Okay, so I’m not sure what’s better, a sausage roll recipe that can be pimped 3 ways or a gifted pair of beautiful canvas shoes to skip about in and dream of spring, summer and picnics. I think I’m going for equal first. READ MORE
Well, it’s still National Picnic week. Have you had a picnic yet? I think we can extend the deadline to include this weekend if you’re pushed for time.
A good picnic must have food that is both fun and delicious in my humble opinion. You can’t just pack up a standard cheese sandwich and expect everyone to get in the picnic mood. That won’t do at all. People expect excellent and imaginative sandwich fillings, some form of crisps and of course a scotch egg, a slice of pork pie, fresh berries (ie/’fun’ fruit) and a cake or flapjack of sorts. (I have never knowingly under-catered).
Did you know it’s National Picnic Week? Now let’s not be all British and moan about the weather. I personally don’t give two hoots about how sunny it is when it comes to eating al fresco; I have been known to pack up warm soupy picnics for snowy sledging trips after all.
If the kids are crying that it really is too rainy then a carpet picnic is a perfect British alternative. Here are my ‘rules’ for a successful indoor picnic:
I’m from Leicester and it’s not somewhere people seem to be proud to be from. Possibly being a Midlands city it suffers from a lack of north/south divide identity tension. We have no-one to hate, to ridicule. So we sit merrily in the middle not being angry about location because we’re quite literally stuck in the middle of things.
Given that I don’t have that puffed up chest ‘I am northern/southern, hear me roar!’ thing going on, I have always embraced my British identity. And there is nothing more British than strawberries and cream. We simply love the stuff don’t we? Make sure you spend the extra on good strawberries for these, they’re the star of the show after all.
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and prepare a 12 hole cupcake tin with cases. Beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, butter, vanilla and eggs using the KitchenAid flatbeater or a wooden spoon until really light in colour and fluffy looking. This takes about 4 minutes in the mixer. Add the freeze dried strawberries and beat in for 30 seconds then divide the mixture into 12 cupcake cases equally. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes until well risen and a toothpick comes out of the middle of the cakes clean. Leave to cool out of the tin on a wire rack.
Once cool take an apple corer and remove the centre of the sponge from each cupcake. Push the corer in and twist but not all the way to the bottom – you want a little sponge left in the base. Remove the sponge and eat/discard then fill the hole with strawberry jam or EasiYo strawberry fruit squirt. Use a teaspoon if you don’t have a squeezy pouch to use.
Pipe whipped cream on the top and adorn with a ruby red strawberry and there you have it – Britishness in a cupcake. Serve immediately and then keep in the fridge if they’re not all gobbled up.
This is the ultimate prepare ahead picnic lunch. Just make sure everything you’re stuffing into it is loved by all and away you go. My lot are rather taken with cured meats, smoked cheeses, cucumber and tomato but really a picnic loaf can take whatever you throw at it. I was thinking a smoked salmon and cream cheese loaf layered with cucumber and fresh dill might be delicious? Or even roasted thinly sliced courgettes, roquito peppers, aubergine, fresh pesto and mozzarella. Or a meat feast quite literally bursting with pork, beef, chicken and lamb. And whilst we’re on the lamb theme what about cold roasted lamb, houmous and a mint dressing? Do as you will with it but remember to save the inside of the bread for the ducks. It’s only fair.
Makes one stuffed loaf that will feed 4 – 8 depending on hunger
500g strong white flour (plus extra for shaping)
7g easy bake yeast
30mls olive oil
300mls baby bath temperature water
50g hemp seeds
20g poppy seeds
50g sunflower seeds
Meat, cheese, salad stuff and pesto for stuffing with – whatever takes your fancy!
Mix the flour, yeast, salt and olive oil together in a bowl then add the water and either knead by hand for about 10 minutes until really smooth and elastic or use the KitchenAid dough hook for about 4 minutes. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to double in size at room temperature. The hotter the room the faster this will be.
Knock the dough back with the dough hook or your hands then tip onto a floured work surface and use your hands to scoop under the dough and form into a ball. You are trying to create tension on the top of the loaf so pull and scoop underneath to create a taut surface. Place on a well floured baking tray, flour the top of the loaf and then cover in clingfilm. Leave to double in size.
Slash the top of the loaf a couple of times with a sharp knife then bake in a preheated oven at 220C/gas mark 7 for 30 minutes until well browned and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow. Allow to cool on a wire rack then once cool cut the loaf in half with a serrated knife across the middle, horizontally. Then scoop out the bread from the middle of both halves, using your hands, leaving a crust shell. Fill the bottom side with whatever you please, layering into a dome that is tall enough to fill the bread top (keep offering it up for size), working in layers, then put the loaf back together carefully. Wrap well in clingfilm and leave for about 2 hours before cutting. Perfect picnic fodder!
I filled mine with… gherkins, pastrami, mustard, pesto, basil, mozzarella, red Leicester cheese, ham, salami, pickled red peppers and fresh tomato. What would you put in yours?!
I’m a mum of 3 boys, a cookbook writer and also a finalist on the 2011 Great British Bake Off.
I’ve decided to record the recipes I use, partly to save them somewhere and partly in case someone else might like to use them...