Perfect Picnics: How to do al fresco dining

Perfect Picnics: How to do al fresco dining

Tomorrow will see the start of National Picnic Week (15 to 24 June) and, if we say so ourselves, Capital Cooking are something of an authority on the subject, having catered for all sorts of al fresco events. Working in testing environments, often without fully kitted out (oe any) kitchens has made us truly understand what it takes to pull off a dreamy outdoor feast.

So. What to bring?

Absolute essentials in your picnic hamper (bulging carrier bags are not the most practical or the most attractive) should include:

- salt and pepper shakers
- bin bags
- bottle opener
- napkins
- icepacks and cool-box

Although traditionally picnics are relaxed affairs with people kicking back on rugs and blankets, there are ways to posh up your picnic. Having fold up chairs and a table with a linen cloth plus napkins on it, as well as a little vase of wildflowers and real silver cutlery will give your picnic some gravitas. This will, of course, require more work – heavy lifting and precise planning does take away from the whimsy vibe of traditional picnicking. However, we do advise some form of cover – from large umbrella to small gazebo because… England.

But really the main thing is the food.

It’s always a nice idea to start with a shared cocktail – bellinis with simple peach puree are perfect, as is a pitcher of Pimm’s. We don’t advise trying to veer from tradition with the latter – all you need to go with the booze is sliced lemons, cucumbers and strawberries plus lemonade and plenty of ice.

Cocktail sausages – smother them with whole grain mustard post cooking for a real kick - are a must-have. You can also make Homemade sausage rolls easily – these are so much more delicious than any packet variety. Jamie Oliver has a quick and easy version here because he recommends using packet puff pastry. If you can make your own, then so much the better.

The equally delicious cousins of the sausage roll, the pork pie and the Scotch Egg, are also picnic favourites. We like these pork pies by Paul Hollywood – imperfect looking and completely authentic while these Scotch Eggs by Clarence Court – purveyors of the Burfod Brown, AKA the most delicious hen eggs in the land, manage to be both delicate and substantial.

Hummus (homemade is much better: it really is just garlic, chickpeas, tahini, lemon and olive oil in varying quantities depending on your taste) and chopped vegetables are always a winner and a lovely alternative to crisps.

For picnic puddings, we think a little playfulness is in order. Homemade lollies and cupcakes will always go down well, but we love brownie kebabs, which are exactly what they sound like. Little squares of your favourite brownie recipe accompanied by raspberry and marshmallow on one skewer of heaven.

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