Quick Recipes and Easy

Spring Has Sprung And Picnic Food Choices Change – Start Planning A Spring Picnic

It’s time to stop cooking winter warmers and look for fresh ingredients for healthy spring picnics.

Now is the time for the first forced rhubarb and the sturdier outdoor variety will appear shortly. Try cooking it down to a puree with some butter and serve with barbecued mackerel. Or make a sugary crumble desert with it, to serve cold on your picnic, with a excellent dollop of crème fraiche.

Herbs are beginning to appear in the garden again for fresh flavouring and salads and watercress is available in abundance (the Watercress festival in Hampshire, UK, takes place on 13th May) so make the most of it. It’s rich in iron and calcium as well as vitamins A and C, so it makes a very healthy picnic salad. It also makes a wonderful soup and with a excellent, farmhouse butter and fresh bread, a very tasty sandwich.

British salad onions (scallions) get nice and stout this month, so sprinkle them on all sorts of things! To make onion curls, cut in half lengthways, slice thinly at an acute angle and then pop in iced water for 20 minutes.

The first asparagus starts to push through from mid-April onwards. Although I reckon it’s nicest steamed and served warm with melted butter or Hollandaise sauce, you can take it on a picnic in salads, or grill it over a fire and serve with flakes of Parmesan cheese.

Alfonso mangoes (the small, golden ones known as the king of mangoes) have a small season now. They should be eaten very soft, so mash them and add to natural yoghurt with a squeeze of lime and some chopped mint for a healthy desert.

Mint really tastes of Spring (not just because we serve mint sauce with Spring lamb!) and is fantastic with fruit, although this mix doesn’t immediately spring (pun intended!) to mind. Try it ground up with sugar and sprinkled over peaches or pineapple.

There’s a type of aubergine (egg plant) called Violet Pearl, which is rounder than the more usual version and in April it’s harvested in the UK. You can, but, use any kind of aubergine for the recipe below.

Spicy Moroccan Starter

This is a spicy aubergine (eggplant) dish, which should be made several hours in advance of eating, so that the flavours have time to mix and develop. Of course, this makes it ideal for taking on a picnic! It should be served at “room temperature” so it won’t need to be kept in your cool box either.

This quantity should serve 6 and is yummy as a first course, served with pitta bread, or you might like to offer it with barbecued lamb or chicken as one of several main course dishes.

- 800 grams of aubergine (eggplant), peeled and chopped
- 4 large cloves of peeled garlic
- about 800 grams of tomatoes peeled and chopped (or used tinned)
- 4 tablespoons of an extra virgin or a excellent virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon of harissa paste (or a teaspoon of paprika and a couple of pinches of cayenne pepper)
- a few pinches of salt and some ground black pepper, to taste
- a excellent handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Boil the chopped aubergine with the garlic, in lots of salted water, in a covered saucepan for around half an hour, or until they are very soft.

Meanwhile place the tomatoes into another saucepan and cook on a low heat, stirring now and then, until reduced to a thick sauce. This should take about the same time as the aubergines.

Drain and chop the aubergines and garlic in a sieve or colander and then press with a fork, releasing all the water. Mix with the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients and leave in a cool (not cold) place for the flavours to mingle.

The last few months have seen the evenings become longer and the days brighter . . . so forget the spring-cleaning, get out into the fresh air and take a picnic!

Emily McDonald is author and editor of the-picnic-site.com the-picnic-site.com, which offers food & drink recipes, thoughts for games and everything you need to know about picnic plotting. This article, or part thereof, may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.

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