Quick Recipes and Easy

The Great British Picnic!

So far this year, we have loved a gorgeous summer here in England. And with the fine weather, inevitably we are drawn to eat outdoors, and once again can delight in that fantastic British tradition – the picnic!

Here in the UK, we will picnic for nearly any social occasion! From the simple sandwiches and a flask of tea to a multi- course gourmet meal served by a butler out of the boot of a Rolls-Royce – all are to be loved in the glorious English countryside (weather permitting ofcourse – this is Fantastic Britain after all!). And picnics are “de rigueur” for our much renowned social season. It is at such events as Royal Ascot, the Chelsea Flower Show or the Henley Royal Regatta that the right art of elegant, stylish picnicking can be witnessed.

These days ofcourse, most of us will use the services of a well trusted purveyor of fine foods or perhaps the local deli or supermarket to supply most of the food, pre-prepared. In Victorian times but, it was a very different affair!

The much revered Victorian Cookery Writer Mrs. Beeton, advised her readers in the 1850’s that the appropriate bill of fare for a picnic for forty demanded ‘a joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of lamb, 2 shoulders of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 1 tongue, 2 veal and ham pies, 2 pigeon pies, 6 medium lobsters, 1 piece of collard calf’s head, 18 lettuces, 6 baskets of salad, 6 cucumbers.

And in case this wasn’t enough, it was crucial not to forget: ‘Stewed fruit well sweetened, and place into glass bottles well corked; 3 or 4 dozen plain pastry biscuits to eat with the stewed fruit, 2 dozen fruit turnovers, 4 dozen cheesecakes, 2 cold cabinet puddings in moulds, 2 blancmanges in moulds, a few jam puffs,’ and much more, including ‘a tin of mixed biscuits and 1/2 lb. of tea.’

Personally, I adopt a rather more relaxed approach to entertaining – it is meant to be fun after all! A small careful plotting and a well chosen menu are the keys to a successful picnic. So here are my top tips for enjoying excellent food and brilliant company…….outdoors:

Plotting a Formal Picnic

When plotting a formal picnic choose flamboyant food on which to feast the eyes as well as the palate but make sure the food is simple to eat and serve.
Plot the menu with the same care as you would plot a dinner party. Fresh fruit starters, such as melon with Parma ham are ideal as they can be packed and transported successfully, then served and eaten easily.
Raised Veal and Ham Pie, Stuffed Roast Chicken or a Whole Poached Salmon are all classic choices for picnics. Remember though to pack a strong, sharp knife for cutting a pie or carving the chicken or salmon and a excellent cutting board too. Reckon about how you are going to present and serve the food and make sure to take appropriate platters and bowls.

Taking creamy dressed salads on a picnic can be a mistake as they do not always look as appetizing after a long journey as when first tossed. It is better to pack a excellent mixture of prepared mixed leaves with a separate container of brilliant oil and vinegar dressing, and then combine them in a large bowl just before they are to be eaten. Similarly, tiny new potatoes cooked in their own skins are an brilliant option, with a dressing to pour over as soon as the picnic is unpacked.

Fresh fruit makes a practical dessert (select varieties that are simple to eat rather than a messy fruit which is best tackled at the table). A moulded dessert such as Summer Pudding can be turned out just before it is eaten. Tarts and flans are ideal as long as the filling is not too runny or, in the case of flans, below the rim of the dish to allow for simple packing

Anyone for Drinks?

Classically, a choice of fruited Pimms or well chilled Champagne are always most acceptable (just remember though that after transportation, champagne can be VERY lively – so open with caution!).

Tableware, Cutlery and Glassware

Ultimately, this will always depend upon the formality of the occasion as well as practicality. Brightly colored disposable tableware is most acceptable in many (less formal) events but may be a small inappropriate where style and elegance demand otherwise. Should the latter be the case then I would always compromise with excellent quality, but not expensive tableware so that if something does get broken (and it invariably does!), then it’s no fantastic loss.

Finally, a word on safety………..

Temperature control is more vital than ever when eating outdoors……

Keep the food refrigerated right until the moment you plot to leave for the picnic.

Find a cool and well shaded spot to set out your picnic.

It is vital to keep perishable foods cool. Chiller bags may not be as attractive as baskets but they are more practical in terms of food safety. Cooked poultry, fish or meat, mayonnaise, cheese, butter and creamy items are just some examples of foods that must be kept cool. Remember to replace such perishable foods in the chiller bag once individual parts have been removed.
Avoid leaving the food out to become warm and attract flies.

Observe the two-hour rule. This is the longest time that vulnerable food can survive unrefrigerated – though really warm weather will reduce this limit to one hour.

If in doubt, throw it out. Should you have any worries about the safety of food, do not serve it. Far better that your picnic guests miss a course than give them all an upset stomach!


Robert Jackson

gourmet-food-revolution.com/ gourmet-food-revolution.com

Useful tips on Preparing a Formal Picnic
courtesy of gourmet-food-revolution.com/ gourmet-food-revolution.com

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