We all expect to eat a lot of food at Christmas. Some people even plan their post-holiday exercise regimen knowing they are likely to gain weight this season. We can all relate to this given the huge food preparations at Christmas, including cake/pudding, ham, chicken, goat, fish, and more often these days, turkey.
But not everyone’s mouth waters at the thought of meat. A growing number of Jamaicans are vegetarian and shouldn’t be forgotten at this year’s Christmas dinner. So if you want to have a meal friendly dinner for everyone, here are a few tips to delight vegetarians that even the carnivores will enjoy.
1 - Don’t be dull
Just because someone doesn’t eat meat doesn’t mean you can forget about flavor. Rice and pasta dishes can be good vegetarian (or vegan) dishes for your Christmas menu. But don’t forget to add sauces and spices that keep them interesting. Different vegetables can also brighten up a plate, so add variety. People eat with their eyes before their mouths, and many vegetables will make your Christmas dishes look the part! Try a salad with fruits like melon, mango or even Ortanique to brighten the plate and palate. Add a dressing with fresh ginger, garlic, lime juice, olive oil and honey to bring out the taste of the fruit.
2 - Get inventive
Is your favorite dish jerk chicken or steak? See what you can create with alternatives and you might surprise yourself. Tofu or Eggplant can often taste surprisingly similar to the meat original. Experiment with Jackfruit, it has a meaty texture once cooked and is often a great replacement for jerk recipes. Curried tofu can be done in a similar way and adding chickpeas brings new consistencies and textures. The flower mushroom is little known, but it will liven up your menu. Try it jerked, with some potatoes. For all of these substitutes, remember that seasoning is especially important with vegetarian food.
3 - Prepare light snacks
No-one likes waiting for their food while getting hungrier and hungrier. If you’re being ambitious with your menu and the food is going to take a while serve some vegetarian snacks. They don’t have to be fancy. Banana chips or vegetable fritters will do, and they will give you time to get the kitchen in order without any shouting from your ravenous guests. An easy, tasty dip to make ahead of time is roast tomatoes and red onion blended with garlic, sugar, salt, lemon, and pepper. If you can manage it add a scotch bonnet or two.
4 - Don’t stress
The worst thing a chef can do is stress in the kitchen. It’s Christmas and people will always appreciate the effort you have made for them. If you make sure drinks are flowing – eggnog, sorrel, ginger beer – and you’re generous with everyone’s serving, they won’t notice quite so much.
*This was originally written for an agency during my time in Jamaica*