Have you ever thought about entering recipe competitions? You don't need to be Masterchef material - if you regularly cook meals for yourself or your family then you're already on your way to winning some great prizes, as most recipe comps get hardly any entries at all. For some competitions you don't even need the written recipe - just a photo of your finished dish will do!
Many promoters run Facebook comps that require you to post a photo to their wall, and their favourite will win a prize. This regularly happens on Pancake Day, Valentine's Day, Halloween and Christmas - so if you're busy creating something exciting for a special occasion, don't forget to take a photo!
Currently there are loads of recipe comps around, and at this time of year many people won't have the time to enter them - so there's a great chance of bagging a prize. Search The PrizeFinder for 'recipe' and you'll find a wide selection of comps to enter. If a recipe competition requires an unusual ingredient - like the current Copella and Crusha comps - then they will get fewer entries as people will have to buy the product and concoct something especially - but for some comps you might have the perfect photo already in your album. If you've made any good Christmas dishes you can enter them in the Sudocrem competition and you could win a cookery course in France, or runners up prizes of Christmas hampers!
Every six months Casillero del Diablo run a competition to win a half day at Waitrose Cookery School. I was lucky enough to win this competition earlier this year with my celeriac soup, and it was a brilliant day out - with an overnight stay thrown in (read about it on my SuperLucky blog). There are six prizes to be won so the chance of winning, particularly if you upload a decent photo, is very good. When you take a photo of your dish, try and do it in daylight rather than at night - and get as close as you can next to the plate (rather than above it).
I'm actually not very confident in my cooking abilities but entering recipe comps is a wonderful incentive to try something different - and of course my son loves to get involved too! This year we've won a holiday to Sorrento with my beetroot pasta, £250 to spend at Abel & Cole and a slow cooker with my lentil soup, a hand blender with my mushroom stroganoff, and my Halloween eyeball soup won me yogurt and £25 Tesco vouchers. I've also managed to win four aprons in various comps too, so I can ensure I'm always presentable!
Trying out some recipe comps will certainly add a bit of spice to your comping - if you decide to give it a go let me know how you get on!
I regularly see recipe competitions, but have never had the confidence to enter as I don't consider myself to be a very good cook. But you make them sound a like a lot of fun, so maybe I should give them a go, if nothing else the practice wouldn't hurt!
Well, I must admit some of my kitchen experiments have been dreadful - but as you say, practice makes perfect! And sometimes you can get away with the photo looking delicious even when it doesn't taste quite as good as it looks!