Nigella is the glamorous face of celebrity cooking, with her sultry one liners and ‘no butter is too much butter’ approach, she has queened over our screens for years. Her dinner parties are renowned for large plates and luxurious ingredients and you can channel her style for your own dinner dates. Once you find you are comfortable around someone, inviting them to your home for a more relaxed date can be exciting. But at the same time, cooking for a potential partner can be a nerve-wracking experience. George Rouse from George’s Kitchen, a boutique catering service, lists his top eleven tips to make sure your dinner date runs smoothly- and how you can channel your inner Nigella.
1 Ask what they like beforehand
Preparing a meal for someone, especially in a dating scenario, can be a nerve-wracking experience, even more so, should you have prepared steak, only to find out they’re vegetarian. The first rule of dinner date planning is to check with your guest if they have any allergies or intolerances to ensure you are relaxed on the evening and not popping to your local shop for a microwave meal and tub of chocolate ice cream.
2 Use fresh ingredients where you can
Ensure you have your list of ingredients in good time to allow yourself wiggle room should you need to adjust your menu due to the availability of different items. Nigella always uses the best quality ingredients and George recommends sourcing them as fresh as possible, especially when it comes to meat, fish and herbs. Depending on your budget, specialist shops and markets will have a range of produce and fine wines to choose from.
3 Do as much forward preparation as you can
There are plenty of components to your meal that can be prepared well in advance; onions can be chopped, salads can be assembled (if that’s your thing) and chocolate brownies can be rustled up the night before. Being organised can save you time and stress in the long run, and will go a long way to ensuring you are more relaxed when your date arrives. Make sure you’re left blushing by the conversation and not your burning béarnaise.
4 Create a menu you are confident with
Confidence is key on a date, so find a combination of plates that you feel confident preparing, now is not the time for improvisation! Practice it beforehand, if you can, so you can determine exactly how long your dishes will take. This will hopefully minimise the risk of over or undercooked food. Choosing a combination of dishes that are simple but also show off your personality is a great way to engage your date and cook up a storm in the kitchen. Find something fairly quick so you aren’t spending all of your time in the kitchen and can enjoy the company of your date. If you’re stuck for romantic dinner ideas, pasta is a sure-fire winner (lady and the tramp anyone?) and bruschetta makes a great, easy starter, not too heavy but full of flavour, especially when made from scratch and using fresh ingredients.
5 Show your personality through the dishes
Share your passions, if you are a big fan of Japanese cuisine, make sushi for example! If you love Italian food, show it by putting on a spread of Italian dishes that will have your date singing ‘amore’. Similarly, if you have a certain meal specific to your culture, replicate it for your date to help them get to know you better.
6 Dress to impress
You don’t have to go all out for a night in, but there should be effort on both sides to make sure you both look presentable! Treat it as though you are going for a nice meal out together; looking good will make you feel more confident too.
7 Set the atmosphere
Creating the right ambience is key to a successful date; it can either make or break any chemistry between you and your potential love interest. Candles are great for making the atmosphere more romantic and add delicate lighting. Music in the background is a great icebreaker and a good talking point, ask your date to choose a song or two so you both feel involved!
8 Choose you drinks carefully
Red wine goes well with meat dishes and feels more romantic than white, but white is often the more popular choice for summer evenings and lighter dishes. It can be a good idea to run this past your date in advance to find out their preference.
9 Have nibbles you can snack on pre-dinner
It can be nice to have nibbles to snack on whilst you are cooking, invite your date into the kitchen to chat whilst you cook. This can be good for breaking the ice and if you are preparing steak or other meat and they can tell you how they like it.
10 Take it al fresco
With warm weather comes the opportunity for dinners outside. Weather dependent at the time of course, take your date into the garden for a romantic date under the stars. Ensure you have a supply of drinks and something warm to pop on should the evening get chilly.
11 Have a sharing pudding
Nigella loves an innuendo, channel her influence and up your flirting game over a dessert. Something that can be shared and placed in the middle of the table is a great way to bring you together; try an Eton mess to share! It’s easy to make for beginners as it has only a handful of ingredients: meringue, strawberries, cream and icing sugar. Serve in large glasses for something that looks like you spent hours on it, they won’t know it took a matter of minutes. Just ensure there’s enough for you to come back for leftovers, Nigella loves a midnight snack!
|By George Rouse, Executive Chef and MD of George’s Kitchen, a boutique catering company operation throughout London and the home counties.
For more information on George’s bespoke catering service, visit GeorgesKitchen.co.uk.