We celebrate National Picnic Week with an alfresco lunch…
Although our isle is all too often blighted by miserable summer weather, we Brits are a nation of picnickers. At the slightest hint of sunshine, the UK’s parks and beaches are chock-a-block with plucky alfresco eaters scoffing sarnies and scones and desperately hoping the rain clouds gathering in the distance pass them by.
This being National Picnic Week, we couldn’t resist getting in on the picnicking action, and set to work trawling the web for some easy-to-make eats. As the sun’s appearances can be fleeting, we mostly went for recipes that can be quickly rustled up before the grey skies make a swift return. Our ample spread featured everything from homemade cheesy bread and goat’s cheese tarts, to classic scones and liqueur-laden jellies (made with Gibson’s organic liqueurs, no less) and, luckily, the weather held out for us.
Of course, no open-air banquet is complete without a beverage, and ours came courtesy of Yellowtail wines, who sent us two of their new bottles to try: a crisp sauvignon blanc and a zingy pinot grigio, both priced at around £7.99. As we had to head back to the office after our alfresco lunch, we made refreshing white wine spritzers. Light and citrusy, these versatile wines worked well with each of our picnic bites, both savoury and sweet, and would be equally great for a barbecue or dinner party.
If you want to picnic like a pro, here are a few of our tried-and-tested recipes.
These tarts are so quick and easy to make, Sally had time to whip them up in the morning before heading to work. If you want to make your own pastry it will of course take longer, but we can vouch that they taste delicious with the ready-made stuff. These tarts work with pretty much any cheese you like too – Sally mixed it up by using mozzarella as well as goat’s cheese, which went down very well indeed.
What You’ll Need
320g pack puff pastry
A little plain flour, for dusting
150g tub soft goat’s cheese, or any other cheese you like
1 tsp herbes de Provence, or chopped fresh herbs
2 small courgettes, cut into thin rounds
5 tomatoes (not too big), thinly sliced
Leaves from a few thyme sprigs
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Medium beaten egg, to glaze
Heat the oven to 200C/Gas 7. Unroll the pastry and cut into four rectangles, score a border about 2cm in from the edge of each piece, and pop them onto a lightly floured baking sheet.
Mash up the goat’s cheese with the herbs and some seasoning and spread over the middle of the tarts. Place your tomato and courgette slices on top, then scatter with thyme leaves and drizzle with a little olive oil. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg, then pop in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pastry is a nice golden hue and the veggies are sizzling.
Pearl Barley & Beetroot Salad
Salad is a must for any picnic, and this summery one offers a far more interesting alternative to the sad-looking bagged stuff from the supermarket. Our Maddie dreamt this one up all by herself (with a little help from her chef husband) – you can see more of her recipes and foodie adventures on her blog.
What You’ll Need
Three medium-sized beetroots
4 cups (medium) pearl barley
200g goat’s cheese
4 tbsp. olive oil
Pinch sea salt
Pinch cracked black pepper
Handful fresh chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 200C. Coat the bottom of a tray in olive oil, and place in the oven to preheat. Cut the beets into small chunks before placing in the preheated oil for 20 minutes, or until soft and sweet.
While you’re waiting for the beetroot to cook, make a start on the pearl barley. In a large pan, bring the pearl barley to the boil and then drain immediately (this will remove any scum from the husks). Put the pearl barley back into the pan and boil in mildly salted water for around 15 minutes, or until the barley is al dente. When done, drain off the water and leave to cool. When the beetroot has finished cooking, leave to cool before mixing with the pearl barley and goat’s cheese. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with parsley to serve.
Layered Liqueur Jelly
Jelly isn’t just for kids, you know – in fact, these jellies, made for our picnic by Food Festival Finder guru Jen, are strictly for grown-ups, as they contain a cheeky splash of delicious organic raspberry and blackberry liqueurs, which were very kindly sent to us by Gibson’s. Bring these to your next family picnic and we guarantee everyone will be well jel of your jelly-making skills.
What You’ll Need
(Makes around 8 jellies)
50ml Raspberry Gibson’s Organic Liqueur
50ml Blackberry Gibson’s Organic Liqueur
115g caster sugar
Handful of raspberries
1 sachet gelatine
What To Do
Jen made her jellies in little jars – if you’re doing the same, make sure you sterilize them before you start, then pop a few raspberries into each one. To make the jelly, put the water and sugar into a saucepan, and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Add the gelatine and raspberry liqueur and stir it all together. Pour this into the jars, to about halfway up each one, then place into the fridge for around about an hour to set slightly.
Once this layer has set, repeat the process with the blackberry jelly, adding a few more raspberries before you pour the mixture in, and leave the jellies to set in the fridge overnight. Singing ‘I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly’ as you present them to your fellow picnickers is optional.