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How the foodies do picnics

From celebrity chef favourites to gourmet hampers and the ultimate outdoor-eating kit – here’s all you need for a glorious alfresco summer, starting with food editor Eleanor Maidment’s genius picnic tricks 

THE PICNIC LOAF

Picnicking can be as simple as throwing some sandwiches in a cooler, chucking a blanket in the boot of the car and then heading into the great outdoors. But a true picnic pro will have considered a whole host of things beforehand. All you need to do is master a few simple tips and tricks for elevated outdoor eating all summer long…

THE PICNIC LOAF 

Ten times more impressive than sandwiches, this is effectively a crusty country loaf with the top sliced off, then the inner crumb scooped out and replaced with layers of filling (try tomatoes, mozzarella, rocket, avocado, parma ham and basil leaves). Place the lid back on, wrap it up and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours to allow the filling to compress. When you’re ready, simply slice it into neat wedges a bit like a cake. Just remember to bring a bread knife and a chopping board with you too.

PUFF-PASTRY TARTS 

Ready-made pastry can be divided up into rectangles and baked as individual tarts

Ready-made pastry can be divided up into rectangles and baked as individual tarts

Ready-made pastry can be divided up into rectangles and baked as individual tarts (goat’s cheese and caramelised onion is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser) or make pinwheel picnic rolls by topping unbaked pastry sheets with ham, grated cheese and roasted veg, then rolling up and slicing into rounds before baking. They travel well and are great served at room temperature.

SALADS

Stick to chunkier options like potato or pasta salads, roasted veg, slaws or a classic Italian panzanella (Italian bread and tomato salad). Or consider packing individual salads in glass jars, layering them up as you go. Prawn cocktail, avocado and shredded little gem lettuce make an uncomplicated trio: pack the dressed prawns at the base of the jars to avoid sogginess and screw on the lid to seal.

Rice paper rolls

Salad jars and rice paper rolls

 SUMMER ROLLS

Use soft rice paper wrappers to encase a light, zingy filling. Rice noodles, fresh herbs (mint and coriander), shredded carrot and cabbage and cooked prawns are an excellent combination, though really the variations are endless. You’ll need some kind of punchy chilli-spiked dipping sauce to dunk them in, too.

Crudites such as chicory leaves, radishes

Crudites such as chicory leaves, radishes

CRUDITES

Red chicory leaves, radishes, sugar snap peas and raw green beans deserve headline space alongside the usual cucumber and carrots. Dampen kitchen towel with cold water and use to wrap cut vegetables before placing in an airtight container to keep them crisp and fresh en route. Be bold and exciting with your dips, transporting them (along with any dressings) in screw-top jars to avoid spillage.

TRAYBAKED CAKES

Brownies or loaf cakes such as banana bread are easy to portion out, will feed a crowd and can be carried in the tin they were baked in.

FRUIT SALADS 

Another sweet picnic staple. Scooped-out melon shells are brilliant to serve them in – they look good and tick the eco-friendly box.

DRINKS

Fruit-infused waters will keep everyone happily hydrated

Fruit-infused waters will keep everyone happily hydrated

The options are endless (see Olly Smith’s suggestions). If you prefer to mix your own cocktails, stick to simple things like Pimm’s and lemonade or a classic sangria that make easy daytime drinking and can be pre-mixed in bottles and part-frozen ahead of time. The bottles can then be placed at the bottom of hampers or cool bags to double up as ice packs.

 Alternatively, fill Tupperware containers with ice and use them as cool packs, then use the ice to chill your wine. Also remember that Thermos flasks don’t just keep things warm, they are ideal for cold drinks too. Fruit-infused waters will keep everyone happily hydrated. Add orange and cucumber slices or mint leaves to flasks, fill with cold water and chill the night before.

 

 

Prepare it like a pro 

A-list chefs lift the lid on their picnic-hamper standbys 

 

 JAMIE OLIVER

Jam Jar Salad

JAMIE OLIVER

Jam Jar Salad

JAMIE OLIVER’s Jam Jar Salad

Pack a jam jar with leaves and veggies of your choice then add a salad dressing – or make your own with balsamic, olive oil, sea salt and pepper. It’s simple, portable and it helps you keep your leaves nice and crisp until you need to dress them at the last minute by shaking it all together.

