muck in your milk:)
Most mainstream chocolate, sweets, cake, and bread have animal ingredients. Be careful here. Many foods that one might think are vegan, aren’t. Inside many products are hidden bits of animals. So, before you buy foodstuff, make sure it says vegan on the packaging.
The good news for a would-be non-vegan host is that there is a vegan option for everything that meat-eaters love. Yes, bacon too (you get some very tasty vegan alternatives).
First, consider what you have in your kitchen. What do you have that is vegan, and you would normally feed meat-eaters?
A safe choice is vegetables and fruit. For instance, lettuce, tomatoes, avos (vegans debate about it too, but let it slide), carrots, potatoes, pasta, cabbage, rice. Fresh fruit. Can you use any of this in a meal?
Suppose you have rice and vegetables. You can make vegetable curry, with coconut cream, on rice.
If you have vegan pasta (check the label and buy a vegan one if necessary), serve it with a mushroom or tomato topping. You can always add vegan meatballs. Remember to top it off with vegan parmesan.
Or how about butternut or mushroom soup? Just substitute the dairy cream for coconut cream. Serve it with vegan bread and margarine. Most bread is vegan. Look out for bread that is dry and crusty, and has fewer ingredients. Be careful of fancy, special bread and rolls. Check that it doesn’t contain milk, eggs and/or honey.
Do you have salad ingredients? Make a huge salad. Just do not crumble diary feta on top. Use dairy-free, vegan feta. If you want to add a salad dressing, make sure it says vegan on the bottle. Or just put balsamic vinegar and olive oil on the side. But first, check that the balsamic vinegar is vegan.
If you make a potato salad, use vegan mayonnaise. Remember not to add boiled eggs.
Fruit salad is a good idea. Remember, you can only use vegan ice cream, coconut cream or vegan custard with it.
Most custard powder is vegan, except the instant ones. They contain milk powder. Check the label. You can make custard with vegan custard powder and any plant milk. There is a variety of plant milk, such as rice, oats, coconut, almond, and soy.
But a simple fruit platter is good too.
You can also choose vegan recipes from the many options that are available on the internet.
- Keep it simple.
- Use fresh, unprocessed food.
- Vegan taste buds are sensitive. Rather serve bland food, that they can add flavouring to.
- Vegans have a huge appetite. Give them enough food.
- Get vegan recipes from the internet.
- Use vegan substitutes in trusted non-vegan recipes.
- Read labels, check that anything you have or buy is vegan.
- Most importantly, don’t despair over a vegan meal. Make a plan, make it fun.
The chef Jamie Oliver has recipes for a vegan lasagne and chocolate mousse on his website. Why not give it a try? Both are delicious and easy to prepare. Scroll down for his recipes and chocolate mousse video.
As an antipasto to these dishes, prepare a beautiful, colourful platter. You may want to choose artichoke hearts, olives, vegan crackers with hummus, crudités, melon slices, seedless grapes, falafels, figs, and vegan deli meat or cheese slices.
Garlic bread and salad go well with the main course. Find the recipe for a vegan garlic bread here:
If you want to serve wine or beer, check on the internet to choose one that is vegan.
Serve coffee with plant milk. But not with white sugar or brown sugar, as they aren’t vegan. The sugar industry uses bone char – the bones of slaughtered animals – as a filter to give sugar its white colour. And brown sugar is made from white sugar. But organic sugar, as well as beet and coconut sugar, is. Other vegan sweeteners include Agave syrup, molasses, and stevia.
Feeding a vegan isn’t as difficult as you thought, see. You’ll most probably like the dishes so much, that you will serve them again. Also, you’ll realise how many vegan foods you are already eating.
- 2 red onions
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 carrots
- 2 sticks of celery
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
- 100 ml vegan Chianti wine
- 1 x 400g tin of green lentils
- 2 x 400g tins of quality plum tomatoes
- 1 kg mixed wild mushrooms
- 4 heaped tablespoons plain flour
- 800 ml almond milk
- 70 g vegan Cheddar cheese
- 300 g dried lasagne sheets
- ½ a bunch of fresh sage (15g)
- Peel the onions, garlic, and carrots, trim the celery and pick the rosemary leaves, then finely chop.
- Scrape into a large pan on medium heat with 2 tablespoons of oil and the chili flakes, and cook for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden.
- Pour in the wine and let it bubble and cook away, then tip in the lentils (juices and all).
- Scrunch in the tomatoes, add 1 tin’s worth of water, then simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Season to perfection with sea salt and black pepper.
- Meanwhile, working in batches, tear the mushrooms into a large non-stick frying pan on medium heat and dry-fry for 5 minutes (this will bring out the nutty flavour), then transfer to a plate.
- Quickly wipe the pan, then pour in 4 tablespoons of oil and stir in the flour. Gradually whisk in the almond milk, simmer for 5 minutes to thicken, then pour into a blender.
- Add a third of the mushrooms and 50g of the cheese, season with salt and pepper, then blitz until smooth.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.
- Spoon a layer of tomato sauce into the bottom of a 25cm x 35cm baking dish, scatter over a few mushrooms, then cover with lasagne sheets and 5 tablespoons of creamy sauce. Repeat these layers three more times, finishing with all the remaining creamy sauce and mushrooms.
- Grate over the remaining cheese. Pick the sage, toss in a little oil, then push into the top layer.
- Bake at the bottom of the oven for 50 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Leave to stand for 15 minutes before serving. Delicious served with a simple seasonal salad.
A handful of baby spinach scattered between the layers is always a nice addition.
Make sure you use vegan lasagne sheets.
- 200 g dairy-free dark chocolate (at least 75% cocoa solids)
- 700 g silken tofu
- 160 g maple syrup
- 1 lime, zest of
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- 1 large pinch of dried chili flakes
- 1 large pinch of sea salt
- Place a small pan over medium-low heat, half-fill with boiling water, then place a medium heatproof bowl on top, making sure the base doesn’t touch the surface of the water. Break in the chocolate, then allow to melt, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, line a medium bowl with a clean tea towel. Add the tofu, bunch up the tea towel, and squeeze out the excess moisture into the bowl.
- Add the tofu to a food processor with the remaining ingredients and 1 good pinch of sea salt, then blitz for 1 to 2 minutes, or until smooth.
- Add the melted chocolate and pulse until silky and combined.
- Divide the mixture between little bowls (to make it extra special, I like to use a mixture of espresso cups and cute little glasses).
- Pop in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill, then serve.
Try serving your chocolate pots with shavings of dairy-free dark chocolate, or bash up your favourite crunchy biscuits or nuts and sprinkle them on top.
Why not try some vegan chocolate as seen below?