Expert tips for hosting a plant-based festive menu
We spoke to head chef and vegan menu creator Andre Hill at the Radisson Red to get all the top tips for plant-based festive celebrations.
We were invited to the tasting-menu lunch at the Radisson Red for their Vegan Xmas Lunch celebration, which happens annually on Christmas Day, and were completely blown away by the flavours and textures of this plant-based experience! So impressed, in fact, that we decided to ask Andre Hill, head chef and the curator of such a fine plant-based meal, for some tips ahead of any plant-based hosting you’re planning at home this festive season.
Here’s what Andre Hill had to say.
What are key considerations when designing a plant-based festive menu to ensure it appeals to a wide range of tastes and dietary preferences?
Seasonality and regional availability. With us, we are quite flexible with any dietary restrictions anyone might have, so with notice, we adjust menus for individuals and are ready on the day to do our best for those who might have forgotten to mention their restrictions. I love finishing dishes with pickles that appear in the dish as they break and elevate items that are rich or have a full body in texture and flavour.
For those new to plant-based cooking, what are some fundamental techniques or ingredients they should familiarise themselves with to create a successful festive spread?
The beautiful thing with vegetables is that the same cooking techniques applied to non-plant-based items can be used with the same amazing results. Like grilled and braised cabbage wedges, or smoked sweet potatoes cooked on coal butternuts under the grill with a peanut-and-chilli crust.
MUST-TRY RECIPE: Chakalaka roasted red cabbage steaks with mixed seeds
How do you approach balancing textures and flavours in plant-based dishes, especially during festive occasions where diversity and richness are expected?
The approach is always the same: we try to establish a strong base for the direction of the dish, and look at two to three ingredients that could enhance it. Then, use our knowledge of techniques to build on that. Or using the same ingredient in different ways to enhance the dish, like doing onions in a six-hour braise for a purée, with pickled onions, bhaji onions to enhance a smoked caramelised pumpkin steak, and a coconut curry emulsion. Trying our best to stick to the philosophy of focusing on less.
Are there any particular cooking methods or tools that are especially useful when preparing plant-based dishes for large gatherings or catering events during the festive season?
Braising is always a good one (especially for your one-pot wonders!) or roasting whole cauliflower, broccoli or cabbage.