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Vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free catering tips
So what do you eat?
Let's start by defining just what vegetarians
and vegans eat, as there are various misperceptions and confusion
about this, with even large manufacturers labelling items as
veggie when they're not and people calling themselves veggie when
they're not!!! It's a bit of a minefield so it's best to know the
strict definition and to follow this when providing options so as
to please everyone.
What’s a vegetarian?
A vegetarian doesn't eat red meat (such as lamb, beef, pork,
bacon etc), white meat (poultry such as chicken, duck and turkey),
fish (eg anchovies, salmon, cod etc) or other water life (eg
prawns, lobsters, crabs, oysters, shellfish etc) or slaughterhouse
by-products (eg gelatine, animal fat, lard or animal rennet).
Strict vegetarians will only eat egg products made from free
range eggs and cheese products with vegetarian cheese.
What’s a vegan?
A vegan eats legumes (eg beans of all sorts, lentils, peas),
grains (eg cereals, bread, pasta, rice etc), fruits, nuts, seeds
and vegetables. Vegans do not eat any animal products at all - so
no meat, fish or slaughterhouse by-products like a vegetarian -
but additionally exclude dairy products, eggs and honey. Most
vegans also choose not to wear animal products such as fur, wool,
silk or leather due to the exploitation (and usually death) of the
animals concerned in order to derive them.
The easy way to remember - vegetarians eat nothing from slaughtered animals; vegans eat nothing from living or dead animals.
Dairy-free – catering for the dairy intolerant
An increasing number of people are dairy
(lactose) intolerant and as a result need to avoid milk and other
dairy products to prevent them from suffering a wide range of ill
effects, from mild to severe.
Like vegans, as well as avoiding obvious dairy
products such as milk, yoghurt, butter, cream, the dairy
intolerant need to avoid other dairy-based products including
lactose, whey, etc.
Clearly providing choice
The first thing to do is to check your
existing menu - do you have any items marked as being suitable for
vegetarians or vegans that in fact are not? As mentioned, there is
confusion as to exactly what's vegetarian or vegan, with fish
being listed as vegetarian, or cheese listed as vegan. Don't fall
into this trap - try and ensure your menu items are clearly and
correctly labelled. And please ensure when preparing veggie
options that there is no contamination with meat, fish and dairy
products. Separate pans, dishes, chopping boards and utensils must
be used and only plant oils and vegetable stocks used to cook
Including correctly labelled vegetarian
and vegan items on your menu will mean that people won't have to
ask and this will ensure that you are maximising your business's
All of the items listed below are suitable
for vegetarians, vegans and the dairy intolerant as it's obviously
better to provide choice for all.
Suggestions for your menu
following suggestions will hopefully give you an idea of menu
options you could include, suitable for vegetarians, vegans and
the dairy intolerant. They are by no means extensive but will
hopefully give a good starting point as to the sort of thing that
can be provided and enjoyed by all. See below for recipes and, if
that whets your appetite, visit the recipe pages on the Viva!
website www.viva.org.uk or
contact the Viva! office.
You can quickly expand the selection of
drinks available to vegans and the dairy intolerant by offering
soya milk which can be used in tea, coffee, lattes, cappuccinos
and even milkshakes.
Note: Some soya milks may curdle in instant coffee. This
is caused by the soya protein shrinking when it comes into contact
with the hot liquid. This is influenced by a number of factors:
temperature of the drink, hardness of the water, pH (acidity) of
the water and strength of brewing time of the drink. The most
successful method is to pour the soya milk into the cup or mug,
then pour in the water (not boiling, and slightly cooled off), add
the coffee granules, stirring vigorously as you do so.
Soya milk does not curdle in tea or coffee, lattes and
cappuccinos using coffee machines.
Some alcohol is not suitable for vegetarians
and vegans as it has been produced using various animal products
including gelatine, isinglass and egg albumen.
