It is turning into a glorious summer with sunshine that is almost guaranteed so we can put a little more thought and planning into a picnic to ensure that you not only enjoy the sunshine but the food too. M&S and Waitrose are great for picking up finger-ready food but there is nothing quite like planning our own menu that everyone can enjoy.
You can theme the menu around a colour or a flower or keep it traditional with cucumber sandwiches, home-made sausage rolls and lashings of ginger beer.
If you are driving to the picnic spot, you can also take various trapping that will only make it look fantastic but also have you lazing more comfortably. Rugs, throws and scatter cushions will ensure that you are seated comfortable while draping lengths of muslin, bunting or paper lantern look fabulous if you are picnicking under a tree. If you intend to stay til the sun starts to set, take candles in lanterns that will offer a soft light. Try putting fresh flowers inside the lanterns around the base of the candle to make cool centre pieces.
I like to have some kind of game for those who get bored just sitting around. Badminton sets are light and easy to carry as are boules and some croquet sets. This gives people a focus while digesting the food. A wireless speaker means that you can also preset a playlist to enjoy while chilling out – just be mindful of other people around you who may not share your musical tastes.
We would all like to bring our food along in traditional wicker baskets and colourful melamine tiffin boxes but even if it is in plastic storage containers carried in canvas shoppers, as long as the food is tasty, it doesn’t matter. Melamine tableware is not only more environmentally friendly but also comes in some fabulous designer colours and patterns now to really make a statement. Emma Bridgewater does some of her fabulous designs in melamine now and Navigate’s candy range. Include some serving bowls, such as the Emsa bowls with lids, and platters as well as a plastic cake stand with domed lid for dramatic affect when presenting the food. Mason jars are very popular right not so why not pre-prepare individual cocktails or home made lemonade in some with the lids on to keep them watertight and cool. Load up a cool bag and then bring a plastic bottle full of the mix for top-ups.
For food you are really only limited by your own tastes. For a classical picnic I like to take watercress and orange salad, poached salmon, asparagus in hollandaise sauce and crusty french bread. However asian-fusion food can offer a light and zingy alternative. Why not serve a Thai beef salad, Vietnamese spring rolls with a sweet chilli jam, cold peanut noodles and chicken satay. Italian cuisine suits picnics from antipasti boards and appetisers such as bocconcini and sun-dried tomato wrapped in a basil leaf to a Mediterranean style layered picnic loaf and crumbed veal. For dessert I love to take Eton Mess in a large bowl and then serve it into individual plastic dessert cups with a pile of fresh berries on the side in case anyone wants extra.
Next week we provide some of the recipes for these wonderful dishes and the week after, the top picnicking spots in London!