Monday, 20 August 2012

Recipes From Our Picnic

Source for this image here.

We had such a lovely day out on Saturday!  Everyone enjoyed themselves and it was wonderful to be able to relax as a family in the sunshine.  We were able to find a nice shady spot to set up our picnic, and as we ate we enjoyed the restful feeling of being right away from all the rush and hubub of our weekday lives.

Of course, having the right food is essential for a successful picnic!  I didn't have a huge amount of time to get the picnic ready this time, because we hadn't been entirely sure what we were going to do, until that same morning.  But I had a hunch that whatever we did at the weekend might involve a meal eaten outside - or even one that could be eaten outside, if the weather turned out bad after the gloriously sunny week we had enjoyed, so on Thursday and Friday I had made a few lunchtime goodies that would also work for a Saturday picnic, and I'm so glad I did!  This was our menu ...

Tuna nicoise
Mixed bean salad
Green leaf salad
Sandwich layer loaf
Cheese scones
No bake chocolate cherry cake
Sultana oat cookies
Fresh strawberries
Home made lemonade

And here are the recipes!

For The Tuna Nicoise ...

I make this by taking 4 shelled, chopped hard boiled eggs (1 per person if served as a salad, 2 per person if served as a main dish) and combining them with cooked, cooled sliced green beans, 2 cans tuna (drained), boiled and cooled chopped new potatoes (depending on size, I would do about 3 per person if served as a salad, more if served as a main dish) and then combining these in a dressing made of lemon juice, walnut oil and a little salt and pepper.  You can add olives to garnish if you like them.

For The Mixed Bean Salad ...

To make this, use either canned or home cooked pulses, any combination.  My family especially like butterbeans so I always use some of these, but nowadays you can buy canned mixes ready to use for salads.  I would use about 2 cans for 4 people, or 3 cups (approx.  I can't really give precise measurements as I don't use a recipe for these salads).  To this I add chopped cherry tomatoes, a chopped red onion, chopped celery and chopped cucumber.  The dressing for this salad is my standard salad dressing - the juice of one or two lemons, 1 - 2 tablespoons walnut oil, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon mustard, 1 teaspoon garlic paste and salt and pepper.  I combine this in a glass jar and shake well, then pour over the salad and allow to stand. 

Both these salads are lovely warm, also.  We also had a couple of pre packaged mixed green salads.  In England these are usually cheaper than buying all the different leaves separately, so we had them for a treat (normally we have plain leaves).

For The Sandwich Layer Loaf ...

This sounds fancy, but it is so easy!  All you do is get a nice, thick, tall loaf that is not too long (I do buy one to make this with as the ones that come out of our bread machine aren't tall enough).  A supermarket fresh baked cottage loaf is ideal as it is taller than it is long, giving you plenty of slices for this recipe.  To create it, carefully remove the crust from the top and bottom of the loaf so that it is square and flat on its top and bottom and then slice lengthways (i.e. the opposite to how you would slice it normally) into as many reasonable layers as you can - I usually get about 4 or 5 slices.   (If you have pet birds they will be delighted with the discarded crusts for their breakfasts)!   I find it easier to do this by lying it on its side.   Keep the layers in the order that you cut them so that they will fit back together nicely.  Starting with the bottom slice (that would have had the bottom crust on it), spread a filling of your choice on it, then top it with the next slice.  Carry on in this way until you get to the top layer, and then put this on the top without any filling, so that you have essentially rebuilt your loaf.  It should look really pretty, like a multi-layer, savoury cake.  Press down really well, and wrap as tightly as you can in foil.  This is one sandwich that doesn't mind getting squashed in your picnic basket!  But do remember to take a knife to cut it with!  In our loaf we had tuna mayonnaise, cream cheese, pineapple and hazlenuts, mozarella, tomato and avocado, and egg and cress.  It was so scrummy!  Tip: when you come to slice it, try to lean on it a little and press down with one hand to keep the layers together as you cut.  I do find that using layers like the tuna mayo, cream cheese and pineapple and egg and cress, help to "cement" it better than if you only use the drier types of filling.

For The Cheese Scones ...

I make my cheese scones look really luscious and decadent by using double the recipe and rolling them out to twice the thickness - yes, I know it's cheating, but it is very effective!   You fetch up with enormous, puffy scones that look like they rose twelve times the size you cut them.  My basic recipe is ... 16 oz self-rising flour, 3 oz butter (I always use margarine and never get any complaints), 2 teaspoons mustard powder (don't use the ready-made, liquid sort) 2 teaspoons baking powder, 8 oz grated (shredded) cheddar cheese and about 1/2 pint milk.   Start by rubbing the butter or margarine into the flour along with the other dry ingredients until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Add to this 3/4 of the cheese and combine to make a soft, light dough using the milk (you may not need all of it - add it little by little until you have used just enough to pull the mixture into a ball that leaves the bowl clean).  Now roll the dough out on a floured surface until it is about 1 1/2 inches thick (if you want your scones supersized, like I do!).  Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into the shapes that you want and continue cutting and re-rolling until it is all used up.  Place the scones on a greased baking sheet, brush with more milk and then sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Now bake in a fairly hot (220 degrees C/425 degrees F/gas mark 7) oven until risen and golden.  I often use novelty cutters and of course, as we were on a picnic, we had bears on Saturday.

