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Most people have friends with allergies, and I wish to make a list with tips on how to make such a meal when there is different allergies at the same time. For example, it's a big problem making a cake without gluten, laktose and eggs, but this issue might come at hand. Often one don't wish to make three different cakes, so tips one how to assert this problem is that I wan't from this thread. Will also try to summarize the tips in this post.

Tips for intollerance, religion and personal choices are also welcome. Actually tips for cooking for everyone of us who tend to be a pain in the ass (I have celiaki myself, so not offence intended).

  1. Make a list of can have ingredients for the possible courses.
  2. Use substitute products (Not easy since they might behave a bit differently).
  3. Make buffet where one have several gluten/laktose/egg/... free dishes (Can be a lot of work).

For tips on specific allergies, see: Fruit/nuts, Gluten

EDIT: I have specified the question quite a lot from the original by request from Ocaasi, since it started quite broad. The original question is removed.

Also, is there some food that everyone can eat, or food where it is easy to use other ingredients to avoid allergic reactions? Making buffets are always a possibility, but I'm thinking more in the lines of three course meals without making to much differences on the dish.

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    I'm very much in support of making this site a great resource for all kinds of allergy-conscious cooking. BUT, this thread will be way too open-ended for that. There are allergies about almost every kind of food--nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, shellfish... as well of other dietary restrictions on salt, sugar, cholesterol, fiber...so any given thread has to pick one and focus. If celiac is your concern, please edit your question to focus on just celiac. That way, the answers can really zero in on this issue and become a more definitive resource rather than just a survey. – Ocaasi Aug 9 '10 at 9:22
  • Ocaasi - I agree to a degree (and started up a thread about fruit/nut allergy, as I have it), but combinations of allergies in your group of friends (that come over for eating) do happen sometimes. So some 'stock foods' that are cross-allergy friendly may indeed be useful! – Tobias Op Den Brouw Aug 9 '10 at 9:58
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    I kind of agree with Ocaasi that it's a wide question. But the problem is not only tips for seperate allergies, but combinations as well. Like when you have people over with different allergies, it takes a lot to make food for everyone. I'll edit my question a bit to clear things up, but the question is meant for cross-allergies, and not only specific allergies. – martiert Aug 9 '10 at 10:41
  • I am not opposed to the occasional broad question, but this one seems to want both broad tips and very specific techniques. That mix, I think, is unlikely to yield great results. But what the heck, we'll see, it's just a post. It's not like we're wasting paper. – Ocaasi Aug 9 '10 at 11:29
  • @martiert Would you consider removing your baking tips, at least? If you want to include them, you could add them as an answer (you can answer in your own post). That way your question will focus on the broader issue of menu-planning for a multi-allergy crowd, which is indeed a great topic for a post. – Ocaasi Aug 9 '10 at 11:33
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A few basics which haven't been mentioned:

  1. Find out what people's allergies are before they come (they should tell you, but better to ask)

  2. Make labels which list food ingredients and put them on your buffet.

  3. Bring an epi-pen.

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    To label the ingredients is essential if you'r making buffet, hate when people don't do that and you have to ask the cook what's safe when your eating buffet. To actively ask people about allergies is something I don't actually do, if I haven't invited by e-mail, facebook and can ask everyone at the same time. Someone with allergies should always tell the host, and it's better to tell once to many then once to few times. Also guessing the people which have so severe allergies brings theyr own epipen, but nice to have a spare though. – martiert Aug 10 '10 at 7:19
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    Ocaasi: serious about epi-pen? It cost about 100EUR or more and it last just half year! Why not have just cortisone (much longer self-life)? Ok, I know its effect takes much longer but epi-pen -cooking is seriously expensive. I would ask the people to have their pens. And btw you probably cannot even buy the epi-pen yourself because it is prescription drug in many countries. – user2954 Jul 26 '11 at 16:34
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I don't often cook for people with gluten issues; most of the problems I deal with when cooking for others are avoiding corn, milk from cows and nuts, none of which are allergies, they're all intollerances, so small amounts might cause GI problems, but won't cause anaphylaxis and kill someone. I also sometimes cook for people who have other dietary restrictions (preference or religious, such as no pork, no meat, no animal products).

To take the buffet idea one step further, consider something like 'assemble your own' dishes like fajitas or tacos. You can serve both corn and flour tortillas (or as a salad for those avoiding carbs entirely), beans for protein instead of meat, etc.

I also like items that can be assembled individually -- it's easy to designate a stuffed pepper as dairy-free or meat free; much more so than a corner of a casserole, particularly if you have to replace the binder for that portion. You may need to mark the special ones if you're trying to keep track of lots variations (color toothpicks might work). If you have enough ramekins, you might be able to make individual casserole-like items in advance, or be able to take items that are normally served family style and individualize them (eg, meatloaf into burgers, so you pull out a portion or two and don't use breadcrumbs).

