Good Food Blog
Let's go al frescoPosted at 9:58AM, 01 June 2010 by Carol Wilson - Food writer
I think a picnic is one of the great pleasures of summer - whether at the seaside, in the country, local park or even just in the garden!
Picnics have long been a popular feature of English summers, particularly at traditional events such as Henley Regatta and Glyndebourne, where elegant hampers are the order of the day, while more substantial hampers are favoured for cricket teas at Lords... whatever the occasion picnicking has never fallen out of favour.
Forget boring limp sandwiches and tasteless shop bought cakes - I like to come up with different ideas
Nowadays, arranging a picnic couldn't be simpler. Forget boring limp sandwiches and tasteless shop bought cakes though - I like to come up with different ideas for food that will look appetising, taste delicious and travel well. Good cheeses are a godsend; just add some tasty bread and spicy relishes or chutneys to perk up the flavour. A thick, cold Spanish omelette looks impressive cut into wedges and accompanied by a crisp green salad. Bags of ready washed salad leaves from the supermarket are super convenient too.
Always popular is a Picnic Loaf. I slice the top off a large round crusty loaf and scoop out the centre, leaving a 'shell' about 2.5cm thick. (You can freeze the breadcrumbs to use later) I sprinkle the inside of the bread case with olive oil and season to taste, then layer sliced tomatoes, ham, a few black olives, lettuce, cheese and mayonnaise, then cover with the bread lid and wrap tightly in foil and chill until needed. Bowls of marinated green and black olives are popular, as are patés and dips served with a selection of flavoursome breads and crudités. Children particularly love 'Pigs in blankets' (sausages wrapped in bacon); Cakes are always well-liked and my tip is to opt for easy to eat small cakes and fruit breads that won't crumble or fall apart, rather than rich, sticky confections. I avoid fragile or creamy dishes such as mousses, which will only collapse in the heat.
A choice of cold drinks always goes down well - Iced mint tea or fresh Homemade lemonade are my favourites. Drinks can be frozen beforehand and packed (still frozen) to thaw out on the journey. They'll help to keep the food cool too.
Cool boxes and thermos flasks ensure the food will keep fresh and cool and make it easier to transport. Other essentials are plenty of napkins and cutlery, an attractive tablecloth (a few sprigs of lavender, lightly crushed between your fingers and scattered over the cloth will keep insects away as they hate the scent) - and don't forget to pack the salt and pepper!
Do you have a favourite picnic treat?