As with the summer menu, it is always good to include as much variety as possible. To make sure you can please everyone, it is always a good idea to include a vegetarian option and ask the guests to let you know their choices in advance. That means that if you have any Muslim or Jewish guests, they will have a suitable option too, and you don’t have to think about halal or kosher meat.
Gluten-free has become questioned lately, but if you avoid pastry, pasta and sauces thickened with flour, you are more likely to offer a healthy meal that is easy to digest. Of course, the dessert course is something else. We don’t prioritise health when we choose our sweet treats!
Simple and recognisable is best for guests with a range of ages and social backgrounds, but everything needs to be done well. Using seasonal and, ideally, locally-grown vegetables helps with this, as well as being more appropriate for the time of year, as they are less likely to have travelled long distances and been stored for a long time. This also helps to make sure the food is appropriate for the time of year.
Soups and risottos can be made with vegetable stock or with meat so they make it easy to offer a vegetarian option within the same choice.
Although this is a formal meal, it is nice to offer some communal sharing plates, like a selection of bread rolls, chutneys and sauces and seed and herb mixes for the guests to sprinkle on their food. Label everything clearly, though, so that guests know what they are getting, especially children and older guests.
Your caterer or the venue’s chef will probably have a lot more choices, but here are some ideas to whet your appetite:
Winter wedding starters
- Wonton selection
- A seasonal soup: butternut squash, barley broth or minestrone, with or without beef or chicken
- A seasonal risotto: mushroom, red pepper, leek with plenty of shaved parmesan to serve and with or without a little chicken, pastrami or sausage.
For the main course, everyone loves a traditional roast and in winter, you can get away with a greater emphasis on carbohydrates, like potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. You could try serving goose, venison or hogget as a change from chicken, beef or lamb.
I feel sorry for vegetarians faced with the usual nut cutlet or pastry-based “treats”. It’s a sign of a good chef that when the going gets tough, they get creative. If they are restricted in their choice of ingredients, then that should inspire them even more. The vegetarian options could derive their protein from beans in a chilli sin carne; a casserole made with cannellini beans, butter beans or haricot beans; or a Morrocan or Spanish-inspired chick-pea tagine or stew.
Desserts could be a selection of tiny cakes or miniature Indian sweets. If you have never eaten halva and nankhatai, you could be delighted by them. Coffee, tea or peppermint tea with a square of fudge, a sugared almond or a chocolate mint would also be a cosy way to wind down after the dessert.