What makes a perfect picnic?
Delia advocates a keep-it-simple approach to outdoor eating, allowing you to make the most of a spell of warm weather and enjoy a relaxing meal al fresco with family and friends. Follow her advice and combine classic picnic favourites with flavourful Mediterranean food, breads and snacks…and don’t forget the corkscrew.
When it comes to picnics nothing will budge me an inch from my keep-it-simple philosophy. In Edwardian days it was all very well, when butler, maid, bar and fully equipped hamper could be transplanted into the country. And if you're very rich, I suppose you can still pick up a Henley or an Ascot hamper from one of those smart London food establishments (though whether the contents will warrant the price is debatable). For less grand affairs I feel many people go wrong by trying to transport the sort of meal they would eat at home: it just doesn't taste the same on squashy paper plates with plastic knives and forks in sizes fit only for four year olds.
For me, real plates, cutlery and glasses (even if not particularly elegant) are infinitely preferable to anything in the plastic line. We also have some thick chunky glasses, which may not look very sophisticated but are far nicer – especially if you're drinking wine – than paper cups. In fact the only 'special' equipment I have is a Thermos flask and a wide Thermos jug (for soup in cold weather) and an insulated butter dish (if you put very cold butter in it, it keeps cool all day), and an insulated bag with a little freezer pad (which also keeps things cool when it is frozen and placed inside). Oh, and some other important items: salt and pepper mills and a corkscrew!
What to eat
Rough outdoor living demands rough outdoor food. Some of the nicest picnics I’ve had have been in Italy – crusty bread, chunks of salami, ripe plum tomatoes, cheese, olives, pickled pimentos, peaches and huge black cherries and, of course, quantities of something Italian to drink. All we had to pack on these occasions was pepper and salt, an insulated dish for butter, knives, plates and glasses. No cooking was involved, you will note.
However, if you’re not pushed for time and want to plan and prepare a picnic, there are lots of recipe ideas on the site that will serve you well out of doors or, if there’s a last-minute change of weather, indoors.
Sandwich suggestions: the simple approach
Bap rolls with eggs
Baps are delicious filled with the following mixture (for 6 people). Mash 6 boiled eggs while they’re still warm with a good knob of butter, 4 teaspoons of mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Stir in 2 heaped tablespoons of very finely chopped spring onion.
How to boil an egg
How to make mayonnaise
Crusty rolls with garlic sausage
For small baguettes, ciabatta or any good crusty rolls, buy garlic sausage or salami in one piece, so that you can slice it more thickly. Fill the rolls with this, plus some thin slices of (drained) dill pickled cucumbers or drained Italian pickled pimentos.
If you mash a clove of garlic into 8 oz (225 g) butter, along with 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley, then chill it well and place in an insulated butter dish, this will be lovely spread on French bread or rolls.
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