For some reason food for me always tastes better when eaten outdoors, maybe its because the fresh air recreates an appetite for food or maybe its just the sweet joy of eating outside under a tree or near a river or even on one of our many beautiful beaches. It doesn’t have to be splitting the stones to enjoy an outdoor picnic, pack a couple of rugs if there is a chill in the air, its all about the experience of creating an occasion, ok if it rains it’s another story! I remember growing up (as I am sure a lot of you will) that picnics were packed on the then long trip to the ferry or airport, or even just for the Sunday drive. Nowadays, we tend to jump in the car and grab a not so appetising panini from a garage, I say bring back the packed picnics!
Invite friends, to come with you and make a real occasion of it, poached fish, home baked ham, salads, slice of loaf cake and a flask of Barrys tea – bliss! Bring a couple of whole vegetables that are delicious eaten raw like tomatoes, fennel, French beans, once you get to your destination, slices them up thinly and toss them in a dollop of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt and you have an instant salad to go with your poached fish or baked meat. A nice homemade Irish soda bread is fantastic for a picnic and really easy to make, if you haven’t made bread before this is definitely one that you can master.
List to help you pack for the picnic:
- Rug to sit on (plus some extra to through over your legs if it gets cold)
- Flask of hot water (for tea)
- Cups, plates, glasses, cutlery
- Milk and sugar (in jam jars)
- Knife and board
- Cool box
- And a camera to capture the memory!
Fab Sandwich Fillers
- Cheesy Apple Slaw: Mix grated hard cheese with grated apple, chopped spring onions, a squeeze of lemon and a little mayonnaise. Delicious with wholemeal bread or rolls.
- Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagels: Cut your smoked salmon up into bit size pieces, mix with diced cucumber, cream cheese and a squeeze of lemon. Delicious spread over bagels.
- Creamy Smoked Mackerel: Skin and flake smoked mackerel fillets, then mix with a little mayonnaise and Greek yogurt. Spread onto thick wholemeal bread and top with crisp lettuce leaves.
- Italian Roasted Vegetable: Roast 1 sliced courgette, aubergine, red pepper with olive oil. Once roasted mix with a little sour cream, lemon juice and fresh basil. Delicious on a baguette. You could also add in some feta cheese or soft goats cheese.
Italian Pasta Salad
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the fusilli pasta until al dente (for 4 people 400g). Drain the pasta and run under cold water. Then transfer to a large bowl and mix in 1 diced roasted red pepper, 8 cherry tomatoes (halved), 12 black olives (halved), 200g mozzarella cheese (cut into bit-size pieces), bunch of fresh basil (torn). Drizzle with a good dolllop of extra virgin olive and season with salt and pepper.
100g butter, melted 50g
Place the butter, sugar and honey in a pan over a simmer heat. Once melted remove and stir in the oats and mix well.
Line a 20cm baking sheet with greaseproof paper and spoon the mixture on top, spreading out evenly with the back of a spoon.
Place the flapjacks in a pre-heated oven at 200oC for 10 minutes.
Then transfer the flapjacks to a fridge and allow to set.
Once set cut in bars.
- Try adding a tsp of ground cinnamon or a tbsp of sultanas to the mixture.
Home-made Lemonade with Lemon Balm
If the day is warm on your picnic this lemonade will be deliciously refreshing.
Makes approx. 600ml
1.5 litres (21/2 pints) water
For the stock syrup:
450g white granulated sugar
5 lemon balm leaves
To make the stock syrup, dissolve the sugar in the water over a gentle heat, stirring well. Add the lemon balm leaves and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes and then leave to cool.
Juice the lemons and oranges and mix well with 450ml (3/4 pint) of the cooled stock syrup. Add water to taste.