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    Actually, intollerances might kill people two. The difference between allergy and intollerance is that allergies is reaction to food protein, while intollerance is everything else. I have a friend who is highly intollerant to fish fat, and will die in 10-15 minuts after he eats it. This is an intollerance, but can still kill. The idea of assemble your own dish is also quite nice, and less strain on the chef. Do you know any recipies for gluten free corn tortillas btw? They normaly contain some flour, and I haven't found any good without. – martiert Aug 9 '10 at 12:55
  • I've never known a corn tortila recipe that had gluten -- the problem with packaged products is that they're typically made in factories that also process wheat. You might have to check packages, but I know there's a few brands at my local store that are this way. You can also find lots of recipes online if you want to make your own (it's basically just masa and water, but you might add some lime juice or other flavorings) – Joe Aug 9 '10 at 13:20
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If your friends are seriously allergic/intolerant to different items, then take a step back and think. Cross contamination could cause some serious problems here - nut allergies for example.

Go for rice as a base for every side. Create different types of rice dishes, and as mentioned above, use something like a color coded tooth pick, or chop stick.

Chicken can be a problem for some people, however, as long as you have another dish, possibly a vegetarian curry without any added yogurt then that should suffice.

Those of us with allergies/intolerances normally tell our host. I have in the past taken my own food, which takes the pressure off the host, and still allows for me to join in the fun.

Deserts for multi allergy/intolerance problems could be a simple fruit salad, with a choice of cream or yogurt (even the soy variety) at the side for people to choose.

The main thing is that in a domestic kitchen, cooking and preparing a meal for friends should be an enjoyable occasion, not a stressed out mind bomb. I guess what I am trying to say is, keep it simple.

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Well, if you're having friends over for dinner, you're probably willing to put in some extra effort anyway. That may sounds like throwaway advice, but it's not meant that way: for instance when my vegetarian friends come over, I make sure to have vegetarian food (duh), or I go buffet-style: as longs as there are enough vegetarian dishes, not all of them need to be that way.

The same thing (buffet) could work for multiple allergies.

Some times, however, sure, you're tired, rushed, or you just don't want to 'rise to the occasion'. I get that. Apparently there are commercial products out there that may help you (one such example offering), and amazon has a TON of cookbooks on this issue as well. (One example, and one more) (Also note the 'Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought' section).

Good luck!

  • Yeah, ofcourse I always make food for all of them which is safe for all of them to eat. But sometimes this is hard, especialy for desserts. If one can't eat gluten, one can't have laktose, one can't have nuts, one can't have eggs, you basicaly have to make 3-4 different dishes which should be served at the same time, but have to be kept appart during preparation. – martiert Aug 9 '10 at 10:39
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    Yeah, that is bloody hard. Here in the Netherlands we have 'American style' buffets (Bring Your Own), which can of course also be used when multiple friends with multiple allergies are coming over. Not a fix, but a work-around, perhaps. Another question: have you ever made a big chart of all your friends CAN-haves, and seen what the overlap was, for different courses? – Tobias Op Den Brouw Aug 9 '10 at 10:53
  • Yeah, the buffet is a workaround, only problem for me when making that is that I'm no big fan of buffetes :P But of course, it's a doable workaround. Have made such a chart when figuring out desserts for new years eve. Worked quite well, but the problem with substitutes is to make them work well, since they most of the times does not behave exactly like "the real thing". I'll have a look at your books though. Have some allergy cookbooks myself, but many of them focuses on specific allergies. – martiert Aug 9 '10 at 11:15
  • Good luck, hope it works out for you. – Tobias Op Den Brouw Aug 9 '10 at 11:27
  • @TobiasOpDenBrouw : for the buffet style stuff, see cooking.stackexchange.com/a/53817/67 for how we ended up dealing with it. (but what's also a pain is making sure that people don't decided that someone's moving too slow and use a spoon from one place to scoop stuff from another dish, contaminating both dishes once the spoon gets used in the right place. But in some way 'pot luck' (bring your own) is a benefit as the gluten free person will bring something gluten free, etc. You still might have to plan a dish for people w/ multiple restrictions, though. – Joe Dec 14 '16 at 19:26
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I'd begin by coming up with a couple of dishes for each course that are allergen-free, as this dietary requirement affects the health and well-being of the people. Once you are certain that there are no ingredients that are harmful to health, take the next step regarding omitting other offending ingredients. I think this method would make it easier and clearer for you and will cover two meals to start off with. If you can, always use unprocessed ingredients, if you can't, then check each ingredient list for allergens first, then other problem items. Keep documents for each recipe and a list of foodstuffs that comply with your requirements. You could complicate the matter here and have recipes and food lists in sections for the different dietary requirements for when you want more choice and you only have guests with one special dietary requirement. As another poster mentioned, be aware of cross-contamination of residues.

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