Let’s go outside

Food blogger Anna Hedworth packs the perfect picnic with punch

I love a picnic; actually, any excuse to eat outside, even if it is a bit cold. A BBQ, a picnic, a table outside a restaurant… we spend so many hours cooped up inside that I’ll take any opportunity to sit out, and food always seems to taste that bit better in the fresh air. 

I have some of my granny’s old picnic hampers and I love packing them up with treats and setting off with friends to some sunny spot in rural or coastal Northumberland.

My favourite picnic spot at the moment is hidden in the dunes at Druridge Bay. You can see out, but no-one can see in to this sheltered little nook.

On a sunny day with the rug laid out and the picnic basket overflowing with treats it’s a pretty lovely place to be. A beach picnic is always enjoyable, or by the river, in the Lakes. Picking a pretty spot is almost as much fun as the food.

I’ve been reading Elizabeth David’s chapters on picnicking and find my efforts put to shame somewhat. Her companions were known to visit the picnic site the day before to bury the Champagne so it was ready chilled for arrival.

David was once guest to a family whose idea of a picnic was walking through their formal Dutch gardens to the woodland beyond, followed by butler, chauffeur and footman, ‘bearing fine china plates, the silver and tablecloths, a number of vast dishes containing cold chickens, jellies and trifles’.

Not really my idea of a picnic these days, but an amazing experience, none the less!

I’d quite like to try a picnic by moonlight, with wine, tea lights, blankets and luxurious treats to eat. I’ll have to start thinking of a spot for that one on the off chance we get a warm night!

The origins of the term ‘picnic’ are unclear, but the word traditionally relates to a meal jointly contributed to and enjoyed out of doors.Mini-tarts and quiches, sausage rolls, salads in pots, bread rolls, little cakes all fit the bill. There is generally a high quota of hand-held food – things in pastry, muffins, pork pies, scotch eggs. Sandwiches with no crusts, potted meat, cheese or pates and a refreshing homemade mint lemonade to wash it all down.

Hand-held is preferable, and things that require cutlery should at most be scooped up with a fork. Lots of things baked into a muffin or a pie are also good; getting all your food groups at once should be straightforward and tasty.

Avoid anything that can get squashed (apples preferable to bananas), and anything that melts (cake is better than chocolate), and anything that makes your sandwiches soggy.

A friend recently prepared mini-picnic baskets for each of the guests at her daughter’s christening. I like the idea of your food being unwrapped like little presents almost as much as I like the food and packing the picnic basket is half the fun.

Traditionally, baskets were filled with different boxes and compartments so as to waste no space and prevent anything getting squashed. I have built up my collection to three so far, but am yet to get one that has compartments.

So if this summer manages to show us a little bit of sunshine I’ll be off to the beach, or in a valley, or by the river or even just in the park armed with a tightly packed little wicker basket and a rug.
See right for a couple of recipes that you may like to pack into your baskets…

For more recipes and tips, see The Grazer at www.the-grazer.blogspot.co.uk

Anna Hedworth recipes:

Sausage rolls with apricots and sage click here 

Homemade mint lemonade click here

Gruyere, courgette and chorizo muffins click here

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