Pep up that picnic! From a loaf stuffed with filling, to wine in a watermelon, here’s the easy way to eat alfresco
- Picnic season is upon us and ‘picnic-scaping’ is the hot trend of the summer
- So how can you transform your sad old picnic into a lavish outdoor feast?
- From a watermelon wine cooler to a surprise sandwich inside a loaf of bread, SARAH RAINEY reveals how to pimp up your picnic
Picnic season is upon us and, come rain or shine, eating alfresco is an obligatory part of the Great British Summer.
But you can forget soggy sandwiches and flasks of lukewarm tea.
Because ‘picnic-scaping’ is the hot trend of the summer, with a host of glorious and delicious hacks designed to make your picnic mess-free, stress-free and oh-so-chic.
And it’s not all about the food. Top interiors brands have launched fashionable takes on everything from baskets to blankets, while A-listers from Gwyneth Paltrow to Reese Witherspoon have taken to social media to show off their sumptuous spreads.
So how can you transform your sad old picnic into a lavish outdoor feast?
From a watermelon wine cooler to a surprise sandwich inside a loaf of bread, SARAH RAINEY reveals how to pimp up your picnic…
TURN BREAD INTO A SURPRISE SANDWICH
From a watermelon wine cooler to a surprise sandwich inside a loaf of bread, Sarah Rainey (pictured) reveals how to pimp up your picnic
Otherwise known as a ‘park loaf’, this is an ingenious way to save on messy fillings spilling out of cling-filmed sandwiches and cumbersome tupperware.
The method is simple: buy a large, oblong loaf — a chunky farmhouse or white sourdough will hold its shape best — slice off the top and scoop out the doughy centre.
Then, pack your lunch inside the crust. Start by spreading plenty of pesto or mayonnaise over the bread, then add a layer of ham or salami to line the insides, and follow with whatever else you fancy.I used grilled vegetables, slices of mozzarella cheese and mixed salad leaves. Layer the fillings, packing them down as you go, until they reach the top of the loaf. Replace the lid, wrap the bread in tinfoil and tie some string around it, twisting it tightly.
A crowd-pleasing centrepiece, it works well with salad-based fillings, too; try making a chicken Caesar salad or tuna niçoise and packing this inside.
ENJOY A MELON WINE COOLER
Tipping a bottle of cheap vodka into a watermelon is something many of us will remember from our student days — but this classier version uses a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (pictured)
Tipping a bottle of cheap vodka into a watermelon is something many of us will remember from our student days — but this classier version uses a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.
Wine bottles can be clunky and heavy to carry on a picnic, not to mention the risk of broken glass. Pouring your wine into a chilled watermelon before you set out is the ultimate hack.
Start by chilling a watermelon (a small/medium one will serve around six people) in the fridge overnight so it’s nice and icy.
Then, using a sharp knife, cut a small hole in the top, no bigger than the size of the corkscrew from a wine bottle. Once you’ve pierced the skin, use a melon baller to reach inside and remove the red flesh (you can save this for later or puree it to make a watermelon coulis for your cocktail).
When the fruit is hollowed out, decant a bottle of wine inside, before using the cork to plug the top. Secure it with a cocktail stick through the skin to ensure it won’t leak.
At the picnic, serve up some watermelon wine: half a glass of cool liquid from the fruit, topped up with soda water.
SERVE YOUR CAKE (AND SALAD) IN JARS
Cake jars are the sweet trend of the summer, with M&S’s £4 tubs of raspberry sponge, chocolate cake and millionaire’s shortcake flying off the shelves.
But it’s simple — and cheaper — to make your own cake jars. Start by investing in some lidded Kilner jars (these come in 250ml and 500ml sizes, from £6.79 at amazon.co.uk) and a large, shop-bought cake. Put a jar open-side down on top of the cake and press down firmly, so it goes through all the layers, before upending it and scooping the circle of cake inside.
Repeat until the jar is full, adding a layer of jam, buttercream or chocolate sauce in between each sponge scoop. Replace the lid and refrigerate until the picnic.
CREATE A SCRUMMY PLOUGHMAN’S PIE
Sweaty salami and plasticky, pre-sliced cheese are not ideal for a posh picnic — so take things to the next level by making a ploughman’s lunch inside a pie.
I used shop-bought shortcrust pastry; a 375g packet should be enough to line a 20cm greased pie dish, with a third held back for the top.
Next, I mixed six slices of ham (chopped), 200g sausage meat, 250g cooked chicken pieces, 100g pickled onions (halved), three hard-boiled eggs (halved), a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard and two tablespoons of chopped parsley together in a bowl.
I spooned half the filling into the pastry-lined dish, topped with 200g sliced cheddar cheese, and then added the rest of the filling before covering with the pastry lid. I scored the top with a knife, made a small hole in the middle to let the steam escape, brushed it with beaten egg and then baked it at 180c for an hour.
Once golden brown, I left the pie to cool completely before storing it in the fridge. Well-wrapped, it’s the perfect savoury snack.
Otherwise known as a ‘park loaf’, a loaf stuffed with filling (pictured) is an ingenious way to save on messy fillings spilling out of cling-filmed sandwiches and cumbersome tupperware
DRINK FROM SQUASHABLE CUPS
There’s nothing worse than pouring a refreshing drink at a picnic, only for it to topple onto the grass and spill moments later.
There are various solutions for this dilemma, not least a set of nifty ‘drinks sticks’ (£15 for four, johnlewis.com) which hold the stem of your glass steady and poke into the ground like a stake. But the cleverest by far is the squashable wine glass: a silicone design which is said to be unbreakable and unspillable.
Another smart solution for alfresco drinks is cocktails in a can. And when it comes to keeping beverages cool, stick a bunch of grapes in the freezer the night before and pop a few into everyone’s drink on arrival.
STOCK UP ON SAUCES AND SEASONING
If you want to avoid a bland lunch, seasoning is crucial — and often forgotten in picnic planning.
But that doesn’t mean your bag needs to be clanking with an array of jars, tubs and tubes.
Decant the liquid condiments into smaller containers — I used old Tic Tac packets, but you could also try empty hummus tubs.
Make sachets for your salt and pepper out of tin foil, twisting the ends so they don’t leak. If your menu requires fresh herbs, freeze these the night before you set out, chop them at the last minute and bring them along in sandwich bags; this will keep them green and sprightly.
GIVE YOUR GUESTS ECO CROCKERY
Reusable plates, cups and bowls abound on the High Street (sets of four from £12 at johnlewis.com) or you can go high-end and buy a colourful selection from Selfridges (£38 for four, selfridges.com, pictured)
When it comes to crockery, bamboo is infinitely better than paper. Reusable plates, cups and bowls abound on the High Street (sets of four from £12 at johnlewis.com) or you can go high-end and buy a colourful selection from Selfridges (£38 for four, selfridges.com).
INVEST IN HANDY OUTDOOR GADGETS
Keep things modern with outdoor gadgets, designed to make your alfresco experience more enjoyable without bulking out your bag.
A portable coffee machine (such as the Aeropress Go, £29.99 at amazon.co.uk) is a must for caffeine addicts, while music-lovers won’t go anywhere without a portable speaker; retro specialists Roberts Radio do a chic range with a 12-hour battery life (£149.99, robertsradio.com).
And if you’re there for the long haul, don’t forget lighting. Try using solar-powered garden lanterns (from £45, johnlewis.com).
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