You've got a vegetarian coming for dinner. Your mind is blank. What will you cook them? How do you know you are getting it right? Let me tell you there are an enormous amount of options out there. All you need to do is be mindful of a few things and you will be cooking up a storm for everyone to enjoy, whether vegetarian or not. Follow these tips and you can have a worry free time and your veggie pals will be bowled over.
Don't ask: do you eat fish?
Vegetarians do not eat animals – whether they live on the land or in the sea. As such they do not eat fish or any other sea creature for that matter. I know there are many people out there who eat fish and call themselves vegetarians. But they are not.
This is a problem for vegetarians as it is not uncommon to be served fish or the only so-called vegetarian option in a restaurant is fish. People who eat fish are known as pescetarians.
And if you come across a vegetarian that eats fish or chicken then do feel free to correct them. I once came across someone person who one day was eating a sausage roll, then the next was claiming to be a vegan!
Do ask: do you eat eggs or dairy?
Vegetarians may eat eggs and diary or just one of the other. If they do eat eggs, do use genuine free range eggs. This makes good sense, whether you are a vegetarian or not. If your vegetarian guest eats cheese, check the label for non-animal rennet.
If your guest says they are vegan they will not eat eggs, dairy or honey. Fortunately there are a great many vegan alternatives available and you can easily use soy, rice, almond or coconut milk in your cooking.
Take care with desserts
You've cooked up a tasty vegetarian starter and main, now to dessert. Easy right? After all, how can there be meat in a dessert? Actually a lot of desserts are not vegetarian friendly. This is because many contain gelatine. Gelatine is made from animal by-products, you probably wouldn't want to eat. When I first discovered what gelatine was, even before I became vegetarian I was appalled by the knowledge of what I was putting into my body.
Do not use gelatine if you are making your own dessert. Alternatives are available – in particular agar agar. If your dessert is ready-made do check the ingredients list. Gelatine is mostly found in jelly, marshmallows, some creams, cakes, yogurts and ice cream. Also keep a look out for animal fat.
Vegetarians will always read the ingredients labels before buying a food item. The main things you want to look out for are: gelatine, animal fat, animal rennet and cochineal. There are a number of e-numbers that vegetarians look out for but you can only do your best, so try not to worry too much.