Who doesn’t love a picnic? Especially with this gorgeous weather we have been blessed with so early. It sounds strange but not everyone is good at picnics. Perhaps the nature of my job means I’ve always had bits and bobs for all culinary occasions, but I have a reputation among my friends as being “the prepared one” when it comes to eating outside.
One of our wedding gifts my husband and I received nearly 3 years ago was a super-cute picnic basket, lined with fabric and decorated with little buckles and a briefcase handle.
Girly aesthetics aside, it is really helpful to have something to make carrying and storing things easy. Summer picnics are not about lugging loads of bags! I have even been known to pack full my leopard print “granny trolley” and wheel this to the park – the perfect way to transport a mass of goodies.
We also have a beautiful yellow- and red-patterned classic Brora rug that my boss, head food stylist Ginny, got for me – this is a such a treat and makes me smile every time we shake it open to chill in our local park in Hackney with friends or just on our own after work.
For me, standard picnic staples include a few essential items. It might sound geeky but as a couple we have become known for bringing these things, which everyone laughs about but secretly actually loves and uses too! If I have time I will try to bring it all – but of course life is busy and time not always on our side. Often it’s more of a “what do we have in the fridge” situation, but I always make the effort to have those extra little bits which do make a difference:
1. Little jam jar in which to make simple shaken salad dressings like balsamic, olive oil, sea salt and pepper
2. Ice cubes in a Thermos flask, so you can chill your drinks as you go and not worry about them melting.
3. Wet wipes and bin bags. You never think you’ll need them but you always do – picnics are messy things!
4. Enamel plates – light, unbreakable and much more practical than paper ones. For a start they don’t go soggy when you put dressed salad on them.
5. Chilled juice/wine/beer/cider (whatever is your tipple). Homemade flavoured water can be especially lovely and don’t add much sugar to the meal.
6. A big bowl of mixed salad that I have prepped ready to dress in situ.
7. Something a bit healthy – a tub of homemade hummous or yoghurt dip and chopped up crudités – carrots, peppers, celery (whatever veg we have in the fridge).
8. A large tray of some sort of roasted veg with garlic, some herbs, salt, pepper and oil – usually butternut squash, beetroots etc (again tends to be whatever we have in).
9. A homemade slaw tastes so much better than shop brought, check out Jamie’s slaw with these lovely chicken baps – for veggies I just use what I have left in the fridge so you don’t have to stick exactly to this.
10. If I am super organised then I will try to bake some sort of sweet treat – cakes for all diets, cheeky old-school tarts or naughty brownies always go down a treat and are easy to eat with your hands.
I hope this gives you a few ideas as to what to take to your next picnic and also a little insight into my world and how I do picnics…
Hamper images by Simon Mackenzie.