Wines are often processed using animal
products, although an increasing number of animal-free ones are
available, including those from the Co-op which are clearly
labelled as being suitable for vegetarians and vegans so you can
easily choose which are suitable. Many wine suppliers label
vegetarian and vegan wines and some specialise in
organic/vegetarian/vegan wines (see below for details).
Keg, canned and some bottled beers are okay
but best to check before labelling as suitable.
Most spirits are fine, with the exception of
Campari and Advocat.
- Cereal with soya milk
- Toast with vegan margarine and jam or
- 'Scrambled' tofu on toast - try with
fried onion and mushrooms and a smattering of herbs
- Full English - veggie style - with
sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, hash browns or potatoes.
Most health food stores sell Redwoods rashers if you want to
push the boat out!
- Sandwiches, bagels, pittas or ciabatta
with vegan margarine and filled with:
- Hummus and roasted veg
- Vegan BLT
- Falafel, grated carrot and sweet chilli sauce
- Bean burger with salad and ketchup
- Sausage, tomato, salad and vegan mayo
- Cream 'cheese' with olive tapenade and lettuce
- 'Cheese' and pickle
- Spicy bean pate with green salad and vegan mayo
- Cheatin' chicken with avocado and vegan mayo
- Peanut butter and jam
Salad - the sky's the limit! Choose a basic
leaf salad with dressing, bean, rice or pasta salad
Soup - easy to make for veggies - just add
chosen veg, stock (made using Marigold Swiss Vegetable Vegan
Bouillon Powder), herbs and blend. Add soya milk or cream if
Baked potatoes with vegan margarine and topped
with hummus, veggie chilli, mixed bean salad, vegan cheese and even
good old baked beans
- Linda McCartney pie served with steamed
veg and boiled or roast potatoes and veggie gravy (see below for
a great gravy recipe)
Flans made with tofu and your favourite veg
(made in super-quick time using Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry)
Puff pastry parcels filled with mushrooms,
veg, herb stuffing - you can again use Jus-Rol to save making
your own pastry
Pizza with tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms and
courgettes, aubergines, and even vegan cheese (make sure its
Redwoods Cheezly melting version)
Pasta - try a Bolognese using veggie mince or
use a sauce (your own or any of the many veggie ones available),
adding tinned artichokes, mushrooms and more!
- Veggie chilli (made with soya mince)
- Stir-fry with rice noodles, bean sprouts,
diced marinated tofu, vegetables and a sweet chilli, black bean
or sweet and sour sauce
- Curry - nice and creamy using coconut
milk if you prefer - with popadoms, rice and dhal
- Vegan ice cream, soya cream or
yoghurt, served with fresh fruit
- Cakes - see below for two great recipes
for masses more!
- Mini sausage rolls - easy to make with
Jus-Rol and Sosmix
- Sausages on sticks
- Onions Bhajis
- Vegetable Spring Rolls
- Sushi - if you're feeling adventurous!
It's colourful and easy to do.
- Dips - hummus (experiment with flavours),
Guacamole (without cream), bean pate, cream cheese, salsa
- Crudites - carrots, celery, peppers,
- Sandwiches - see above for suggestions -
you can also put fillings on oatcakes or crackers or provide
- Salads - green, mixed bean and rice
- Fresh fruit - especially slices of
varieties of melon, strawberries and grapes
- Dried fruits and nuts
www.viva.org.uk/christmas/recipes.php for some fabulous
Christmas recipe ideas to appeal to all tastes. Why not try:
- Starters -
Parsnip & Potato Rosti with
'Cream Cheese' & Cranberry or Grilled Asparagus with Walnut
dishes - Artichoke & Wild Mushroom Strudel or Aubergine Towers &
Roast Tomato Sauce
- Chocolate & Brandy Truffle Torte or Lemon 'Cheesecake' with
The following are major distributors of health foods and suppliers of vegetarian/ vegan alcohol and are a good starting point when trying to source products. If buying in small numbers you should be able to buy all of the above products at your local health food store and many of them in the supermarket too (look in the free-from section first).
