How To Deal With Fussy Eating Friends (Without Resorting To Violent Crime)
Ah, fussy eaters. We all know one. Maybe you are one. I’m not talking about people with allergies or beliefs that restrict their diet – I’m talking about people who just don’t like a lot of stuff (or think they don’t – sometimes I think they’ve just had bad experiences. One bad oyster is definitely enough to put a person off for life). It’s frustrating for those of us who live to eat, because we so badly want them to know what they’re missing!
And look, I’m not here to spout blame or hatred. I have no idea what your taste buds are like. We all have our own likes and dislikes and that is totally ok. Let’s not pretend, however, that it doesn’t make things really flipping difficult when it comes to cooking for a group. If one person suddenly claims to “not like herbs” or “not like anything creamy” it can throw a real spanner in the works. And if you’ve just slaved all day over an incredible bouillabaisse and that friend only eats bread and butter because they “don’t really enjoy seafood”, you may be struck by the sudden urge to beat them over the head with the ladle. I get it, trust me.
So if you’re throwing a dinner party or luncheon and you know that there might be some difficult people to please on the guest list, here are my tips for keeping everyone happy – including yourself!
- LET PEOPLE BUILD THEIR OWN MEALS
Like the build-your-own-burritos in my post a couple of weeks ago, a few meals lend themselves well to this. You could do homemade pizzas and let people add their own toppings, or a couple of deconstructed salads – let people take the bits they like!
2) SERVE ALL SAUCES AND DRESSINGS ON THE SIDE
I will never understand people who like naked salad, but they exist. You could also make pasta and provide two or three sauces for people to choose from.
3) GO PLOUGHMAN’S STYLE
Nothing like a good ploughman’s lunch, especially on a hot day! Fresh crusty bread, good ham, a selection of cheeses, dips, pickles and salads – very little preparation required by you, and once again people can pick and choose as they like. Is this a fancy way of basically eating a sandwich? Yes. Will anybody be complaining? Heck no!
4) DO A POT LUCK
Get everyone to bring their favourite dish to share. Guaranteed to be something everyone likes that way! (But also do two or three good things yourself. You never know, people might bring really weird stuff. I was once served a salad of white beans and tinned pineapple at a pot luck. It was a “family secret”. If it was in my family, I’d be keeping it a bloody secret, not whipping it out at dinner parties).
5) K.I.S.S. – KEEP IT SIMPLE SWEETHEART
Stick with the classics. Something simple that you feel very happy and comfortable making, and is a family classic. I immediately think spaghetti bolognese or lasagne. Always have bread and salad on the side, too.
6) TAPAS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA
When I say “tapas” I don’t mean authentic amazing Spanish food, I mean a bunch of little dishes rather than one big one. Fussy Eater might not go for the pickled octopus, but they’ll like at least a few things.
7) COOK THE FUSSY EATER A SEPARATE MEAL
Extra points if you serve it to them as you would a small child. “And for you Susan, the special paella, without seafood, spices, or vegetables. Yes, it does look like plain rice and chicken, doesn’t it? Gosh.” I’m not sure if fussy eaters can be shamed into being more culinarily adventurous, but we can sure as hell try.
8) GIVE UP, GO TO A RESTAURANT
Preferably one with a large menu and an even larger bar selection. Have a few cocktails and block your ears when your Fussy Eater Friend orders a well-done steak with no sauce and fries instead of potatoes dauphinoise. To each their own!
And for today’s recipe – my go-to curry.
The Curry That Everyone Likes
I invented this curry one day when I had a craving for vegetables, and a random assortment of things in the cupboard. I have since refined it and cooked it in no less than three different countries (Australia, France and Denmark) for very many different people, and literally EVERYBODY has liked it, from small French children to my very English grandparents.
It’s definitely not very authentic, but it’s full of flavour, not too spicy, pretty easy to make, vegan AND gluten free! Basically magical. You can also add any veggies you want, or even chicken – I’ve kept it very basic.
Quick word about the curry paste – you have two options here. Big respect if you want to make your own – I’ve done it and it’s really not difficult at all, it just depends how pressed you are for time. I won’t include my own recipe because I just use Jamie Oliver’s which you can find here (but obviously I leave out the fresh coriander, because I’m not a psychopath). What I umostly do is buy one in a jar. Just make sure it’s a paste and not a simmer sauce!
1 x large sweet potato
2 x medium potatoes
1 x large brown onion
1 x carrot
4 x large handfuls green beans
1 x can chickpeas
4 x tbsp tikka masala curry paste
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
2 x cloves garlic
recommended to serve:
raita (yoghurt and cucumber sauce)
- Dice onion, mince garlic, sauté in a large pan until it smells good and the onion is see-through.
- Peel and chop the carrot, sweet potato and normal potatoes into bite-size pieces. Add to the pan, sizzle on a medium heat.
- Add one half of the curry paste (two tablespoons). If you live in a small apartment, maybe open the window. It smells damn good but boy will it stick around.
- After about five minutes, add the coconut milk and another two spoonfuls of curry paste. Turn the heat down. Simmer very gently for at least 20 minutes, but honestly as long as you like. I’ve actually made this in a slow cooker before. The longer you cook it at this stage, the tastier it will be.
- At this point, if you’re having rice, maybe think about cooking it. I won’t give you instructions. They’re on the packet and you are an independent adult.
- About 10 minutes before you want to serve, add the chickpeas.
- Boil some water. We’re going to blanch the green beans! Blanching is like a little cooking magic trick – it makes green things stay green and a little crunchy, rather than turning to brown mush. When the water is boiling, throw the green beans in for literally one minute. Slightly less, even. Then pop them in a colander and immediately run them under very cold water. Throw them into the curry 3 minutes before serving.
- Taste the curry and if need be, add salt, pepper, or more curry paste. This curry is best served with pappadams for crunch (you can microwave or panfry them), naan or chapati to soak up the delicious sauce, and raita for a little extra tang.
It’s ridiculous but even though I’ve made this curry countless times, I don’t actually have a picture of it. If I’ve made it for you, and you DO have a picture of it, please send it to me! I will be so grateful! Or even better, make it, and send me your pictures!