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Cooking for someone with a food intolerance this Christmas? Don’t serve up a meal you’re not proud of. With a pinch of preparation and a few clever swaps, it’s easy to cook a fantastic feast the whole household can enjoy. Check out my tips for having a free-from Christmas this year, including advice for vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free eaters.
5 top tips for having a free-from Christmas
- Plan in advance – Think about how many people in your household have a dietary intolerance well in advance, to avoid any surprises on the day. Spend some time researching suitable make-ahead recipes and even ask them whether they have any preferences. No one wants to feel like an afterthought on the the day!
- Use your freezer – You’ll be surprised at how many dishes you can freeze: roast potatoes, gravy, stuffing and bread sauce. I always try and make a few elements in advance so I can whip them out of the freezer in the morning to defrost. It’s a really helpful time-saver.
- Don’t be afraid of ready-made – Cooking from scratch is great and everything, but there’s no shame in serving up a couple of shop-bought dishes. Especially if there’s only one person with a specific intolerance. And I won’t tell if you don’t…
- Simple swaps – It’s possible to make many dishes suitable for everyone with a couple of simple tweaks. Try swapping butter or goose fat for oil if you’re vegan, or switch out regular breadcrumbs for a gluten-free version in homemade stuffing. It’s easier to cook dishes that everyone can enjoy rather than lots of separate elements.
- Get creative – Rather than viewing any free-from requirements as a nuisance, see it as an opportunity to flex your cooking skills and make something new!
Cooking for vegetarian guests
There are a few elements of a traditional Christmas dinner to watch out for when cooking for vegetarians, including the main dish, the stuffing and the gravy. Swap the meat for these mushroom gratins, topped with cheesy leeks and ready-salted crisps! Trust me, it works. Or, go for this creamy Brussels sprout bake. It’s a winner for lovers of the seasonal vegetable and is bound to tempt every guest at your dinner table. You don’t have to miss out on the stuffing and gravy either! Try a ready-made stuffing mix for a speedy and easy alternative. And swap meat gravy for veggie gravy by using good quality vegetable stock (or even veggie gravy granules if you prefer).
Cooking for vegan guests
Cooking for vegan guests isn’t as tricky as people think. Most vegetable dishes are likely to already be vegan – just watch out if you’re cooking your roast potatoes in butter or goose fat, as you’ll need to swap this for oil instead. My favourite vegan main is this portobello wellington, which tastes incredible with lashings of cranberry sauce, vegan gravy and all the classic trimmings. Or, these hasselback butternut squash with pecans and maple syrup double as a side or a main, depending on the other dishes you’re serving.
When it comes to dessert, many classic Christmas puddings contain butter, eggs or suet, so whip up this spiced Christmas Yule log instead. It’s totally vegan and doesn’t use a ton of ingredients – you’ll be amazed at how straightforward it is to make!
Tip: Did you know Co-op ready rolled shortcrust pastry is vegan? Pick up a pack to make vegan tarts and pies, both sweet and savoury!
Cooking for dairy-free guests
All vegan dishes are free from dairy, so it’s useful to browse through vegan recipes too if you’re looking for dairy-free inspiration. I’m a big fan of this savoury crumble (they’re not just for pudding!) made with chick peas, spinach and tomatoes, sprinkled with an oat and almond topping. Or, roll out a pack of Co-op ready rolled puff pastry and make this caramelised onion tarte tatin. It’s finished with a port glaze for extra sticky goodness! When it comes to homemade sides and desserts, which are often made with butter, simply swap this for your favourite dairy-free alternative. My top dairy-free (and vegan) desserts are this layered pavlova with coconut cream and this spiced apple pandowdy.
Cooking for gluten-free guests
My main watch-out when cooking for gluten-free guests is the stuffing, which is typically made with breadcrumbs. However, it’s easy enough to swap these for a gluten-free alternative if you’re making your stuffing from scratch. Most meats and sides are already gluten-free, but take care with the gravy, which often uses flour to thicken it, by using cornflour instead. Then, for dessert, pavlovas make a brilliant gluten-free go-to! Try this cherry and pistachio brown sugar pavlova topped with thick Greek yogurt and honey. It really is as good as it sounds! Or give this toffee pecan roulade a go – just make sure the toffee sauce you use is gluten-free, too.
Tip: Don’t forget, Co-op free-from mince pies are gluten-free and vegan for a quick and easy dessert – just drizzle over pouring cream (or a plant-based equivalent) to serve!
Find our full free-from range instore or browse all our Christmas recipes for more at-home cooking inspiration.
Senior Product Developer