For The Chocolate Cherry Cake ...

Yum!  I have been making this recipe for years and years now.  I can't even remember where the original came from - I think a friend gave it to me even before I was married.  Everyone adores it but I don't make it very often because it is not very healthful!  Start this recipe the night before your picnic is going to take place (Little Bear made this earlier in the week for Papa Bear and Cubby to take to work.  Unknown to them, she made an extra one for the weekend!).  You will need ...
6 oz plain chocolate
2 oz margarine
8 oz digestive biscuits (Graham crackers), crushed
Grated rind of 1 orange (optional, I often omit this)
6 oz glace cherries, chopped
Melt the chocolate and margaine together either in a double boiler or in a glass bowl in your microwave.  Add the crushed biscuits (rather than get out my mini chopper for this, we always crush our biscuits by placing them in a snaploc bag and crushing them with a rolling pin).  Add the cherries and orange rind if using, and stir well.  Press the mixture into a prepared tin (I actually like to use a loaf tin) and then chill in the fridge until ready to eat.  Cut into small squares (you'll think it doesn't look like much, but it is very rich).  It will travel quite well even if you don't use a cooler.

For The Sultana And Oat Cookies ...
This is a simple recipe that again I have used many times.  For this you need ...
4 1/2 oz butter or margaine
4 1/2 oz brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
4 1/2 oz all purpose flour
5 1/2 oz oats
3 1/2 oz sultanas
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (not allspice!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F, Gas Mark 4.  Prepare 2 baking sheets.  Mix together the butter or margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.   Whisk in the egg until well combined.  Add the dry ingredients and mix again.  The mixture will be quite stiff.  Shape into golf ball sized cookies (I got 9) and place on the baking sheets.  Press down to flatten out.  Of course, you could make your cookies smaller but my family like their food BIG!  Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes (mine took 16 exactly).  Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire racks.  Yum!  This is actually an Annabel Karmel recipe - most of her cookbooks are for families with young children but her recipes are simple, nutritious and inexpensive.  I have several of her books, and find her recipes inspiring and easy to follow, and the family really seem to enjoy them.  She even does a healthy version of Pot Noodles (ramen noodles) which the cubs still adore although they're grown up now - though they usually make it themselves, nowadays!

For The Lemonade ...
Home made lemonade is sooo easy!  If you haven't tried any do because it is so much nicer than anything you can buy in the shops.  It really isn't difficult, but you do need to plan ahead.  We've been drinking this pretty much all summer.  You do need some large enough bottles to put it in though, so be prepared for that!  We don't often buy fizzy drinks, but Little Bear and Cubby asked some of their friends and soon we had plenty with some going spare!  This is Delia Smith's recipe and once again you do need to plan ahead with this and prepare it the day before your picnic.  All you need is 6 large lemons, 5 oz sugar and some water!  Scrub the lemons, then pare the zest from 3 of them.  Make sure you have no white pith as this will make your lemonade taste bitter.  Put the zest into a large bowl, and then juice all 6 lemons and pour this over the zest, adding the sugar as well.  Pour over 2 1/2 pints boiling water (I find it really difficult to measure boiling water.  Little Bear always does it for me.  I wish there was an easier way to do it, but if you measure it before you boil it obviously some of it will be lost in steam while boiling so it won't measure accurately afterwards).  Stir well, then cover your lemon mixture and leave overnight.  In the morning, stir again and strain through a sieve to remove the bits.  Remember to strain it into a bowl!  I once did this with some stock I had cooked - I poured the stock through the sieve - right down the plughole - and was left with all the bones from my chicken in my pan, and no stock!  Taste for sweetness and add a little more sugar if you think it needs it.  Now decant into bottles and chill in the fridge until you are ready to drink it.  Note - if you are making this to keep for any length of time, you may prefer to sterilise your bottles beforehand, in which case I would advise using glass, screw-cap bottles rather than plastic ones.  Our lemonade usually only lasts about 24 hours anyways, so I don't normally bother to do this.  For the picnic, to keep it cool, the night beforehand, I put a couple of bottles of it in the freezer!  That way they also helped to keep the rest of our food cool.  But don't use glass bottles to do this!

I can't wait until we have another picnic - I wonder what we will eat then!