Cooking for other people can be a daunting prospect. For many people, food is their love language and cooking for friends and family is such an intrinsic part of who they are. For me, that natural confidence is often missing; having people over for dinner makes me anxious. What should I cook? Will they like it? What if they don't!? I love to cook and I'm sure the fact that I've cooked on telly for one of Britain's most famous chefs should point to the fact that I'm confident about my cooking, but the truth of the matter is - far from it!
Of course, there are compliments from friends, but most dinner guests (at least, the ones I like to have around my table!) are mostly likely to tell you it's delicious, even if it's only moderately so. Sometimes I have quite weird tastes...I love certain things together that shouldn't go together and I'm indiscriminate in my love of hotdog frankfurters and cheap greasy spoon sausages. Sorry, not sorry! So for that reason, it can be hard to tell if something I've made is good...or I just think it is! Having an honest boyfriend (whom I cook for most nights) definitely solves some of the mystery, but he can be brutally honest - for example, he didn't like the Vietnamese salad dish I made on Humble Pie!
I'm currently re-reading Cooking For Mr Latte, in which she makes the case for a signature menu. Like me, the author loves cooking; so much so, that she rarely cooks the same dish more than a few times, choosing to flit between newly-discovered techniques and ingredients. But, she notes, hosting a dinner party sends her into a spiral of panic, whereas having a tried-and-tested set of dishes ready to go takes the anxiety out of preparing food for others and leaves you open for being a relaxed, attentive host. I think that will have to be my next project – starting with making the perfect meatballs: I always come back to this article, about how having people over doesn’t need to be a ‘special occasion’ where you put on your best show. Really, it’s just about bringing people together. Amen!
So I'm curious; what gives you confidence in your cooking? Does cooking come naturally to you? Do you have a signature dish that does the job for dinner parties, leaving you free to be the perfect host? Any kitchen disasters that knocked your confidence?
Recipes from top to bottom: Mini lemon and blackberry cakes, Breakfast burritos w/ homemade tortillas, Double-wrapped spring rolls (as part of this dish), Bombay omelette inspired by Dishoom, Chipotle macaroni cheese, Homemade furikake rice bowls, Courgetti and halloumi.