Essential Trading Co-operative Ltd
T: 0117 958 3550 www.essential-trading.co.uk
T: 0141 554 7633 www.greencity.co.uk
Infinity Foods Co-operative Limited
T: 01273 424060 www.infinityfoods.co.uk
T: 0845 458 2291 www.suma.co.uk
T: 0113 244 0002 www.vinceremos.co.uk
Vintage Roots (organic wines)
T: 0800 980 4992 www.vintageroots.co.uk
The veggie shopping basket
All of the following items are vegetarian,
vegan and dairy free so well worth going for if you want to cater
for everyone in one hit! See above for suppliers.
Burgers try Frys
(distributed by Beanie's Health Foods) - traditional or spiced.
Cheatin' meats try
Redwood Wholefood's tasty slices - available in beef, chicken, garlic
sausage, ham, pepperoni and turkey - perfect for sandwiches (including
Cream cheese try
Tofutti original or herbs and chives or Bute Island's cheddar style
widely available range of products, many of which are suitable for
vegans, which include taco shells, tortillas, salsa, sauces and
try Plamil's - plain, chilli, garlic,
tarragon and organic plain and lemongrass. Available in jars or
Fish fakes try
Redwoods 'Making Waves' range, which include fish style fingers.
Gravy see below for a
great vegan gravy recipe else try ready-to-use products such as
Redwood's Cheatin' Instant Vegan Gravy Powder.
Hard cheese try
Redwoods 'Cheezly' - with Edam, Garlic & Herb, Gouda, Mature Cheddar,
Mozzarella, Nacho in a block or Cheddar and Mozzarella sliced - look
for the super-melting versions for cheese on toast or pizza! Also try
Bute Island's Sheese, available in nine flavours including Cheshire
and Smoked Cheddar.
widely available but also increasing number of varieties including
sundried tomato, caramalised onion and olive. Try Arthur St Trading
Company or San Amvrosia
Ice cream try
Swedish Glace - Rich Chocolate, Smooth Vanilla, Strawberry
Ripple, Raspberry Ripple, Mocha and Coffee Ripple, Soft Caramel and
Wild Blueberry or the soya-free B'Nice brand.
Linda McCartney pies
try Redwood's Vegi-Deli Cheatin' Chicken-Style Pieces, uncannily
like the real thing! And dried TVP mince and chunks are great in
curries and stews - they are cheap and easily available from
wholesalers and retailers everywhere.
you're short on time, try Jus-Rol shortcrust or puff.
original, herb province and wild mushroom, with organic original,
mushroom & herb and tomato from Granovita or the organic herb and
mushroom varieties from Suma (in a tube, off the shelf, not
try Alpro Rice Drink.
try Redwoods 'Ready to Eat' ones -
style, Oregano & Basil, Sage & Marjoram. No need to cook - just
slice up straight into a sandwich! Fry's and Be-Well brands are
also very good - and of course, Linda McCartney sausages,
available just about everywhere.
Direct Foods original or country herb mix.
As well as sausages, Sosmix is also good made into 'meatballs',
gently fried then added to a hearty vegetable stew.
try Alpro Soya or Granose Soya Dreem,
for a single cream alternative.
try Alpro Soya sweetened or unsweetened - organic or
vitamin-packed if you prefer. Small cartons of Oy banana,
chocolate or strawberry flavoured soya milk also available from
Marigold Swiss Vegetable Vegan Bouillon
Powder or Kallo brand for either bouillon or stock cubes.
try Cauldron's plain, smoked or
marinated versions. Their fried
marinated pieces are fantastic in stir-fries etc - or just
deep-fry tofu yourself and add a little soya sauce to it, before
adding to Thai curries or any dish of your choice.
try Pure margarine - Sunflower, Soya or Organic.
try Realeat's Vegemince, Redwood's Vegi-Deli
Cheatin' Vegetarian Mince or Fry's Vegetarian Mince.
Dried savoury soya mince and
chunks are cheap and easily available - each type just needs soaking
in hot stock before using. The chunks are particularly good in curries
try Alpro's Organic Plain, Peach & Mango and Red Cherry; Forest
Fruits, Peach, Raspberry & Vanilla, Strawberry or OY Pear & Pear and
Strawberry & Banana.
