While the lovely Annie is off on her travels and (*whispers*) the sun is finally shining I’m here to talk summer – more specifically summer food!! What better way to enjoy the summer than a picnic?
Here are my picnic rules - check for bugs scrupulously before putting the rug down and avoid jam/sticky wasp-attracting foods. Take any excuse to purchase some pretty paraphernalia or jazz up some boring plastic Tupperware (I can always find occasion to get crafty) and for me – I like something a little more adventurous than soggy sarnies (save those for a Teddy Bears’ Picnic with the little ones). If the weather does let you down – cushions off the sofa, rug down and you’ve got yourself a floor picnic – if the food’s good you’ll still be smiling by the end of it.
So here are a couple of my favourite recipes to add to your picnic basket, I hope you enjoy them. I’ve stayed savoury for this post since those of you who know me know I’m always banging on about cakes and biscuits and I thought I’d share something a bit different here. It should be noted however that you must include cakes and biscuits in your picnic (it’s the actual law!) and as long as you steer clear of anything too sticky (see above) then you’ll be safe.
Lentil and Squash Summer Salad: (serve it warm in the Autumn, cold in the summer to enjoy the yumminess all year round)
1 Medium butternut squash – peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
2 tins puy lentils
1 small red onion – finely chopped
150g cherry tomatoes – chopped Handful of fresh thyme leaves
Splash of Balsamic vinegar
50g crumbly cheese of your choice – Cheshire / Wensleydale or even Feta
Pre-heat oven to Gas Mark 4 or 180C. Lay the squash in a roasting tin, coat with olive oil, chopped/crushed garlic and the thyme leaves. Roast for about 40 minutes until it’s soft. Rinse and drain the lentils and put in a bowl with the chopped onion, tomatoes and spinach leaves. Toss all of this with the Balsamic vinegar and if you like, a little wholegrain mustard. Add the cooled squash and crumble over the cheese of your choice. SIMPLE!!
Spicy Aubergine Dip: – this has a North African vibe to it. Goes really well with spicy lamb but is excellent on its own as a dip with crackers or flatbreads – even crisps!
2 medium aubergines
Juice of 1 lemon
500g plum tomatoes, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
2tsp chilli powder
Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
Handful coriander, chopped
Stab the aubergines all over and bake in over at Gas mark 9 or 240C for about 50mins. Keep your eye on them though - you want the skin to be wrinkly and the flesh to be soft but not burned. Put everything else in a pan and heat for about 20 minutes until it is mushy and a lot of the liquid has simmered away. Cool the aubergines, peel them and mash the flesh discarding any juice which comes out. Mix together, season and add more olive oil if necessary and mix everything together. Serve cold. If you prefer you can blend it to a smooth paste.
85g plain flour, sifted
40g unsalted butter, chilled
40g parmesan, finely grated
For the filing:
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large red pepper, deseeded and chopped
Splash of cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
Handful fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Marinated artichoke hearts
Put the flour, butter and parmesan into a food processor. Whizz until it resembles breadcrumbs, add a little ice cold water at a time until it starts to stick together. Turn onto a floured surface, knead together, wrap in clingfilm, chill for 1 hour. Roll out, cut out rounds with a pastry cutter, press each one into the tin and prick each case with a fork (or use baking beads) to prevent it rising too much. Bake in a preheated oven (190C/Gas 5) for approx. 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Fry the garlic and pepper in olive oil on a low heat until soft. Tip into a food processor, blend until smooth. Put into a bowl with the mascarpone, vinegar and basil. Season to taste. Fill the cooled pastry cases with the paste and top with a piece of artichoke heart and a good grind of black pepper.
Ice cubes (optional depending on whether you’re going far or have a thermos)
Handful fresh mint leaves
1 bottle sparkling water
Half fill your chosen vessel with ice. Scrunch up the mint sprigs/leaves and pop them in. Squeeze in the juice of the lemon. Halve the pomegranite and squeeze hard over a sieve to break all the little jewels and get the juice out. Throw away what’s left in the sieve. Fill up with the sparkling water. Give it a stir. That’s it! Super simple, super tasty!
There you have it!! I’d love to hear about your favourite picnic recipes to. Don’t forget to follow my rules for a safe and happy picnic and don’t forget to obey the law and take cake. In fact, that should be the law for life in general – forget hipflasks, let’s make hip-tins so we can carry cake always, for when we fancy a crumb or two :-) (We need to come up with a better name for them though!)
Don’t forget to join me over on my site sometime www.virtual-rhiality.com. Thanks Annie for letting me chat to your readers.
TTFN, Rhia xxx