Delicious food and good company — what could be better? Katie Georgeson, from stylish home appliance providers Stoves, shares her advice for dinner party hosts looking to impress their guests with a vegan menu.
When it comes to social events, staying in-in is the new going out-out. Hosting our own dinner parties is an increasingly popular choice for fine diners as food technology, better kitchens, and our obsession with creative cooking sees more and more of us choosing home-cooked food over attending restaurants. But what to serve?
For something really en vogue, take inspiration from vegan culture. This year’s Veganuary was the most successful to date with over 250,000 participants, and restaurants up and down the country have devoted half their menus to meat- and dairy-free dishes, all of which the British public have enthusiastically embraced.
So, what better way to celebrate creative cooking than by hosting your own vegan dinner party? Below are my tips for putting together an impressive menu that is meat- and dairy-free to really wow your guests this summer.
Use smart substitutes
Vegan foods are among the most creative and delicious dishes that you can make, but if your guests aren’t used to a meat- and dairy-free diet then they could be apprehensive about a plant-based menu. However, they may not realise that a vast range of classic dinner party staples are already naturally meat-free and can be turned vegan with a few simple substitutions.
For recipes that require milk products, creamy cashew nuts can be a great replacement. You can buy cartons of cashew nut milk or blend raw cashew nuts in a food processor with a few tablespoons of liquid for something a bit thicker. For example, yoghurt and sour cream substitutes can be made by blending cashews with a dash of lemon, oil, and salt.
Tasty vegan alternatives to cheese can now be found in most supermarkets. In the past, vegan cheese was lacking but there are plenty of new varieties available with different qualities, such as every-day cheddars, hard parmesans, and smooth mozzarellas, all made from plant-based ingredients like soya and vegetable oils for you to experiment with. So, for a challenge, why not try an oven-baked al forno Italian dish made with cheese-substitute and egg-free pasta?
Create simple-yet-effective starters
Salads and spiced vegetable soups are popular dinner party starters and are consequently the best way to begin a vegan dinner party. Just make sure any creamy dressings are made dairy-free using the substitutions above. Salads with lots of different colours — green spinach, purple beetroot, even edible flowers — will really make an impact and look great laid out on your table, perfect for posting on social media.
Choose your main event
What you choose to cook for your main depends on the kind of dinner party you choose to have. A formal affair needs a showstopper: a roast, perhaps, that can be carved at the head of the table and served with all the trimmings. You’ve probably noticed cauliflower steaks appearing on the menus of trendy fine dining establishments, so you could prepare a whole roasted cauliflower basted with lots of savoury garlic, smoky paprika, and herbs that you can present with a flourish.
Buddha bowls can be a great introduction to vegan cuisine
For something more casual, Buddha bowls combine raw and roasted vegetables, beans, nuts and healthy grains. A buddha bowl is a celebration of different colours, flavours, and textures, and they look very impressive. But, best of all, they can be as simple or as complex to prepare as you like.
Finish with a dramatic dessert
Desserts can be tricky, as most recipes heavily rely on milk, eggs or butter. However, creative vegan cooking can come to the rescue once again and satisfy the sweet-toothed among your guests.
Add a touch of the unexpected and serve meringues: a rare dessert to have at a vegan dinner party as they are normally made from egg whites. However, you can achieve vegan meringues by rapidly beating aquafaba, which is the thick watery substance that comes with tinned chickpeas, with sugar until it is thick and glossy. You’ll need to whisk for much longer than you would traditional egg whites to achieve stiff peaks but, once baked and left to cool, the end result is just as sweet, crunchy, and delicate.
Serve your meringues with plenty of sliced fruits and homemade lemon sorbet, and your guests can end their meal feeling full, satisfied, and pleasantly surprised.
Vegan dinner parties are one of the best ways to show off your creativity and cooking skills. By following the tips in this guide, you can begin to plan a menu that is sure to impress vegan and non-vegan guests alike.
Image credits: Unsplash