If you can, try and provide customers with a cruelty-free
soap for hand-washing, suitable for all. Businesses providing
accommodation might also like to provide guests with cruelty-free
shampoo and shower gel too. And you might also like to opt for
cruelty-free washing up liquid, toilet cleaner, washing
liquid/powder, surface cleaner and bleach too!! Most of the Co-op's
range are vegetarian and vegan and clearly labelled, otherwise many
excellent brands are available from health food distributors and
shops. You can promote the fact that you provide cruelty-free and
veggie products on the premises and on your website, if you have
one, as it may encourage extra custom!
Ingredients to avoid – a glossary of common animal substances used in foods
The following list is by no means
exhaustive but should give you an idea of ingredients to avoid
when buying products suitable for vegetarians, vegans and the
dairy intolerant. If you have any questions about any of the
following, or other ingredient you're uncertain of, please contact
Viva! and we will be happy to advise.
albumen (egg white) protein part of an egg.
anchovy small fish of the herring family, often
used as a flavour enhancer. Found in Worcester sauce and pizza
animal fat fat derived from slaughtered animals. This
is boiled off the skin and used in many processed foods eg baked and
pastry products, margarines, soups and stocks as well as soaps.
aspic used as a glazing agent from meat or
carmine (E120) red food and drink dye pigment obtained
casein milk-derived protein, used in cheese
cheese dairy product made from cow's (and goats,
buffalo, sheep) milk. Unless otherwise stated on labelling, is
likely to have been made using animal-derived rennet.
cochineal (E120) red dye made from the dried bodies of
dairy produce products made from cows, goats, sheep or
any other animal's milk. Includes milk, butter, cream, ghee (rancid
butter used in many Indian dishes), casein, yoghurts, cheese,
ice-cream, lactose or anything that contains these products or
derivatives of them.
gelatin(e) protein jelly obtained by boiling animal
tissues such as hooves, bones, horns, skin etc. One of the most
widely used animal-derived ingredients in processed foods and many
other products. Used as a gel in most sweets, jellies, capsules (eg
for nutritional food supplements and drugs), confectionary and all
non-digital photographic film.
isinglass pure form of gelatine, obtained from the
swim (air) bladders of slaughtered freshwater fish, especially
sturgeon. Used to clarify (refine) alcoholic drinks.
lactose milk sugar from milk of mammals (mainly cows).
Used as a carrier for flavouring agents in many processed foods.
Also used in cosmetics and medicines.
rennet enzyme extracted from calves' stomachs after
they have been slaughtered, used in cheese-making. Non-animal
rennets made from microbial or fungal enzymes are available to make
shellac (E904) insect secretion, used as a candied
sweet glaze and also added to hair spray, lip sealer and polishes.
suet hard fat used in cooking made from the kidneys of
cattle and sheep. Vegetable suet is widely available.
whey milk-derived substance left after most of the fat
and casein has been removed in cheese-making. Used in many processed
foods eg margarines, biscuits, and crisps as well as some cleaning
SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE (serves 4)
The great thing about the base
ingredients of a Bolognese sauce is that depending on the herbs and
spices you add, it can be used to make curries, chillies, shepherds
pie, lasagne and so on. The recipe below is for Spaghetti Bolognese,
but variations follow.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1⁄2 red pepper, chopped
1 medium courgette, chopped in half
lengthways then sliced
100g (4oz) mushrooms, chopped
225g (8oz) veggie mince
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 bay leaves / 3 tsp basil/ 2 tsp
Fry the onion and red pepper in the oil
Add the garlic, courgette and mushrooms
and cook until the mushrooms are golden brown.
Add the mince and herbs and fry for 4-5
minutes, stirring constantly. (If the mixture sticks and needs a bit
of moisture use some of the tinned tomato juice.)
Add the purée and tinned tomatoes, stir
well and simmer for 10 minutes over a low heat.
