The ping of the microwave. The sound of Sriracha sauce splashed on the carpet. The familiar refrain of ‘Spag bol again?’. Yep, the midweek meal music is all too familiar to all too many. But sometimes it pays to put in that little bit of effort, to source ingredients carefully, to cook from scratch, to present a plate thoughtfully…your stomach (and loved ones) will certainly thank you for it. So, while we’re certainly not saying you have to have a restaurant-esque experience every night, going that extra mile on occasion can be a real treat. With this in mind here are 6 IDEAL ways to elevate your home dining experience. 

LEARN HOW TO COOK 

This is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to elevate your home dining experience. Learning how to cook is a lifelong love affair that never entirely ends; the pleasure and reward being in the constant evolution of techniques, recipes and ingredients. If you haven’t put a lot of effort into studying the art of cooking gourmet meals just yet, there’s always still time. It all starts with a change in your mindset regarding the difficulty of making meals from scratch. It really isn’t that hard. Banish your gravitation toward the microwave. Check your ready meal addiction into permanent rehab. 

Sure, you’ll be in the kitchen longer and you might even get a little messy, but cooking good food is fun and the results – a delicious, nutritious meal – speak for themselves. Cooking is all about getting out of your comfort zone, about pushing your limits in time with your taste buds. There’s also an element of self-care in cooking. When you cook good food for yourself, you’re nourishing your mind and body and a sense of purpose and pride is restored. There really is no reason not to, we think.

USE QUALITY INGREDIENTS WITH LOVE & CARE

Food prices are on the rise, and we’d all like to cut corners on our cooking costs, that’s for sure. This doesn’t mean that processed, packaged ingredients will save you money. Instead, try to seek out quality, fresh and seasonal ingredients wherever possible; generally, they won’t cost more but the reward in flavour and texture will be invaluable. Rather than reaching for the dried herbs, for instance, there’s fresh basil, thyme and mint to be enjoyed alongside a host of other herbs that will make each dish you cook taste more developed, thoughtful and just more, well, cheffy. And though it might seem drastic, by cutting meat out of your diet for the majority of the week, you’ll save enough money in your food budget to buy some really quality stuff on the days you do decide to succumb to your carnivorous side. In short, small, positive changes can allow space in your bank balance for better sourcing of ingredients. Result.

EAT MORE MINDFULLY

By incorporating elements of mindfulness and meditation into our dinnertime, not only will we avoid digestion issues, but we can also enjoy a whole new appreciation of the pleasures of both food and of life – as such, elevating our home dining experience to dizzy new heights. This should start by eliminating all distractions from the dinner table. So, that’s phones placed well out of reach, T.Vs off, work banned from this sacred space, and only positive vibes and plentiful plates welcome. Because you wouldn’t be thrashing out some emails or watching Dinner Date at a restaurant dinner table, now would you? Treat your tucker with the same respect at home, we think.

SET THE RIGHT AMBIENCE 

Now you’ve turned off your telly and stepped away from your phone, it’s time to get the ambience right. Start with the lighting; turn off those harsh overhead lights and dim it down, adding some candles for extra effect. Get some soft mood music playing, nothing too intrusive or lyrical; something to soundtrack the flow of good conversation rather than penetrate it, we think. It’s all about the small touches and finer details here, which brings us neatly to…

GOOD CROCKERY AND CUTLERY

Too often, the best crockery sits in the cupboard, reserved only for Christmas and gathering dust for the rest of the year. But why not use more often? When it comes to elevating your dining experience, cutlery matters. Eating with heavier cutlery makes food taste better. Yep, researchers have a found direct link between the weight of eating utensils and people’s enjoyment of food. Investing in your own high-quality cutlery, like Lincoln House Cutlery’s Sheffield cutlery sets, is definitely worth it, then.

The same goes for wine glasses; choose the appropriate shape for the correct tipple. There are rules, but in general, remember that certain glass shapes work better for specific wines. Red wine glasses require a larger bowl to allow its aromas and flavours to emerge, while white wine glasses usually have a narrow bowl that tapers slightly making it easier to detect the aromas of the particular wine.

THE ‘CORRECT’ WAY TO SET THE TABLE

Speaking of rules, there exists a ‘correct’ way to set the table which you could do worse than familiarising yourself with. And while we wouldn’t suggest getting bogged down in decree and guideline, putting that little bit of extra thought into how you lay your table will inject that sense of occasion into proceedings. Napkins instead of kitchen towel, utensils place from left to right in order of use, glasses at 2 o’clock…you know the drill.