Our best picnic tips and tricks
Miriam Nice shares her favourite tips and ideas for picnic success, whatever the weather. Soggy sandwiches and spilt salad dressings will be a thing of the past...
Planning a picnic this summer? Whether you are heading to a scenic al fresco dining spot or sheltering from a downpour inside, we've got all the advice you need on how to pack the perfect picnic basket and avoid any mishaps.
Checklist for a perfect picnic
- Freeze fruit juice in ice cube trays then pop the cubes out into an airtight lunchbox. This will keep the food around the container nice and cool – then, once the juice melts, you can pour it into cups, top it up with soda water and drink it.
- Leafy salads will wilt before your very eyes, especially in the sun. Ditch the green salads and go for chunky crudités like celery sticks and cucumber wedges instead.
- Keep sauces and dressings separate where you can, to stop things going soggy.
- Ask all guests to bring a cushion in their own tote bag to sit on. Everyone can sit where they want, instead of having to move the blanket every five minutes to please both the shade chasers and sunseekers alike.
See our review for more picnic kit ideas.
Flasks aren’t just for tea
Instead of filling your cool bag with all the drinks, load up a good flask with ice and sparkling water. Just keep it steady so it doesn’t get too shaken up on the journey. Use to lengthen white wine and amaro (like Aperol or Cynar) or add to fruit juice for the drivers and kids.
Bring a jar of salad
While it seems like a hipster fad akin to paint-can cocktails, serving salad in a jam jar makes a lot of sense. The idea is that the dressing goes in first, gets trapped at the bottom and gently marinates anything around it, so choose a robust ingredient like chickpeas, feta or griddled veg for the first layer. Then fill up the jar with the more delicate ingredients, like fresh herbs, at the top.
To serve, tip out into a bowl or serving platter so the dressing gets drizzled over the top of the salad.
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Pack a dipping sauce
Make a simple and versatile dipping sauce in a jar or tub with a well-fitting lid – great for wedges of cucumber, or perking up a mini Scotch egg.
Mix the juice of 1 lime with 1 tbsp golden caster sugar, 3 tbsp fish sauce and 1 finely chopped red chilli. Just before you leave the house, add an ice cube.
Our tasty courgette frittatas are quicker to make than a quiche and made in individual muffin cases for easy serving.
- Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7, then put an empty muffin tin inside.
- Coarsely grate 1 large or 2 small courgettes and slice 4 spring onions.
- Heat 2 tsp rapeseed oil in a frying pan and fry the spring onions for about 3 mins.
- Stir in 1 crushed garlic clove and the grated courgette and cook for another 1 min, then set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, beat 3 large eggs in a jug with a good pinch of dill fronds and 4 tbsp Greek yogurt, then season.
- Stir in the fried courgette mix.
- Take the muffin tin out of the oven. Divide the mixture between eight muffin cases and bake for 15-18 mins until set and golden.
No more soggy sandwiches
How do you make the best picnic sarnie? Make an absolutely massive one!
The French have it absolutely nailed with the pan bagnat. That’s a crusty boule or baguette loaf, cut in half, the middle ripped out, then stuffed with boiled eggs, tuna, tomatoes and olives. Make it your way with layers of your favourite cheeses, cured meats, tomatoes and soft herbs like basil or chives, or try this stuffed rainbow baguette.
Once assembled, wrap tightly with parchment and tie with string. Pop it in the fridge overnight with something heavy on top, or pack in the bottom of the cool box to press the layers together. Cut into wedges or slices to serve.
See our review of the best cool boxes on test.
Make your own Scotch eggs
If you’re planning an extra-special picnic, these chorizo Scotch quail’s eggs are well worth the effort.
This video walks you through the Scotch egg process step by step, for anyone who hasn't made them before:
Vegan sandwich fillings
Stuck for veggie or vegan sandwich inspiration? Try some of these delicious combos:
- Beetroot hummus + roasted chickpeas + pesto
- Smoked tofu + aubergine pickle
- Cashew cream cheese + chives + cucumber
- Stir fry veg (except bean sprouts) + tahini sauce + seeds
- Hummus + grated carrot + fresh coriander + hot sauce
Discover more perfect picnic ideas...
Do you have any tips for a stress-free picnic? Leave a comment below...