Quick and easy fast food options might be everywhere you look these days, but lots of men just love to prepare meals from scratch in their own kitchen.
In fact, many of us now spend a lot more time in amongst the pots and pans than women. Where once many of us could barely boil an egg, we’re now happy to rustle up all manner of culinary treats. If you’ve got a partner, spouse or a long-awaited hot date coming round, cooking a top-dollar meal for two can be a real winner, but you need to get it right first time.
With a little bit of thought and some careful planning it’s possible to put together the ultimate night in, complete with delicious food, seductive atmosphere and scene-setting music.
Keep it Simple
Relatively simple dishes can win out over their more sophisticated counterparts. Celebrity chefs say it all the time but the foundations for whatever you plan to cook revolves around fresh ingredients. Sourcing the best ingredients will pay dividends as the cooking commences. If you’re trying a dish for the first time then have a recipe from a dependable source close at hand.
Alternatively, cook something you feel confident with and create a carefully designed menu. Printing these out on some good quality paper can set the scene to great effect, as can some decent cutlery and glassware suited to the occasion rather than a selection of random glasses you got when you were a student.
You don’t want to leave your guest feeling too stuffed, and that definitely goes for the starter. Try something deliciously tasty but relatively light, like an orange, potato and rocket salad or lemon, chili and white radish salad.
If she loves seafood then you could try a lemon prawn pan fry or even oysters. A cheese fan will love a double-baked goats cheese soufflé’ but slightly less precarious is onion soup with cider and Stilton served with fresh bread.
The Main Event
Your main course should take things up a notch but be sure to find out in advance what your guest is partial to. There’s little point in laboring over a delicious baked cod with herby crust or marinated salmon with chili lime and honey only to find out she loathes anything with fins.
Check that she’s a meat eater and not vegetarian or vegan. Avoid the dull and boring roast peppers and baked goats cheese salad that many home chefs tend to think will act as an inspiring option for a veggie. Try working with less obvious ingredients like farro or smoked tofu to really impress that meat-free friend of yours.
Char-grilled pork with sweet potato scallops could be a good option for those ladies with a heartier appetite, while a perfectly cooked char-grilled fillet steak with smoked chili butter should be similarly appealing.
Everyone loves the prospect of a delicious dessert. However, if you don’t know her all that well, try and find out beforehand if she has something of a sweet-tooth or would prefer something a little less calorific.
If it’s somewhere inbetween you could always go down the route of combining plenty of fruit with the cream and chocolate, although that obviously extends to something a little more exotic than an instant trifle. Don’t drown everything in booze either.
Less is More
Sticky Guinness pudding might be a bridge too far at this juncture, so consider a refreshing sorbet to cleanse the palate, some home made ice-cream or perhaps a chocolate fondant with poached strawberries.
Round out with some really good coffee, but find out her caffeine preferences beforehand. This includes whatever it is she likes dusted on top of that cappuccino or latte. Stock up on those little mini marshmallows if the lady would rather round it all off with a full-fat hot chocolate.
Consider the overall experience. No eating off trays on the sofa in front of the footie. Instead, spend some time preparing the surroundings and make a real effort on creating a room with an enchanting ambience. Surprisingly this can even be done if you call a bedsit home.
A romantic meal can be instantly enhanced by soft lighting and candles, be they scented or otherwise. Set the table properly with a tablecloth made specifically for the job rather than an old bed sheet. Use napkins made from material rather than the paper variety. Aim to create an overall vision that suggests color coordination instead of colour chaos.
Pick out a selection of tunes that’ll suit the occasion and aim to have the music playing as a sultry background accompaniment, rather than using it to drown out your guest.
Don’t forget to spend some time on yourself either. Give yourself a slot to focus on some all-important male grooming, being sure to get rid of any traces of dirt under the nails. There’s nothing more off-putting than having a host plating-up who looks like he’s just done an oil change.
Everything in Moderation
Resist the temptation to guzzle beer. Invest instead in a quality wine, which matches the food you’re planning to serve. Not sure about that? Ask the nice chap down at the off-license whether it’s red or white with those oysters.
Drinking less will also mean fewer visits to the loo. Even though you might have to go and check on the next course, leaving the table at the wrong time can go down very badly indeed. Oh, and eat with your mouth closed too!