There are loads of reasons why you might be staying in more – perhaps you’re trying to save a bit of cash or you’ve got a sleeping baby upstairs – but nights at home don’t have to be boring. In fact, they can be better than going out; you’ve just got to up your game.
Check out these scenarios to see how to make them just as good in the comfort of your own home:
Dinner with friends
OK, so everyone’s talking about that new restaurant that does the highly innovative thing with the (select as appropriate) sauce/meat/vegetables/wine/table settings, but it’s harder than a bushtucker trial to get into. You just know that if you did manage to bag a table you’d be ushered out after an hour and it’d be so busy you’d barely be able to hear your friends speak and you’ve got loads to catch up on.
Host a dinner at home instead and enjoy a leisurely meal where you don’t have to pretend to like the new pretentious trend on offer. You can decorate your table as simply or stylishly as you like and relax into comfy chairs after filling your guests to bursting point. The key to a successful dinner with friends is not to bite off more than you can chew, so do a few simple things well.
Start your menu with walnut and roasted garlic chickpea pate on some crusty toasted bread, with this recipe from Amuse Your Bouche. It’s a bit like a fancy hummus, making it an instant winner and since it’s veggie, you don’t need to think about alternatives for your non-meat eating mates.
Serve up meatballs with spaghetti for mains if you’re looking for a sure-fire crowd pleaser that’s perfect for this time of year. Rachel Phipps’ lemony version is a good twist on a classic. Whip up a cauliflower pasta bake for the veggie guests, with The Flexitarian’s recipe for this ultimate comfort food.
Individual cheesecakes are always the answer to the friends over for dinner pudding question. Take inspiration from Sweet 2 Eat Baking with a zesty key lime take on the dessert and you can even pop them into jam jars for that quirky vibe like she has.
Drinks as a couple
After a hard week at work there’s not much better than sipping on a decadent cocktail with your other half. Forget dressing up for the occasion or waiting in line at the bar for an overpriced creation and harness the fun of making cocktails for yourself at home.
It’s not difficult to build your own cocktail bar in the house and you’ve probably got a load of the ingredients in your cupboards already. Use sprigs of fresh rosemary, a sprinkling of cinnamon or an orange wheel – that’s a slice of orange to you and me – as garnishes, and invest in a packet of mini umbrellas for added authenticity.
Cans of coconut milk and tinned pineapple can be transformed into pina coladas, cartons of fruit juice will soon be tequila sunrises and a bottle of cheap sparkling wine is perfect for a bellini. A few simple ingredients and a bit of imagination can go a long way.
If you’re not happy to experiment on your own, then try this raspberry mojito recipe from A Dash of Ginger or a classic cosmopolitan by Lucy Loves. The Moscow mule is another cocktail that has found renewed popularity of late – something to do with the very Instagrammable copper cups it’s often served in – so follow Cookie and Kate’s top tips to make the best version of it.
You don’t have to wait months for the latest releases to make it from the cinema to DVD any more, so traipsing out to the local picture house on a wet and windy evening is easy to avoid. Since you can access films through the internet, a cosy movie night in is a serious no-brainer.
One part of the cinema experience you can’t get away with skipping though is the popcorn and if you make it at home the decision isn’t just between salty or sweet. Follow Madeleine Shaw’s advice and make vanilla and coconut popcorn for a treat that tastes extra special or give it a warming gingerbread makeover with this ingenious invention from Celery & Cupcakes.