Ideas for ‘Al Fresco’ dining – bring on the salads!

By Ren Behan

Am I about to jinx the Bank Holiday weekend by suggesting that it might be warm enough for a bit of ‘al fresco’ dining?

The slightly warmer weather in the last few days has at least inspired me to start thinking about salads in the hope of being able to throw a blanket onto the lawn at some point over the weekend.

I have to admit to not being a fan of ‘lettuce’ generally, so I like to make salads that have a bit of substance to them that are less likely to wilt or go soggy. Make-ahead recipes are also great, as are salads that I can pack up in a tub and easily take to the park as soon as I detect a spot of sunshine.

I made a really easy chicken biryani last night, which made a surprisingly good outdoor lunch today. It was perfect eaten cold, no need to reheat. You can watch the Sorted Boys making a Prawn Biryani on Jamie’s Food Tube below – I swapped the prawns for chicken as that’s what I had.

Jamie’s Gorgeous Greek Chicken with Herby Vegetable Cous Cous and Tzatziki is another outdoor winner. Just keep the tzatziki in a separate pot or jar until you’re ready to serve or eat outside. I love the fresh dill, spring onions, peas and chilli in this dish. I also like to add some fresh pomegranate seeds and a sprinkling of pistachio nuts for extra crunch.

You can make salads stretch and bulk them out a bit by adding lots of seasonal veg. Try blanching some British asparagus (perfect at this time of year) or broad beans to add to your salads. Or, be inspired by the Italians and add some ciabatta croutons and sun-dried tomatoes, as Jamie does in his Best Ever Chicken Salad.

Pasta can be eaten cold in a packed lunch or on a picnic, too. It’s easy to pack into a container and makes a nice change to sandwiches. Go for smaller shapes, such as orzo, fusilli or pasta shells. Once cooked, rinse the pasta well under cold water and stir through some olive oil or a bit of dressing to keep it from sticking then add whatever you fancy. My kids always like pasta salads with tinned tuna or cooked chicken pieces, grated carrots, sweetcorn, fresh tomatoes, cubed peppers and maybe a bit of crumbled feta or some cheddar cubes.

Whatever the weather brings, I hope you get to kick back, relax and enjoy the long weekend with plenty of good food.

Ren Behan is a food writer and a mum of two. Find out more at www.renbehan.com


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About the author

Ren Behan is a well-known food writer and mum-of-two based in Hertfordshire in the UK. She grew up in a food-loving Polish household and now writes a popular family-friendly and seasonally-inspired blog at www.renbehan.com. Ren enjoys cooking with her two children, aged 6 and 4.
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