If you can cook up a storm, the way to your date’s heart is through their stomach. Serving a delicious meal shows your new lover that you’re creative and capable – not to mention good with your hands. It’s also a great way to say “I care about you” without having to find the words.

However, there’s plenty that can go wrong. If you try impressing your latest lover with lumpy mash or burnt bangers, your relationship may sink faster than a soufflé. Here are 10 ways to ensure that your seductive supper hits the spot.

1) Research their taste buds

Cooking dinner for someone is about serving something they’ll love, not something that you love and think they should try. For example, don’t spend all day creating a feast of venison stroganoff with vodka cocktails, only to find that your lover is a teetotal vegetarian.

If in doubt, ask about their favourite dishes, and make sure you know what they don’t like. Don’t worry about “spoiling the surprise”. Surprises are nice but your date would rather get something they genuinely want.

2) Experiment on friends first

If you’ve never cooked fish before, don’t try to impress your lover with grilled butterflied monkfish. Stick to what you know, or practice on friends first so if you mess up dinner for them, there’s no romantic mood to spoil – and you’ll learn from your mistakes. Dating is about trying something new…just not necessarily on your first dinner date!

3) Get the timing right

A new relationship is like a lemon soufflé: go in too soon and you’re sunk. Even dating later on in life, an elaborate invitation for “dinner at my place” is too keen for a first date. Save it for someone you’ve been seeing for a little longer.

When you’re planning the night itself, give your lover a few days’ notice and make sure that the date suits you both. Go for a Friday or Saturday evening if you both work weekdays. You don’t want to have to rush everything because it’s a school night.

4) Feed their libido

Certain foods supposedly have aphrodisiac qualities, and the science seems to bear out their reputation. For example, the Aztecs nicknamed chocolate “nourishment of the gods” because eating it gave their moods a lift, and it’s now been discovered that chocolate contains traces of the happiness hormone serotonin.

Oysters are famous aphrodisiacs and shellfish contain high levels of zinc, which has been found to boost testosterone levels.

Why don’t you try feeding your some enhancing nourishment next time you’re cooking to impress? Covertly check that your date is a fan of our choice. All the testosterone-boosting powers in the world aren’t enough to persuade some people swallow an oyster.

5) Prepare as much as possible in advance

Within reason. If you cook your meal 10 hours before serving time, your dish will die before it’s even been tasted! But do as much chopping and prepping in advance as you can.

Remember, unpreparedness is not seductive when you’re dating. So, if your guest turns up before you’re finished cooking, don’t leave them twiddling their thumbs in front of the telly while you finish your masterpiece. Instead, invite them into the kitchen to chat while you cook, and keep their wine glass topped up.

6) Go easy on the romantic clichés

If you know that your partner would get a thrill from a candlelit table and your best cutlery, go for it.

But true romance is about imagination. It’s about giving someone a memorable evening that you know they’d love. If you know that they’d get a bigger thrill from a takeaway in a gazebo pitched in the garden, or a living room picnic of home-made curry, beer and their favourite film, do that instead.

7) Get the conversation right

If you are over 50, you’ll probably agree that a dinner date isn’t really about the food but mostly about good company. So, remember the usual tricks: listen with interest to everything your partner says, make eye contact and try not to let your mind drift.

If there’s something in the oven that needs attention in 20 minutes, set an alarm. Otherwise you’ll be too busy worrying about it to pay enough attention to your guest

8) Relax and enjoy it

Your dinner guest won’t enjoy the evening if you’re stressed and constantly in the kitchen. The main thing you’re serving up tonight is your excellent company, so relax and enjoy it too. Don’t rush around like a headless chicken.

If you’re insecure about your cooking, remember act confidently. Never ask “…is it okay?” or “…do you like it?” – these imply that there might be a reason for your date not to. If it all goes completely to pot, just take it in your stride and have a laugh about it! Hopefully your date will compliment you on your cooking, but if not, it’s not a dealbreaker.

9) Have an after-dinner plan

When the plates are empty, don’t just flip the lights back on and go back to the usual telly-and-biscuits evening routine. A dinner date doesn’t end when you’ve downed the last mouthful. Leave the plates, and invite your guest to snuggle down for a glass of wine and the next bit of the evening.

Again, when dating always think about what your date would really enjoy. A movie? A romantic walk? A wrestle under the duvet? If seduction is on your mind, close the deal with a kiss and a tour of your house or flat.

10) Leave the washing up

It can wait until the next day, or at least until your guest is sleeping off their dinner. The last thing you want to do is draw attention to it, or rope them in to help. When they come down to a spotless kitchen the next morning, they’ll think you’re God’s gift.

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