Serve on a bed of cooked spaghetti (allow
75g (3oz) dry weight per person) and garnish with grated dairy-free
cheese or Parmezano and chopped olives.
Replace the last three Spaghetti Bolognese ingredients with 1 tsp
each of medium hot curry powder, cumin, coriander, garam masala and
1⁄4 block of chopped, creamed coconut and serve on a bed of cooked
basmati rice (allow 75g (3oz) dry weight per person). (To make the
rice light yellow, add a pinch of turmeric to the water.)
Replace the last three Spaghetti Bolognese ingredients with 1 tsp each of chilli powder, paprika and cumin, 1 tbsp peanut butter, 100g (4oz) sweetcorn and 100g (4oz) kidney beans, cooked, rinsed and drained. Serve on a bed of cooked long grain rice (allow 75g (3oz) per person).
Replace the last three Spaghetti Bolognese ingredients with 3 tsp bouquet garni and place in a deep ovenproof dish. Top with mashed potato (see box) and cook at 375ºF/190ºC/Gas Mark 5 for 30 minutes.
SUNDRIED TOMATO AND ASPARAGUS PASTA WITH PESTO (serves 3-4)
- 250g/8oz fusilli or penne pasta
- 1⁄2 pack sun dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water then chopped
with scissors into bite sized pieces
- 1 tin asparagus (or 1⁄2 bunch fresh, lightly steamed), chopped
into 2cm/1" pieces
- 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped but not crushed
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1⁄2 jar vegan pesto
- 2tsp dried herbs such as basil or oregano OR a handful fresh
- freshly ground black pepper / salt
- Cook pasta in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes or according to taste.
- Add some olive oil to stop pasta sticking.
- Heat asparagus and add to cooked pasta
- Add coriander or dried herbs.
- Add sun dried tomatoes.
- In a saucepan, heat olive oil, add chopped garlic and fry gently until lightly browned.
- Add oil and garlic mix to pasta and stir in carefully but thoroughly.
- Add salt and freshly ground black pepper.
VEGAN GRAVY (from Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Cookery)
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- Clove of garlic (crushed)
- 450ml/15 fl oz vegetable stock
- 1 tsp yeast extract
- 1 or 2 tbsp soya sauce
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fry the onion in the oil for 5 minutes.
- Add the flour and cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes until the flour and onion are nut-brown and the onion is soft and slightly pulpy.
- Add the garlic then gradually stir in the vegetable stock (or the water from any vegetables you happen to be boiling at the same time).
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the yeast extract, soya sauce and black pepper.
- Stir well. Strain if you like, or serve as it is.
MUFFINS (makes 12 - need large cases)
- 330g/12oz self raising flour
oz caster sugar
tsp bicarbonate of soda
tsp 'allergycare' egg replacer or soya flour
- 290ml/10½ fl oz soya milk
- 110ml/4 fl oz sunflower oil
whatever flavourings you like (eg blueberries, raspberries, vegan
chocolate chips, lemon and poppyseed etc)
- Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and egg replacer. Mix
any flavourings, milk and oil.
together until just mixed (try not to over mix the batter).
in muffin tins at 200°C/400°F/Gas
Mark 6 for about 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle
comes out clean.
This recipe also works
well as chocolate muffins, just add chocolate chips.
- 450g/16 oz plain
- 450g/16oz caster
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of
- 110g/4oz cocoa
- 560ml/1pint soya milk
- 225g/8 oz vegan
margarine (eg Pure brand)
- 4 tbsp golden syrup
Melt margarine, golden
syrup and milk over a low heat until the margarine has melted.
Sieve flour, sugar, cocoa
and baking powder into mixing bowl.
Mix these dry ingredients
together well, or you will get little white lumps of flour in the
Add liquid mix and mix
Pour into two 10 inch
tins, or three 8 inch tins and bake at 180°C until a skewer comes
If you have any questions or queries about catering for vegetarians, vegans and the dairy intolerant,
please contact Justin Kerswell on 0117 970 or 4632 0117 944 1000,
or email Justin@viva.org.uk.