Catering an event is a pretty difficult task, with military-style precision needed to get everything just right and on time. It's made harder by all the dietary restrictions people have, as it's important to make sure everyone has enough to eat so they go away happy.
If you've never had to cater for vegans before, it can be a source of worry getting everything right. People who aren't vegan themselves might be concerned they don't fully understand the diet, and that they'll inadvertently offend their guests by serving something inappropriate.
With this quick guide, you'll see how easy it is to cater to vegans, and lose the worry in the process.
Like vegetarians, vegans don't eat any meat including fish and products containing gelatine. However, they also forgo all products that originate from animals, so there's no dairy of any kind, eggs, or even honey in vegan food. You might also hear veganism called a plant-based diet.
Although those are the main things avoided by vegans, there are lots of lesser-known ingredients of animal origin that are difficult to spot. One example is L-cysteine, an amino acid sometimes extracted from feathers or animal hair, which you'll find in a lot of store-bought bread.
If in doubt, make as much from scratch as possible, or buy from smaller producers who will be able to tell you what's in their food.
Thanks to the range of alternative products available, it's easier than ever to cater to vegans. In many cases, you can simply swap out ingredients in your usual recipes for their vegan versions, such as meat, cheese, milk and egg alternatives.
A widely-used vegan ingredient is nutritional yeast, which is flakes of dried, deactivated yeast. It might sound strange, but it gives food a delicious savoury, cheesy flavour that's really versatile.
Lentils and beans are a good source of vegan protein, and things like pies and tarts can be made with a selection of vegetables in a sauce. As long as it's seasoned and flavoured well, these are tasty, easy to make dishes.
Falafel and hummus with crudites are two popular vegan finger foods, and with textured vegetable protein, a dried alternative to minced meat, you can make all sorts of things from sausage rolls to chilli.
Other things to consider
A lot of vegan meat substitutes are made from wheat protein, soy, or both. Since a lot of people are either allergic to these ingredients or exclude them for health reasons, make sure you check anything you use will be suitable for your guests.
You should also make sure any drinks served are suitable for vegans. Some wines and beers are clarified using gelatine, eggs, or isinglass – which is extracted from the swim bladders of fish. If it's not labelled on the bottle, you can usually find out online if a drink is vegan-friendly.