Cooking for a crowd

Cooking for a crowd

by Great British Chefs 23 November 2015

Feeding large groups of people can be tricky – especially if some of your guests have dietary requirements. But there are plenty of products on the shelves that mean you can still serve your favourite food.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

As we roll on towards Christmas, the number of parties, reunions, dinners and gatherings start mounting up. If you’re going to be hosting your own soiree, working out what to cook can be a bit stressful. Serving something that everyone will enjoy is tough enough, but guests can be vegetarian, gluten intolerant, struggle with dairy or be allergic to specific ingredients. You might think this seriously limits the number of dishes you can serve, but don’t feel like you have to play it safe; the number of free from and alternative products has expanded massively over the past few years. With a few substitutions, versions of recipes normally containing wheat, milk or eggs can still be served to large crowds of people.

It’s always a good idea to offer a vegetarian dish of some kind, but instead of sticking to the classics (many of which most vegetarians will be fed up of being served time and time again) try something a bit more adventurous. Fabrizio Marino’s Gourmet pizza looks absolutely stunning and will make most people forget about any carnivorous offerings entirely. For vegetarian canapés and party food you’re spoilt for choice; try Bruno Loubet’s seasonal Roquefort and cranberry endives or Deena Kakaya’s spring rolls and puff pastry plait.

With the number of people following a gluten-free diet constantly on the increase, it’s important to find out if any of your guests are intolerant or allergic. If they are, don’t automatically think your planned pies, pastries, sauces or batters are off limits – the majority of them can still be made with gluten-free flours. While they might not have the exact same texture as their wheat-filled counterparts, gluten-free baking is incredibly popular, and a thriving online community has helped create alternative recipes for everything from bread sauce to chocolate fudge cake. Victoria Glass’ recipe for sausage rolls uses a mix of potato and rice flour with xantham gum to create the pastry, and they’re every bit as delicious as the traditional kind.

Milking it

Dairy plays a pretty important role in a lot of recipes – particularly baking. Lots of people aren’t lactose-intolerant, but simply avoid milk because they find it hard to digest or it makes them feel bloated – something you definitely don’t want at a party. This can be due to the A1 protein found in most cows’ milk, which is harder for our bodies to digest. Try cooking with a2 Milk, a 2015 Taste Awards winner. a2 Milk doesn’t contain that particular protein and tastes exactly the same as standard milk. You might just make your guests realise they could have been enjoying milk all along, and can now tuck into creamy soups, ice cream, hot chocolate and all sorts of baked treats.

Once you know of any dietary requirements your guests have, don’t let yourself be restricted to recipes that avoid things like gluten or dairy. A lot of the time, it’s possible to still serve your favourite party food by substituting one or two ingredients without affecting the flavour whatsoever.

Please note: a2 Milk is not suitable for anyone medically diagnosed with galactosaemia, lactose intolerance or a milk allergy.

Flour power

If you want to substitute flour for gluten-free flour, it's not always as simple as replacing it with the same amount. If you're making things like muffins or cookies, where you don't want a lot of gluten, then it's usually fine. However, with breads and cakes, you will usually have to add a binder, which can be anything from a few extra eggs to some xantham gum.

The resulting mixture before it goes into the oven will usually be more liquid than traditional gluten bakes, too, so don't be tempted to add more flour, otherwise you'll end up with something dense and brittle.