Stick With Squash
Squash is a great substitute for those who aren’t keen on aubergine. As a meat alternative it’s just as filling and substantial but is also far more flavoursome, so can work well both on they’re own or as part of a larger meal. Squash come in a variety of types ranging from the softer and creamier tasting butternut, to far sweeter nuttier varieties such as the kabocha or Japanese squash. Here’s a handy guide to the different types available, and what foods they work best with, from RealSimple.com.
Much like different cuts of meat, the texture of squash varies. Pairing the right texture with your dish is sure to impress your guests. For example, for softer dishes such as risottos, use a more fibrous or stringy squash to complement the creamy consistency of the risotto.
Cook Up Courgettes
Technically a type of summer squash, the courgette could be accused of being just as bland and spongy as aubergines. In fact, courgettes are far easier to prepare and really tasty when paired with the right flavours. Normally a staple of ratatouille, there are tons of other interesting ways to serve courgettes that your vegetarian guests may have never come across before. Salty foods like olives and hard cheeses marry really well with the mild juicy flesh of courgettes. Or get a little bit of Asian inspiration by teaming them with a splash of soy sauce and a drizzle of honey. For some scrumptious and unusual flavour pairings, click here.
Another great way to serve courgette, is believe it or not, in a lasagne. An individual lasagne is an easy and sweet way to keep your veggie guest happy, and being a standalone dish, you don’t need to worry about cross contamination with meaty things in your kitchen. Layering grated courgette with pasta and a cheesy herb sauce is a sure fire way to make an impression on your dinner guests.
Curries are a brilliant way to show off seasonal vegetables and pretty much anything goes. As long as it has a good balance of spices a vegetable curry is a great centrepiece to a meal which could easily satisfy meat eaters and vegetarians alike. A lot of meat in curries can get tough and overcooked and if you’re anything like me you’ll probably end up discreetly picking it out. Using potatoes and squash as an alternative will help add thickness to a curry as well as soak up the flavour of the spices. Then simply choose your favourite vegetables – the more colourful the better! If you want to serve an Asian-style curry, it’s important to remember to have a quick check through the recipe for fish sauce as this is obviously not suitable for vegetarians and is a common base flavour for Asian curry pastes.
Tempt Them with Tartlets
Tartlets are super simple but will look just as appealing as that roast you’ve spent a good three hours basting. You can easily select any filling combination to suit your diner’s tastes and there are hundreds of tartlet recipes online to spark inspiration. Caramelised onion can add a bit of indulgence, especially when paired with creamy cheeses, and wild mushrooms add a rich earthy flavour which makes a delicious change to the regular (and often blander) button variety.
So next time you find yourself catering for vegetarians, remember these handy alternative meal ideas. Not only will your guests be impressed by the extra thought you put in, you won’t be eating leftover aubergine for the rest of the week!
James Oxley is one of the Co-Directors of Bespoke Caterers who are based in Colchester, Essex and have a dedicated team of experienced chefs.