Help me feed my friends with 7386 dietary restrictions for St . Patrick's Day!

OK, I have been struck with the idea of having a casual dinner-ish party for a bunch of friends next Saturday, with the semi-excuse of St. Patrick’s Day (though the vast majority of us are not remotely Irish). Tentative menu:

Lamb stew with stout (with other veggies - carrots, turnips, parsnips, etc.)
Maybe some kind of veggie gratin - cauliflower? or maybe stuffed mushrooms, but stuffed with what?
Sticky toffee pudding

Where I am running into problems is with my friends’ various dietary restrictions. They include:

  • One garden-variety (hah!) ovo-lacto vegetarian
  • One very picky pescatarian who probably won’t show up anyway
  • One pescatarian who would not normally be much of an issue, except that she is currently nursing her baby who has severe dairy and egg allergies

So what can I do to make sure everyone has some semblance of a balanced meal? I suppose I could also bake a slab of salmon, but what can I do to it that fits the rest of the menu and isn’t totally boring? Recipes welcome!

I swear, this would be much easier with my usual vaguely Middle Eastern/pan-Mediterranean food for this crowd…

I don’t know if they expect a freshly prepared dish or not, but there is a pretty decent selection of vegan frozen food on the market these days. One of my favorite companies is Morning Star Farms, but they only have a few vegan items. In a large metro area like yours, any large health food store (or Whole Foods too I guess) should have a good selection.

The only thing I’m not sure about is if any ingredients that fall below some threshold aren’t listed. I don’t thinks so though since any vitamins are always listed and those measured in milligrams.

One key to serving a group like this is that not everyone will eat everything. So make one tofu or whatever dish for the vegetarians, and let them pick which of the other items they’ll eat.

And what animals’ milk is the nursing baby allergic to? It’s obviously not milk in general, given that she’s nursing. Would goat products, for instance, work?

Actually, back that up a step-- Can allergens in the mother’s diet even express themselves in her milk at all? This is the first I’ve ever heard of that, though I suppose there are plenty of other things I’ve never heard of.

Oh, I certainly wasn’t planning on everyone being able to eat everything, and I have a pretty wide repertoire of vegetarian/vegan dishes. The hard part is fitting them into the menu theme.

I don’t know whether the baby is allergic to goat milk, but the mom has been abstaining from all dairy, just in case, and she LOVES cheese, so I’m sure she wouldn’t do it if she didn’t think it were necessary. And I don’t know the specifics of allergens expressing themselves in breast milk, but plenty of medications do, so the idea that allergens would really doesn’t surprise me. And they are still in the process of figuring out what exactly the baby is sensitive to, so she’s probably playing it safe. (And they are probably a bit gun-shy; I accidentally nearly killed their older daughter a few months ago with some walnut cookies. She’d never really been a nut eater, but she ended up in the ER within the hour with wheezing, hives, and blood pressure of 50/30. Nobody had any idea she was allergic to walnuts.)

Back to menu: I guess potatoes are easy, simple vegetable dishes are easy…what I need is some kind of bean or legume dish to round things out in the protein department. One that isn’t made with a bit of pork! Anyone?

My friends are probably well-mannered enough to eat whatever I put in front of them, barring allergies, etc. But I wouldn’t serve frozen food to dinner guests. I love to cook! Also, I wouldn’t serve to guests anything I wouldn’t eat myself (except tofu to one vegan house guest, but tofu is my own personal dislike - I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with it, but to make a long story short, let’s just say I have unpleasant associations with it), and I generally avoid prefab frozen foods.

What about a vegetarian version of the lamb stew, with lentils and vegetable stock instead of meat and meat stock? Should be pretty easy to use the same veggies, and a hearty lentil stew is always appreciated by the likes of me, anyway. (I don’t eat factory farmed animal products, so pretty much eat vegan when not at home).

Well, do YOU want meat? You count too, y’know.