  • Jamie Oliver’s new book Together will be out in September (Penguin, £26)*   

PRUE LEITH

Smoked salmon sandwiches and Eton Mess

I like really good smoked salmon sarnies followed by Eton mess. I mix up sliced strawberries, whipped cream, crushed meringue or macaroons and sprinkle them with muscovado sugar in yogurt pots or small tumblers, transported in a chill box. Don’t forget to pack the teaspoons!

 

GORDON RAMSAY 

Saffron Chicken Flatbreads with Minted Yogurt

GORDON RAMSAY

Saffron Chicken Flatbreads with Minted Yogurt

GORDON RAMSAY Saffron Chicken Flatbreads with Minted Yogurt

We like to barbecue almost all year round, and chicken on sticks is a family favourite, probably because it’s so easy and there are endless variations. I love using the mild-mannered spice saffron, which stains the meat golden yellow and imparts a gentle Mediterranean scent to everything. The fresh minted yogurt is the perfect accompaniment, but you could replace it with tzatziki if you’re in a rush.

Soak 4 bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 240C/220C fan/gas 9.

Using a pestle and mortar, grind a pinch of saffron to a powder, then cover with

1 tablespoon boiling water and leave to sit. Cut 500g boneless chicken thighs into 5cm pieces and place in a bowl with 2 crushed cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, zest of 1 lemon and 4 tablespoons

Greek yogurt. Season with salt and pepper, add the saffron water and mix well.

Thread the chicken pieces on to the skewers. Cut a peeled red onion into 8 wedges and alternate them with the chicken. Place on a nonstick roasting tray and put on a high shelf in the oven for 12 minutes.

Meanwhile combine 150g Greek yogurt with a small handful of finely chopped mint leaves, add lemon juice to taste and season with a little salt and pepper. Set aside until needed. Put two flatbreads on a baking tray and place in the bottom of the oven to warm for a few minutes. Preheat the grill. When the chicken has been cooking for 12 minutes, place it under the grill and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Put the flatbreads on plates and spread some of the minted yogurt down the middle. Add a handful of salad leaves to each and divide 140g halved cherry tomatoes between them. Put the cooked skewers on top and sprinkle with shop-bought ready prepared crispy fried onions to serve, if you like.

  • Recipe from Gordon Ramsay Quick & Delicious by Gordon Ramsay (Hodder & Stoughton, £25)*

 

NADIYA HUSSAIN 

Ploughman’s Cheese & Pickle Tart

NADIYA HUSSAIN

Ploughman’s Cheese & Pickle Tart

NADIYA HUSSAIN’s Ploughman’s Cheese & Pickle Tart

 This is great for picnics. It can also be frozen for up to a month.

To make the pastry, flatten 350g shortcrust pastry slightly and sprinkle with a teaspoon of paprika. Fold the edges in over the top, then knead to incorporate all the paprika. If it sticks to the worktop, dust with flour. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and put a baking tray in to heat up. Dust the work surface with flour and roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin and large enough to cover the base and sides of a 23cm diameter, 3cm-4cm deep, loose-bottomed flan tin. Line the tin with the pastry. Press it into the edges, leaving some overhang. Pierce the base all over with a fork to stop it puffing up while baking. Cover the base and sides with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Take the hot baking tray out of the oven and place the prepared tart tin on it. Bake for 25 minutes, then take out of the oven, remove the paper and baking beans and bake for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put 4 medium eggs into a jug and lightly whisk. Add 150ml milk and stir. Once the tart shell is out of the oven, spread 200g Branston Pickle (small chunks) all over the base and cover evenly with 250g grated mature cheddar. Pour in the egg mixture and place the tray back in the oven, on the middle shelf, for 25-30 minutes until the filling is set and golden. Once cool enough to handle, slice off the pastry overhang using a sharp serrated knife. Leave in the tin for 30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • Recipe from Nadiya’s British Food Adventure (Michael Joseph, £20)*
  • *To order these books at a discounted price until 18 July, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £20. Getty Images 

 

 

For a ready-made feast…

Charlotte Vossen picks the luxury hampers filled with gourmet treats 

John Lewis

This luxurious wicker hamper comes with two bottles of wine (red and white) and a bottle of prosecco, as well as plenty of indulgent sweet treats and savoury snacks for the ultimate boozy brunch. The Belgravia Hamper, £200, johnlewis.com

M&S

Get the tastiest favourites from Marks & Spencer’s Our Best Ever range, including pork pies, sausage rolls and smoked salmon pâté, delivered in a reusable drawstring cool bag. Best of M&S Gourmet Hamper, £100, marksandspencer.com

