Thanks in part to the increasing popularity of cooking and baking shows on TV, more and more of us are turning a love of food into a hobby. The BBCs Great British Bake Off is regularly watched by around eight million people and is encouraging many to don an apron and grab a wooden spoon.
If youve been inspired to get in the kitchen and cook up a storm in 2014, here are our top tips to help you make it a success.
Learn from the professionals
Depending on how confident you feel about your culinary skills, it might be worth searching out a good course to help you on your way. Even if you already see yourself as a bit of a Delia, Nigella, Jamie, or Gordon there is always something new to learn. You could pick a general course that covers all the bases, or go for something specialist like a seafood school. Perhaps you have a penchant for Peruvian food, an interest in Italian, or a craving for the Caribbean? Whatever youre after, youll probably find a course available to meet your needs. From cookery schools that specialise in cooking for health and nutrition, to those that are all about raw food theres something for everyone.
Find some taste testers
Its a tough job, but someones got to do it! See if you can round up a few friends to act as your taste panel to try new dishes. If youre brave enough you could even get them to score you, Come Dine With Me style. Over time, youll figure out what youre best at, which meals work well even when youre under pressure, and develop that all important signature dish.
Get your timings right
Most meals have multiple components that need to come together and be ready at the same time. It can be really helpful to plot out beforehand what needs doing and when. Work backwards from the time that you want to serve to avoid hungry guests waiting to eat.
If youre relying on a recipe make sure you read it all the way through before you even think about starting to cook. In fact, read it twice. Its all too easy to skim read a recipe because youre eager to get cracking. Once youve got things underway you wont have time to fully absorb each step as well as the ones ahead. Giving it your full attention before you start means you wont miss anything essential. Of course, you might want to intentionally deviate from the recipe to try something new this is completely different and very much recommended.
And dont worry, if on the night your much hailed dinner party menu ends up more disaster than delicacy, just make sure you have a few of our new posh nosh range of gourmet sandwiches to hand as a plan b!