Congratulations are in order. You’ve finally invited that special someone over to yours, you’ve even offered to cook them diner. It’s a shame that you can’t remember the last time that you cooked for anyone other than yourself or your less-than-picky housemates but don’t panic, it will be fine.
Preparation is everything: firstly choosing what to cook. Be sure to ask your date if there is anything that they can’t or don’t eat. A surprising number of people believe that this is an awkward topic to broach but it’s not nearly as awkward as having to phone Dominos for an emergency veggie pizza or worse, an ambulance for anaphylactic shock. Once you’re sure of what you can or can’t serve up it’s only a matter of finding a suitable recipe and sticking to it. If there’s just one dish which you can cook brilliantly then this is the time for it; if not then a twist on a classic is often a safe bet, think bangers and mash with posh sausages and whole grain mustard mash. It is crucial to ensure that all of your ingredients are to hand and that all of your appliances are working in advance. There really are few things worse than realising that the hob in your staircase kitchen isn’t working, especially 20 minutes after putting the vegetables on it.
Many who have limited cooking experience soon realise that following a recipe really isn’t difficult. More challenging is ensuring that all of the different components of the meal are ready at the same time. With summer on the way salad is back on the menu and can be prepared in advance or while other things cook. There is no shame in microwaving vegetables and preparing pasta or couscous in the last minutes of cooking. Yes, couscous. Many have negative perceptions of couscous based on poor experiences of dry or bland offerings. Half a mug of dried couscous with tomato puree, oregano and turmeric covered with as much boiling water as couscous will soon dispel these, stir and serve with a fork to avoid clumping.
As far as serving up goes don’t go over the top. Matching plates and wine in proper glasses (if you have them) are a nice touch. Candles, however, are a little too much, not to mention in contravention of fire regulations pretty much everywhere. The same is true for courses, while having something in for desert is probably a nice idea, going as far as a starter may make it seem that you are trying too hard and give the evening far more of a formal feeling than you might hope for. If your date offers to bring desert or to help with the last of the cooking then it may be a good idea to politely accept the offer (unless you’re an irritable cook), this can help to get conversation going and set a comfortable mood. The rest is up to you and, honestly, it will be fine.