I’d probably do a roast leg of lamb with a bean (or lentil) stew (with all those yummy vegetables you mention) as another dish - main dish for some, side dish for others. While you don’t want to use pork in the veggie stew, Liquid Smoke is not derived from meat products, and it’s all natural (no, really! They literally make a smoky fire and condense the smoke from it on cold glass and drip it into bottles! Weird, isn’t it?!). It’s really the smoky salty taste that you want from the pork product anyhow.

Potatoes are fine for all. I’d probably skip the gratin, and do a couple of vegetable sides instead. Perhaps a salad and some nice spring asparagus or green beans. Don’t make yourself crazy.

Hmmmm…now that I think about it, 2 of the 3 vegetarians are actually pescatarians, and the only one who isn’t will eat dairy. So maybe this all isn’t as much of a barrier as I thought, as long as the fish and most of the veggies aren’t cooked with dairy.

And yes, I am also making lamb! because most of us actually do eat meat and like lamb. But it’s easy enough to throw a slab of salmon in the oven. But with what? Lemon and mustard and dill, maybe?

This recipe for Salmon with Roasted Garlic is very good. Very, very good. You can roast the garlic and make the puree a day ahead of time and throw it on the salmon at the last minute before baking.

How about a marinade? We usually just mix up equal parts soy sauce and sherry, and throw in a couple diced cloves of garlic and a thumb’s worth of diced ginger. Let it marinade for an hour or two before cooking. If that sounds too Asian-y for the rest of your meal, swap out the ginger for spices you’re using in your lamb stew.

I second the suggestion of a vegetable stew - even without lentils, they’re very filling and satisfying.

Colcannon would be a good veggie side-dish for a St Patrick’s Day meal. Fish-wise, mussels or oysters would be pretty traditional Irish choices. Well, or cod, salmon or mackerel, but shellfish is more interesting and you could sing Molly Malone as you cooked.

I’ve sucessfully replaced ground lamb with puy lentils in a moussaka dish before. I’d have a go at a puy lentil Irish stew. I’m Irish so my opinion carries some weight in this matter!

Meatless lentil soup, then. Works well with most darkish varieties of kidney-shaped beans, too.

Version assuming that people will want to eat the veggies (I hate cooked carrot, sorry):

Chop up the leeks and carrots into round slices. Put some oil on the bottom of the pot. Heat. When it’s hot, add the veggies; cook until the leeks go translucent. Add water, salt, lentils (1) and the peeled, cut-up potatoes. Cook. Serve.

Of course it works better with stock or with a dash of tomato sauce or with some spices or with… that was the absolute barebones version. I don’t know what some of the spices we use are called in English (clavo… anybody?); Mom usually adds a couple of laurel leaves, I like using a bit of finely ground black pepper.

The meat version is the same, but with bits and pieces that also make it non-kosher and non-halal, what with all of them coming from a pig…
1: if the lentils were dry, keep them covered in water for at least 12h beforehand, otherwise they take forever to cook.

I think it’s in the Mumper’s blog too, but the basic-est version of Salmon Roast at Casa Nava is:

get the salmon “book-cleaned” (guts and spine taken out, so it opens and closes like a book). Put a bit of oil in an oven tray (just enough to keep the salmon’s skin from sticking before it starts leaking juice). Put salmon in tray. Cook. When it smells like a piece of Heaven it’s done. Between heating the oven and the actual cooking time, reckon 45’-1h (depends on the size of the salmon, most are 45’-50’).

The fancy version involves placing peeled jumbo shrimp inside. We believe in minimalist cooking.

  1. Every time I have an ‘Irish breakfast’ at the pub, it includes beans, so baked beans are evidently a part of Irish cuisine.
  2. And maybe this is more Boston Irish than actual Ireland, but broiled scrod feels kind of St. Patricks Day to me. (Just cod or really any whitefish, with breadcrumbs, lemon, butter, salt and maybe minced garlic on top. Broil. It’s better than the simple recipe makes it sound).