We're over two weeks into 'lockdown life' here in the UK, and it's still unclear whether daily life will be back to normal in weeks or even months. COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on businesses and individuals around the world, and yet we Brits can't even pop to the pub or head out for a meal to take our minds off the stress and worry of the daily news. Here are five top tips for enjoying a posh dinner out (at home) without breaking quarantine. Warning: you will have to cook it yourself.
1. Make it three courses - or more
One course is finished in ten minutes and before you know it you're back on the sofa watching TV. If you really want to make an occasion of it, you'll have to plan for thee courses or even more. Don't worry, and plan with your own abilities in mind: experienced cooks could plan for a mini tasting menu, while less confident chefs can always purchase the starter or dessert while cooking just one or two courses. If you enjoy the build-up, you could even plan a themed night in - French food followed by a French film, or a Greek mezze dinner accompanied by wonderful traditional Greek music.
2. Cook something you've never tried before
It's not going to feel very special if you decide to cook your go-to dinner party dish for your main. Browse recipes - in books or online - and find something completely new to you, and ideally unlike your usual style of cooking - but something you'd love to eat. BBC Good Food is a great free source of recipes online, and this is a great opportunity to try a recipe from one of the many absolutely beautiful recipe books you've owned for years but never once cooked with. How about Ottolenghi's peach, rosemary and lime galette?
3. Go all out on the wine
Nothing says 'staying in' like a £5 bottle of plonk. Consider that you're saving money by not eating out and splash out on a fancy bottle of wine. Even if none of you are wine connoisseurs, you can have fun tasting it and it'll make the night feel that little bit more special; after all, you'd spend upwards of £15 on a bottle of house wine in a restaurant, so why not take that amount and see what it gets you in Tesco?
4. Cheat a bit
Take advantage of supermarket 'dine in for £10' deals, where you can get a starter, main, and dessert for two people for £10. If you really don't want to cook - or you just don't want to risk offending your other half with what you'll likely serve up - then these deals are a great way to recreate a restaurant experience in your own home, three courses and all.
5. Set the atmosphere
This might be the last point, but it's really the factor that will make 'a nice night in' feel more like 'a posh night out'. Candles and low lighting will help to set the atmosphere, while furnishing your table with quality linen napkins and tablecloths will help you to forget that you're actually at home. Then, all you'll need to do is ask Alexa to play 'accordion music' and the authentic Italian restaurant mood is set.
Of course, these are just ideas. You can keep the ones you like and throw out the ones you don't: accordion music is a pretty tight niche. after all. The important thing is that you push the boat out and explore outside of your comfort zone, because that's what leaving home is, after all: a little bit of something different.