5 perfectly portable picnic recipes
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
We’re in prime picnic season. It’s time to polish those tins and Tupperware and get feasting in the Great Outdoors, says our food and drink editor.
Pea, bean, coconut and lime salad
(Serves 4 as part of a picnic spread)
This dish is vibrant, fresh and delicately spiced. A really different way to showcase the summer’s pods. It’s wonderful alongside baked white fish too for dinner.
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200g raw, podded peas
200g runner beans, finely sliced
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1 clove garlic, sliced
1 small onion, halved and sliced
1 green chilli, sliced
½ tin coconut milk (chilled in the fridge – creamy part only)
1tbsp chopped fresh mint
2tsps nam pla (fish sauce)
Juice of 1 lime
1tsp toasted cumin seeds
Oil for frying
Saute the garlic, chilli and onion in a little oil in a pan until soft. Add the coconut milk, mint, lime, nam pla and cumin seeds. Cool. Stir in the peas and beans, season and serve. This is actually lovely served chilled.
Smoked mackerel pinwheels
Flaky, buttery morsels with a rich, smoky, lemony layer running through. Serve with garlicky mayonnaise or a sweet chilli dip. You can also make these with smoked salmon.
1 pack ready-rolled all-butter puff pastry
250g smoked mackerel, skin removed
40g unsalted butter, cubed
Zest 1 lemon
1 large handful parsley, chopped
Large pinch ground cayenne pepper
Fresh black pepper
Combine all the ingredients (except the pastry) in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Season with black pepper to taste.
Lay your pastry on a surface and spread the mixture over, leaving a 1cm border all around the edges.
Now roll the pastry up along the long side so you end up with a Swiss roll type shape. Roll back in the paper the pastry came in and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Line a baking sheet. Cut the dough into pieces just a bit wider than 1cm and place on the lined sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden.
These will keep in the fridge for two to three days but are best served warm or at room temperature on the day you cook them.
Strawberry and Pimms jam jar cakes
(Makes 6 jars)
There’s always a worry, when transporting creamy filled cakes on picnics, that they’ll end up squished and looking sorry for themselves on arrival. Have no fear – let me introduce the cake jar! The answer to your cakey prayers. Layer them up. Seal the lids. Chuck them in the fridge until you’re ready to leave. No hassle. No fuss. Just little pots of loveliness. Another family favourite of ours is chocolate sponge with Nutella, chocolate ganache and crushed Bourbon biscuits!
For the cake
4 large eggs – weigh them in their shells
Caster sugar, self-raising flour, sunflower spread – each equal to the weight of the eggs
2tsps vanilla extract
1tsp baking powder
600ml whipping cream
2tbsps icing sugar
6tbsps (heaped) strawberry jam
600g fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
6 clean, sterilised jam jars with lids
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line two, deep, loose bottomed, 20cm round cake tins.
Beat together all the ingredients for the cake until really creamy (like ice cream).
Equally spoon the mix into your prepared tins and bake for 30 minutes until risen and golden.
Allow to cool.
Now, take one of your jars and use it to cut two circles out of the cake mix. Spoon a tablespoon of jam in the bottom of the jar. Add a layer of sponge. Sprinkle with Pimms. Spoon over cream to cover. Add a layer of chopped berries. Place another layer of cake on top. Sprinkle with a little more Pimms. Seal with a lid. Repeat with the other jars and the rest of the ingredients. Keep in the fridge until needed, for up to two days.
Apricot almond and thyme mini upside-down cakes
(Makes 4 mini cakes)
I’ve always thought there’s something rather fancy about an upside-down cake. Seen through the eyes of a child in the 80s, the garish glace cherries and glistening caramelised pineapple seemed magical...special. Then there are mini cakes. Anything baked teensy and small instantly has ‘elegant’ written all over it in our house. Combining the two, and making the most of a wilderness of herbs in my garden, I came up with these dinky upside-down sponges. Serve them up with doilies and cake forks for a very fancy picnic indeed. As an aside, poaching the apricots this way makes them taste divine. Up the recipe sometime and have them for breakfast with a few spoons of Greek yoghurt. You can thank me later...
100g sunflower spread
100g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
50g self-raising flour
1/2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp almond extract
2 large eggs
1/5 tbsps fresh thyme
For the topping
4 dried apricots cut in half, then halved again
2 sprigs thyme
4 small metal pudding moulds or miniature cake tins
4 glace cherries
Heat the oven to 180C and line the bottom of the moulds with a square of greaseproof.
Place the topping ingredients (not the cherries) in a small pan. Simmer on a low heat, then turn up the heat until it’s reduced by half. It will be thicker/sticky but shouldn’t have colour like caramel.
Place a cherry in the centre of the bottom of each mould and spoon around the apricots in their glaze – four per mould.
Combine all the cake ingredients in a large bowl with an electric whisk until thick and creamy. Divide between the moulds and bake for 25 minutes.
Allow to cool. Run a knife around the inside of each cake. And pop out onto a plate. Store for up to three days in an airtight container. Delicious with a dollop of crème fraiche.
Coronation chicken and Jersey Royal salad
(Serves 4 as part of a picnic spread)
There’s something really rather naughty-feeling about tucking into this salad – and I say salad in the loosest sense of the word. Potato salad is meant to be a ‘bit on the side’ isn’t it? That utterly indulgent picnic partner in crime to green leaves, quiche...maybe a sausage roll. This creamy, luscious dish, however, begs to be the star of the show – not relegated to a sandwich filling. Serve it up with some ‘real’ salad, a little crusty bread, maybe some sliced tomatoes, and you’ve got a feast.
800g Jersey Royal (or other new potatoes), peeled and halved – leave very tiny ones whole
2 chicken breasts, baked in the oven, cooled and sliced (around 200g leftover roast chicken can be used)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1tbsp tomato puree
2tsps mild curry powder
2 large egg yolks
2tsps white wine vinegar
200ml mild olive oil
2tbsps mango chutney
Vegetable oil for frying
Seasoning to taste
Bring the potatoes to the boil in a large pan of water and cook until tender. Drain and set aside to cool.
In a frying pan, saute the onion in a little vegetable oil until soft over a medium heat. Add the tomato puree and curry powder and toast for about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks and vinegar. Slowly, a few drops at a time, whisk in the olive oil, beating to combine well. Continue to add the oil and beat with the whisk until it’s all used up and you have a thick mayonnaise. Stir in the cooled spice mix. Fold through the chicken, mango chutney and potatoes and place in a sealed container in the fridge until needed. It will keep for two days in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before eating.