When I was 15 I accidentally set a microwave on fire.
I just wrote, ‘I don’t know how it happened’ but I had to delete it because I know exactly how it happened. It happened because, at the time, I wasn’t aware you had to add water to dry rice before you cook it in a non-microwaveable bowl for twenty minutes. As I said to my mum through the billowing smoke that had consumed the kitchen in a surprisingly short space of time; you live and learn.
I was reminded of this event last night when I filled a pan full of pasta and left it for fifteen minutes, only to come back and realise I hadn’t left enough room for it to expand. It took me nearly half an hour to scrape the charred remains of sludgey pasta shells off the cooker.
The point I’m trying to make is that cooking isn’t my forte. Eating I’m fantastic at, but cooking is always an area that I’ve fallen short in. I just don’t enjoy it – as far as I’m concerned, life’s too short to spend time chopping garlic.
So, if you’re anything like me, but want to fool people into thinking you’re the next Nigella, here’s a few tips on how to fake a dinner party…
Choosing the meal
These days you can get just about anything precooked and packaged from the supermarket – especially if you go to one of the
pretentious fancy places like Waitrose or Marksies. The difficulty lies in getting people to actually believe that it’s your own handiwork, so the key is to choose a fancy dish that you can add something to in order to make it seem (and look) ‘home-made’.
I’d recommend choosing something that you can make look authentic by simply adding a handful of mozzarella. Enchiladas are good for this – and they also have the added benefit of allowing you to host a Mexican themed night, where you can distract people with oversized hats and copious amount of tequila.
Setting the scene
When it comes to dinner parties, the ambiance is just as important as the food… and when I say ‘ambiance’ I mean alcohol, so make sure you’ve stocked up.
You want to create a relaxing atmosphere, so light a few candles, titivate your table and make sure you’ve got a good playlist on the go. It’s also a good idea to strategically place a ‘talking piece’ in the room to divert any unwanted questions that may crop up about how you prepared the meal.
Also, if your best friend/mum/local takeaway has cooked the whole meal for you and dropped it round 10 minutes before the first guest arrives, make sure you remember to put any strong smelling ingredients (like fish) in the oven beforehand so that the house smells of food - thus creating the illusion that you’ve been slaving in the kitchen for hours, rather than lying on the couch in your pants watching re-runs of Friends.
Talking the talk
If, god forbid, people do start asking questions about your cooking methods, these little phrases should help to tide you over until you think up a way to move the conversation on:
“Oh that, I marinated it overnight!”
If you’ve cooked any sort of meat or fish with flavour, then this is your staple sentence – just make sure to change the subject before they ask how you made the marinade! Not only do you sound like you know what you’re talking about, but it also gives the impression that you’ve been planning this meal for at least 24 hours, rather than the 6 minutes it took you to wander around Tesco after reading all of the magazines on the way in. If they do ask about the marinade, just tell them that it was a mixture of whatever herbs and spices you had in the cupboard. Yet it still tastes amazing, because you’re a natural.
“I find that using fresh chilli’s give it that extra bit of flavour”
This one works if you’ve ‘made’ something spicy – and also gives you a brilliant diversion tactic when you go on to tell them how you “accidentally touched your eye right after chopping it” – ouch!
“It’s an old family recipe, I’ll dig it out for you later”
Except that you won’t dig anything out later – and if they press the subject just tell them you’ll email it across, you can find something on Google later.