Call us optimists, but this run of sunshine has made us dream of outdoor eating, Jo Orr’s blogpost today is all about potential picnic food. As always, you can follow Jo on her own scrummy blog
The skies have been forget-me-not blue for days now, so I think it may finally be time to venture forth and start eating outdoors again. Lazing around on blankets, a sky full of blossom trees above, grass tickling our toes, sun on our faces and the smell of the earth warming …ah heaven!
Of course, it will probably entail the heavens opening the moment you lay out your blanket, a seagull trying to steal your sandwich and the kids insisting on finding an ice cream van before they’ve even eaten a bite- but none of this stops us optimistically and valiantly rallying the troops and heading off into the great outdoors at the merest hint of sun.
So, in honour of this British passion I bring you a few picnic ideas: a couple of simple salads, a frittata and some filo pistachio tarts soaked in orange blossom syrup that may even contain your kids from that tedious search for the ice cream van!
The frittata is a great picnic staple- it can be whipped up ahead of time, travels without collapsing, appeals to young and old alike, and most importantly is perfect for clearing out your fridge if, like me, your fridge is constantly revealing sad little bunches of half-consumed herbs or veggies past their first squeak of freshness. Bung it all in, the frittata is a very forgiving beast. In this instance, I used a mix of seasonal baby spinach, ruby chard and a handful of wild garlic which is growing abundantly along the verges right now.
The filo tarts may look a tad tricky, but essentially it’s just a matter of patiently brushing several sheets of pastry with melted butter and chopping some nuts. If you have some children (of reasonable age and dexterity) get them chopping the nuts for you and even brushing the pastry sheets- saves you some time and keeps them from squabbling. This particular recipe was inspired by the Turkish bakeries where I used to live in North London that would have windows crammed full of glossy, syrup-soaked, nutty morsels that I could never refrain from buying and then stuffing my face with. Nuts are healthy, right? Anyway, I do wish this weekend brings you sunshine and happy picnicking!
Cucumber and Passion Fruit Salad:
Ingredients: 1 long cucumber or 4 Lebanese cucumbers, 100ml natural yoghurt, 2 passion fruits, salt and pepper.
Use a veg peeler to cut very thin slices of cucumber lengthwise.
Arrange these on a plate, and serve with dollops of natural yoghurt topped with passion fruit seeds.
Classic Tomato Salad:
Ingredients: 2-3 beef tomatoes, 1/2 red onion, bunch of mint and basil, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 3 tbsp walnut oil, 1 tbsp Chardonnay vinegar,1 small clove of crushed garlic, salt and pepper.
Slice the tomatoes thinly and arrange on a plate with very thin rings of red onion. Sprinkle with the dried oregano and sprigs of mint and basil and plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Make the dressing in a small jar – whisk together the oil, vinegar, garlic and seasoning and pour over.
Let the flavours mingle for an hour or two at room temperature to get the most from this simple salad.
Ruby Chard, Spinach and Wild Garlic Frittata
Ingredients: 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 sticks of celery finely chopped, 1 clove of garlic crushed, stalks and leaves of 5 chard leaves, 50g baby spinach, handful of wild garlic leaves and the flowers for serving, knob of butter, 4 large eggs, 100g Parmesan grated, salt and pepper, 1-2 tbsp milk.
These ingredients will make you a 9 inch frittata. I’d probably make 2 of these for a picnic.
In a large frying pan heat 1 tbsp olive oil and once warmed add the chopped celery and chard stalks- sweat for 6-7 mins then add the garlic and cook 2 mins. Season.
Meanwhile, add the eggs to a bowl and stir through the milk and grated Parmesan, season.
Once the celery and stalks are softened add the spinach and chard leaves and allow these to wilt. Set aside.
In your 9 inch frying pan melt a knob of butter. Preheat the grill. Once foaming, add the eggs and stir through the veggies then leave to cook on medium-high for 3-4 mins or til the bottom has cooked though.
Pop under a very hot grill for 5 mins til the top has turned golden.
Filo Pistachio Tarts with Orange Blossom Syrup
Ingredients: 100g pistachios chopped, 50g walnuts chopped, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp caster, 1/2 tub of Ricotta, 7 filo sheets, 50g melted butter; for the syrup: 100ml water, 180g caster, 1/2 tsp orange blossom water.
You will also need a greased muffin tin.
Preheat the oven at 200C.
Melt the butter and brush each of the 7 filo sheets with it then cut each of these sheets in half.
Fill each of the muffin tin moulds with 3 rectangles of filo layered on top of each other.
In a bowl, mix the ricotta, chopped walnuts and cinnamon and half the pistachios.
Fill each of the 4 filo tarts with a spoonful of this mixture then use the remaining sheet of buttered filo pastry to make little tart ‘lids’- cut the sheet into 8 small rectangles and cover the ricotta mixture with 2 small rectangles of pastry.
Bake for 15-20mins though keep an eye in case they brown too quickly. Once cooked, remove the little pastry ‘lids’ and brush generously with the syrup.
You can make the syrup 5 mins before the end of baking by putting the water and sugar into a pan – bring to the boil, boil for 2-3 mins til thickened then stir through the orange blossom water.
Top with the remaining chopped pistachios.