Cook clubs are fast becoming the hottest way to dine. With regular nights out becoming few and far between, people are looking for cost-effective ways of socialising.
The cook club is an alternative to the book club and shakes up the regular old home-cooked dinner party format. Although there are many home cooks out there who have started clubs with friends and family, I've discovered that they come in many different formats.
Generally, a guest list of six to eight people is agreed upon and, each week, a different person takes it upon themselves to cook a meal for their guests, but formats vary, with some clubs bringing different courses for each dinner.
Come Dine With Me has a lot to answer for in terms of introducing a competitive streak to the table. The show invites strangers to cook for each other in their own homes over the period of a week and the person with the highest score walks away with a cash sum.
TV hype aside, cook clubs can be used to discover new ingredients. Myself and my friends ran one where we decided to try a different meat each week. A lot of effort went into sourcing the likes of rabbit, ostrich and venison, not to mention the time it took to figure out how to cook them. But the result was a fantastic meal each week, which we all looked forward to.
Whatever format you decide on for your cook club, make sure you keep things interesting. Some people like to plan a year in advance and commit to cooking certain dishes; some people mark each other out of 10. The most important things to remember, of course, are to enjoy the food, your company and yourself. I absolutely love entertaining at home and, although there may be a little extra pressure to ensure that you pull the whole night off, it is worth the effort.
No matter how adventurous you may be in the kitchen, cooking for guests is a whole different ball game. While you might want to wrestle a lobster, your guests will appreciate your company far more than any extravagant dish. Delicious recipes which can be made ahead of time will save your bacon, and you'll be able to enjoy the night far more than if you were stuck in the kitchen sweating. After all, this is a social event, so keep it simple.
Choose recipes that can be kept in the fridge the night before or even thrown in the freezer to be pulled out effortlessly when required. Here are some that I hope you will enjoy.