I absolutely love hosting barbecues, and I always enjoy trying out new recipes. What I've noticed recently is that I'm having to come up with more and more ways to cater for different diets, with several of my friends being vegetarian, a few vegan and my sister unable to eat dairy. Personally, I quite enjoy the challenge, but I know some people find catering to unfamiliar diets stressful; so, I've put together a quick introduction to help eliminate some of that stress.
What diets might I have to cater for?
I thought it would be good to start with a quick guide to the different diets you might need to cater to. I think vegetarianism is common enough for me to leave out, but here are some that you might be less familiar with:
• Vegan: Vegan-ism has become more popular in recent years. Like vegetarianism, it means you don't eat any meat - but also that you avoid all animal products. So, this means things like cheese, butter and milk can't be consumed.
• Dairy-free: Some people have an intolerance to dairy products which, of course, means they're unable to eat milk and cheese. When hosting a BBQ, however, you need to remember to do more than avoiding topping burgers with a slice of cheddar; you must not put butter in sandwiches, as well as making sure any baking you do doesn't contain butter, milk or other things that contain hidden dairy, like most chocolate.
• Wheat-free: If any of your guests follow a wheat-free diet, they need to avoid traditional breads (though you can find wheat-free alternatives), any products made with wheat flours - such as cakes and biscuits - and beer.
• Gluten-free: A protein that is found in wheat products, gluten can be quite tricky to avoid. Obviously, you'll need to provide alternatives as you would to those following a wheat-free diet, while some people might need to avoid oats too. There is some debate as to what foods those on gluten-free diets need to steer clear of, so I always find it best to check with them prior to cooking, just to be on the safe side.
Handy dishes for different diets.
These days, you can often find alternative products designed for people on special diets. For example, my sister uses dairy-free spread for her sandwiches as she can't eat dairy, while a friend of mine always buys wheat-free bread and beer. But, I always think it's nice to make the extra effort to cook something tasty that everyone can enjoy, so here are a few ideas:
• Olive oil cakes (suitable for dairy-free diets): Traditional carrot cake is made with olive oil rather than butter, which means it's great for dairy-free diets. These days, cooks have created lots of other options - for instance, Nigella Lawson recently published a recipe for a chocolate olive oil cake (though you will need to make sure the chocolate you use is dairy-free too!).
• Tofu and potato kebabs (suitable for vegans): This is a great choice for a filling dish for vegans; to make sure the kebabs have bags of flavor marinate the tofu for at least half an hour, and add some pieces of sweet red pepper to each skewer.
• Cubed roasted butternut squash (suitable for wheat-free diets): This is a great alternative to crisps!
Using your BBQ
One of the most important things to remember when barbecuing for people with different diets is that each kind of food should be cooked separately. For example, your efforts of cooking veggie burgers will go to waste if you cook them on the part of the BBQ used to cook traditional meat burgers. To barbecue for different diets successfully, you should consider investing in a large BBQ that makes it easy to designate particular sections to individual diets. Weber Spirit BBQs give you plenty of room to cook meat, vegetarian and vegan dishes at once, and also has space to hold condiments and such at the side of the grill.
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