Morrisons

Everything you need for a ploughman’s lunch – a trio of British cheeses, seeded bread and rye sourdough crackers plus caramelised onion chutney, as well as a few sweet surprises. The Luxury Ploughman’s Picnic Box, from £30, morrisons.com

Bettys

Filled with Yorkshire specialties – we’re talking Bettys blend tea and coffee, tea fruit cake, gingerbread and shortbread – this keepsake hamper is an ode to the beloved Ilkley tea room. The Ilkley Hamper, £100, bettys.co.uk

Delicario

Bringing home the flavours of Italy, this sizable hamper is packed with delicacies such as pork bresaola and Genovese pesto-laced Pecorino, with a bottle of full-bodied Barolo to wash it all down. Best of Mediterranean Hamper, £205, delicario.com

Daylesford

Choose between a bottle of rosé frizzante or prosecco, and take home a hamper filled to the brim with a selection of classic antipasti such as garlic and herb olives, salami and grissini. The Antipasti Hamper, £85, daylesford.com

Côte at Home

A cool bag full of vegetarian treats such as red pepper hummus, vegetable tart tatin and harissa chickpea salad. Plus there’s the option of adding a bottle of wine. Luxury Vegetarian Picnic Box, from £40, coteathome.co.uk

Rick Stein

A chance to break out the charcuterie board, Rick Stein’s selection of cheeses, meats, olives, biscuits and Marcona almonds is guaranteed to set everyone’s taste buds tingling. Rick Stein Cheese & Charcuterie, from £55, shop.rickstein.com

Cartwright & Butler

A delicious range of sweet treats including Cartwright & Butler’s finest preserves, acacia honey with comb and fine-cut three fruit marmalade, bundled in a rustic wooden crate. The Swaledale Crate, £125, cartwrightandbutler.co.uk

 

Turn your picnic into a ‘blanquet’

Top event designer Fiona Leahy’s tips for a very stylish spread

★ Ask guests to BYOC (bring your own cushions), so everyone has a padded seat. You can never have too many pillows and cushions to relax on.

★ Use an assortment of vintage or older crockery. Melamine and enamel plates are great, but why not use a picnic as an opportunity to bring out those lesser-used plates from the back of your cupboard to introduce some retro styling?

★ Position the ‘blanquet’ under a tree and hang fairy lights from the branches or under a few colourful giant parasols for added wow-factor.

★ Be prepared and plan ahead. I love the idea of having a box full of essentials to help your feast go seamlessly. I would fill a big wicker hamper with all the elements you would normally need when hosting a meal.

★ Keep a supply of brollies in a nearby car. They’re as important for providing shade and sun protection as they are for rain cover. And make sure you have SPF on hand for everyone, too.

 

 

Clockwise from top left: Book, £21.99, waterstones.com. Wicker basket with glasses, £110, amara.com. Bamboo lunch pot, £10, johnlewis.com. Throw, £225, Johnstons of Elgin, fortnumandmason.com. Bamboo cutlery, from £2.75 for a ten-piece pack, re-foundobjects.com. Picnic set, £380, Alessi, madeindesign.co.uk. Picnic blanket, £125, heating-and-plumbing.com. Shatterproof tumblers, £13.95 for two, bodum.com. Vacuum flask, £42, farrar-tanner.co.uk. Cool bag, £40, johnlewis.com. Yellow tablecloth, £135, smallable.com. Navy Tablecloth, £125, oka.com. Picnic basket, £50, amara.com. Tray, £10.25, oyoylivingdesign.com. Coolbox, £200, selfridges.com

Clockwise from top left: Book, £21.99, waterstones.com. Wicker basket with glasses, £110, amara.com. Bamboo lunch pot, £10, johnlewis.com. Throw, £225, Johnstons of Elgin, fortnumandmason.com. Bamboo cutlery, from £2.75 for a ten-piece pack, re-foundobjects.com. Picnic set, £380, Alessi, madeindesign.co.uk. Picnic blanket, £125, heating-and-plumbing.com. Shatterproof tumblers, £13.95 for two, bodum.com. Vacuum flask, £42, farrar-tanner.co.uk. Cool bag, £40, johnlewis.com. Yellow tablecloth, £135, smallable.com. Navy Tablecloth, £125, oka.com. Picnic basket, £50, amara.com. Tray, £10.25, oyoylivingdesign.com. Coolbox, £200, selfridges.com

  • Shopping compiled by Isabella Charlesworth 

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