Make your next picnic the best ever
It's National Picnic Week, so here's everything you need to make your picnic the best yet
It's summer, finally, and with it we have National Picnic Week. Weather permitting, you better believe we'll be hitting the nearest park with a blanket and some socially distanced companions to make the most of it.
Of course, you can throw some snacks in a bag and take a flask of tea but why don't we make the most of the time we have and make it a picnic to remember. Top notch lunch doesn't need to happen round a table, so let's get something special together and call it al fresco.
Now, I'm not saying for a second that it's necessary to have a hamper. I, for one, rely more on a backpack, but the benefits of having a hamper are clear. Posher ones come with plates, cutlery, and cups, so you have everything you need to generate a classy affair. It's not all about sipping your bubbly with your pinky in the air though, they do have a very practical function. If you have a load of food in Tupperware, the hamper will have everything you need to then set it all out with minimal mess. Seriously, consider it.
The mainstay of a picnic. These are about as simple as it gets for lunch and can be as basic or as fancy as you want. Basic cheese and ham on a crusty loaf wrapped in tinfoil and put in a bag = picnic! But we should take advantage of the fact we have time to make it something more. Something extra. Let's celebrate National Picnic Week by making something a bit more spesh.
Consider using things you wouldn't normally, like roast beef or chicken, even if it's leftover from Sunday lunch. Put together some chutney or piccalilli and pair it with your favourite salad selection for a filling treat.
It's also an opportunity to have the things you might not consider or you remember from your childhood. Fish finger sandwich – yes! Get creative or take it back to basics, there is a sandwich to please everyone.
Pasta is amazing stuff. You can have just about anything in it and you can have it hot or cold, it's so diverse. As with sandwiches, you can posh it up and serve it on the plates you've got in your fancy hamper, or, you can eat it straight from a Tupperware container.
Choose your favourite meat or base to start and then choose your favourite sauce. It's as easy as that. If you can't be bothered coming up with something specific, there's no shame in going down the shop bought route.
If you're strapped for time, chop some tomatoes and some cooked chicken and add pesto for masses of flavour in a jiffy.
Gone are days where a salad was a bland, leafy, dry affair, nobody wants that, so don't bother doing it. We are talking about tasty dressings and creamy sauces with tonnes of flavour and texture.
Incorporate cheeses, oils, and vinegars, and give it freshness with some fruit. Watermelon and mint work really well together with feta, for something completely different and really refreshing. You won't get more summer than that!
Then there is classic potato salad. Boil new potatoes and leave them to cool before adding your favourite herbs and veg to mayo for a delicious creamy dressing. Stir in some mustard or BBQ sauce for an extra bit of tang.
Bulk them out with croutons or just bread and add your favourite nuts for some crunch.
You can't please everyone so try making something everyone will like then chopping some extras for people to add as they like.
What could be easier than a scone? You can make tonnes at a time and they take care of themselves and there are very few people who won't be delighted to have them. You may be used to having jam and cream on your scones so these make for an all together different experience.
Leave out the sugar and add cheese and chives with some garlic granules and hey presto, it's a gorgeous savoury treat. This is amazing with some cream cheese spread, or houmous, or some crushed avocado. You can basically have whatever you want on them.
Much in the same way as you'll be familiar with sweet scones, meringues are normally something you have with fruit or chocolate, but this is something else that can be adapted to give you a light, savoury treat.
Again, leave out the sugar and add garlic and cheese. These give you the lightest, tastiest little crunches that are great with salmon and cream cheese. They are also great on the side of salads and other dishes as an extra little treat.
Easy crowd pleaser. Make a big batch of everyone's favourite soup and pour it into a flask to keep it warm. It can be served in bowls, if you have them, or just cups or containers, if not.
Alternatively, the warm weather is a great time to try your hand at gazpacho. Nothing sounds less appetising than cold soup but, I promise you, with the right ingredients, it's delicious! Start with tomatoes, some cucumber, a red pepper, and a garlic clove, and blend until smooth. Then add some olive oil and some vinegar and season as you want. If you want it to be a little thicker, the tradition is to blend in some bread, which gives some depth. You can also add onions and anything else you like, really.
Pick n mix
We're not talking about the sweets you choose and pay for by weight, although that will never not be welcome. We're talking about a range of 'finger food' that people can help themselves to without making too much of a mess and a fuss.
Different types of crackers are always going to be popular, crisps, chopped fruit and veg and some dips. These can be eaten on their own for the super fussy among us who are just happy with crackers and cheese, or they can be used to customise the other things available in the picnic. This way everyone is happy!
You can't not, really, and it would be rude to try! While you're making your savoury scones and meringues, you could easily make a batch of sweet ones. Bring some jam and sweet dips for people to make their own dessert as they like.
You can make the simplest of cupcakes fancy by swirling in some dollops of jam right before they go in the oven. Call it 'marble' and you look like a chef having spent 15 minutes doing next to nothing to make them! Funfetti sounds like something really cool and difficult doesn't it? It's actually just the same basic cupcake recipe but, instead of swirling in jam, you fold in hundreds and thousands!
If you have a super sweet tooth, these are the cupcakes for you
Tray bakes are also a doddle to put together and look like you made far more effort than you did but, if all else fails, nobody can say no to a good batch of cookies. Now is a great time to get the kids involved too with some simple rice crispy cakes or chocolate cornflake cakes, things they can't possible get wrong and that everyone loves.
As with anything, if it all seems like too much effort, there isn't much you can't get in the shop now so, if you've forgotten about dessert, just make a quick pit stop on the way there!
There really isn't much you can't do with lemonade. Add just about any pureed fruit to it for a zingy refreshing beverage with no effort at all. If you have a cool bag or an ice box, consider freezing pieces of fruit that flavour your drink as they melt, instead of watering it down.
Smoothies are another excellent way to stay cool in the heat of your sun beam, while staying healthy at the same time. Add what you like and then...add what you don't! This may sound crazy but it's a great way to sneak greens into the kids' (big and small) diet because the fruity flavours completely disguise it!
You can try your hand at making your own cordial and, for something a bit different, elderflower is great for this. Add lots of chopped fruit and float flowers on top to make it look as good as it tastes.
Fresh, fragrant, cooling and an excellent base for drinks – here is a straightforward recipe for elderflowers syrup
Everything can be made into a cocktail, if you put your mind to it, but mojitos are particularly refreshing. Try adding your favourite fruits to it for something a bit different. If you want to keep it simple, add some chopped, frozen strawberries and lemonade to your glass of rosé, or make a simple Prosecco cocktail.