Vegan, keto, low-carb, gluten-free and more: how to cook for a crowd in a complicated food world

Throw a dinner party, get-together, or bun fight out of lockdown and the chances are slim that all guests will or can eat the same thing.

Aunt Marge has been a pescatarian for 20 years, cousin Phil on keto, you try to eat low-carb, and then there is the nephew with a peanut allergy and the niece who doesn’t eat anything green.

Within families, it can't be any less difficult to feed the tribe.

Pablo Merchn Montes / Unsplash

Within families, it can’t be any less difficult to feed the tribe.

It can’t be any less difficult within families, especially with limited dining options below levels 3 and 4.

Teenaged Rose is a passionate vegan, her father is on a raw food diet because of his arthritis and the younger daughter just wants to eat “normal food like other families”.

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How do you practice Manākitanga, the soulful, warm hospitality that builds and maintains community and togetherness, and still cater to such a wide variety of diets, restrictions and tastes?

How do you feed the whānau, respect their needs – from vegan to vegetarian, fodmap, gluten and sugar-free, to keto, paleo and low carb – and not break the bank or yourself by juggling 50 dishes?

“It’s pretty ambitious to expect someone to come up with a meal that will do us all justice,” says nutritionist Dr. Caryn tin. “I’m sure you can actually do it, but it would take a bit of work.”

The idea is to find common ground between every diet you offer and cooking for it, says Zinn.

“Meat eaters can eat vegetarian, but not necessarily the other way around, and you could say that people who normally follow the mainstream diet would not mind a meal being low in carbohydrates, but not the other way around.

“If you had two curries – one was a chickpea and lentil curry and one was a chicken curry – you could serve them over rice or make cauliflower rice.”

It is now a common and popular choice, and cauliflower can even be bought pre-chopped in the supermarket. Cauliflower rice is suitable for people with a range of nutritional needs while others will be happy with rice.

People on a Fodmap diet that restricts certain food groups, including cabbage like cauliflower, to relieve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and other bowel problems, may prefer zucchini noodles there as well ”.

Al Brown says that when you go full blast for a meal together it cuts your diet / cooking problem like a knife through butter.

Abigail Dougherty / stuff

Al Brown says that when you go full blast for a meal together it cuts your diet / cooking problem like a knife through butter.

Fodmap diets are possibly the hardest to follow as “there are no rules, just a list” of triggering foods to avoid or minimize in your diet.

He may be the least plant-based person in the food world, but Auckland-based chef Al Brown, owner of Depot and Federal Delicatessen, says it will cut your diet / cooking problem like a knife if you go up for a meal full tours go through butter.

“There is so much choice out there that most people don’t miss the meat, fish, or protein that is traditionally served when serving a variety of other things.

“If I were that and I knew I had to cater to vegans, vegetarians and all sorts of people who came with me, I’d definitely go plant-based, there is just so much variety.”

Think of spices, says Brown. Chutneys, relishes and flavored oils, hummus, tzatziki, pesto, olives and stuffed peppers.

“These are an arsenal to appease everyone because they have great, great flavors. And you can use the vegetables as carriers of these flavors.

People tend to


People tend to “over-complicate” things when it comes to feeding others.

“We never used to grill vegetables or anything like that. Now we char or roast cauliflower, we roast Brussels sprouts and eat them cold. Add in some walnuts and some yogurt and they’re nutty and tasty. Just beautiful.”

He suggests chopping up broccoli or long-stemmed broccoli and cooking over charcoal until “there is a bit of charcoal on top”. This concentrates the taste and adds that little pungent bitterness.

Put the hummus, labneh, yoghurt or tzatziki on the plate, put the charred broccolini on top and “suddenly you have a sauce, you have some char, you have a lot of taste, you can start thinking about different textures,” says Brown.

To do this, offer nuts and seeds to sprinkle if your guests want, a piece of parmesan and a grater or olives to give the spice and bite. Dressing your spicy vegetables, it’s about “creative variety”.

You don’t have to cook blindly either. There are many guides. Brown suggests Israeli-British chef Yotam Ottolenghi and kiwi star chefs Nadia Lim and Peter Gordon, all of whom have written plant-based recipes and cookbooks.

“The first big hurdle is making sure you know all of your ingredients so that you can conveniently tell a customer that you can take out the ingredients that they can’t have.”

The second most important thing is to be “very up to date with what people can and can’t have”.

For example, if someone says they can’t have gluten, you know what that means because being gluten intolerant is very different from someone with celiac disease.

There is no cooking mode or style that is less likely to trigger allergens.


There is no cooking mode or style that is less likely to trigger allergens.

“[It may be that] they can’t even have soy sauce with gluten or malt vinegar. Where someone with a slight intolerance might not have a problem with it. “

There is no cooking method that is less allergenic, but some can better meet certain nutritional needs – Italian, with its floury pasta, is not good for gluten intolerance, but Asian cuisine could be better.

“When you use simple, fresh ingredients, it’s easy to adapt your cooking style to suit everyone. No package ingredients, because everything that can be kept usually contains things that could pose a problem. “

For your Wnau feast to go well, not only do you need to be clear about your guests’ nutritional needs, but you also need to find recipes that use familiar and safe cooking processes and organize alternative ingredients in advance.

“There is a large selection of ancient grains that are arguably better for you and have higher nutritional value [than wheat flour]“, Says the gluten-free baker Jack O’Donnell, who had to give up traditional baking after being diagnosed with celiac disease and is now concentrating on gluten-free baking.

Gluten contamination for a celiac patient has been compared to contamination from raw chicken and salmonella for a mainstream eater, O’Donnell says. It has to be taken seriously.

If you’re cooking for a dinner party attended by someone who has an allergy, you should still play to your strengths. If you are confident about making pastries for a pie anyway, plan on making a pie, just find a gluten, dairy or nut free pastry recipe and make sure there is no cross contamination in your kitchen.

Jack O'Donnell was forced to quit his job as head baker at Wellingtons Leeds St Bakery after he was diagnosed with celiac disease.

Ross Giblin / stuff

Jack O’Donnell was forced to quit his job as head baker at Wellingtons Leeds St Bakery after he was diagnosed with celiac disease.

It is a good idea to try out your selection beforehand “so that you know how to do it” [the new ingredients or recipe] perform and you won’t go blind and come up with something you are not satisfied with ”.

Familiarize yourself with other flours, be it sorghum or buckwheat, and what to make with them.

It pays to be vigilant about allergies, as some can be fatal or painful. Do your research and know your guests well so that you don’t build up your meal on “strong irritants”.

“If you look at the fodmap diet, you might not be allergic to lactose, but it’s fairly small servings of milk that they recommend if you have IBS.” So it is obviously a good idea not to base an entire course on one intense cheese. “

There is always a substitute for potentially irritating wheat flours or grains.

“For example, if you look at the oriental dish tabouleh, which is prepared with herbs and Bulgarian wheat, you can easily replace quinoa with wheat, and [then] You have a superfood in it that is nutritious and it will be energizing, but not too much of a problem for allergies. “

“If I had a severe allergy or a complicated autoimmune paleo diet, I would just eat my own food and not let the person [cooking] You worry about it for me, ”says Zinn.

People tend to “over-complicate” things when it comes to feeding others.

“In the old days, when you had people for drinks and snacks, you just gave out crackers and cheese or a packet of chips.

“Nowadays you look at those records and they have 50 different things on them. So there really is always a choice for someone, no matter what their dietary preference, just because of the abundance and variety of dishes we now serve. “

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