Hosting any type of event where food is served is a bloody minefield. Navigating the world of low-key catering suddenly sounds like far too much work once you start factoring in different people’s many, many dietary restrictions.
But if you want to keep your friends — and keep them happy — you’ll have to figure out how to appease all of their wants and needs when you decide to host a legendary BBQ this Easter long weekend.
There are a few key things you can do without knowing the specifics of your mate’s dietary requirements to ensure everyone can enjoy your BBQ — and we’re about to break them down for you.
1. Ask about dietaries ahead of time
This seems really obvious but it’s also the easiest thing to forget, and it could save you a lot of work in the long run.
2. Plan a couple of meals that suit all dietaries
One common mistake people make when catering for people with dietary restrictions, is not planning a couple of meals that suit them all. You might go to the effort of making a light, gluten-free, pasta salad and then sprinkle some roasty toasty nuts, or crumble some cheese over the top. Well done, you’ve just unwillingly ruined someone’s day.
Our tip is to make some hearty salads that could easily count as a full meal (or be a delicious side dish to a juicy piece of meat), so no one feels like they’re missing out. Something like a spiced rice number, or a salad with roasted pumpkin, or even a quinoa tabouli might sound like a lot of work, but it’ll mean a lot to your mates.
3. Label everything
There’s nothing worse than being that person at a party that has to ask the host to run through exactly what’s in every dish on the table. Adding little labels (nothing fancy, even post-its would do) that indicate if something is gluten-free, vegan, or nut-free will go a long way to appease your mates — and it’ll save you a lot of boring conversations.
4. Get your mates to BYO special food
In our humble opinions, it’s totally reasonable to ask your mates to bring a plate of food if they want something above and beyond the usual BBQ fare. There’s no need to single anyone out, but letting your mates know what you’ll be providing and asking them to bring anything above and beyond that is fine. They’re probably the ones who know which are the best vegetarian snags anyway.
5. Plan the BBQ space carefully
Planning out the grill real estate on your BBQ is the only way to ensure you don’t get someone saying “umm, why do these veggie sausages taste like bacon?” If you’ve got a smaller grill, then cooking the vegetarian fare first is a pretty kind thing to do — and your mates will thank you for it.
There are a few ways your actual barbeque will help you with this one, especially if you have a similar beast to the Beefmaster, which is available at Barbeques Galore and is ridiculously customisable, with more than 100 possible configurations. Consider the side burners (great for isolating particular foods — especially for picky people), plus, the more burners you have means more space for separating out food types when cooking. Basically, you’ve just got to make sure your BBQ suits your needs, and that you’re using it to its full potential.
6. Avoid a few key foods altogether
All dietary choices are valid, but for people with severe allergies, it can be dangerous. A few key players like nuts, tree nuts, gluten, and shellfish are best avoided or kept on their own plates and if they’re a bit obscure or hard to see — like peanuts mixed into another meal, for example — then popping a label on that dish is probably the best way forward.Image: The Simpsons