Sunday, 4 August 2013

Week 26- P..p..pack up a picnic

Picnic time!
I confess, I do keep lots of plastic containers.
Not in a Channel 4-documentary-freaky-hoarder sort of way of course. More of an eco-friendly-frugal-recycling sort of way.

I keep everything from tiny little jam jars (great for vinaigrette in a lunch box) to big ice cream containers (for storing leftover salad, pasta, potatoes etc)- and all shapes and sizes in between.

And they really come into their own in the summer- especially a nice warm summer like this one- when everyone is going to go on at least one picnic.
My plastic container 'installation'

Packing up your picnic thoughtfully can make all the difference between a squishy, unappetizing, soggy mess and a portable feast fit for a king.

So today's menu is all about picnic foods-what's good and how to get them from A to B.

Strictly speaking, the best food shouldn't really require cutlery- sandwiches, sausage rolls, pasties, nibbles and crisps, samosas etc but it can also be fun to make a picnic more special by having plates, forks and glasses.

In my picnic basket today I have a spinach and bacon quiche with individual salad pots, a selection of sandwiches and a tart rhubarb and berry summer pudding.

Over the weeks and months, I've made a lot of quiches and featured them on the blog- chick pea quiche, tarte au camembert, chicken curry tart, aubergine tartlets, salmon and watercress, quiche lorraine etc. The principle is always the same - a nice crisp 20cm pastry case (bought or baked blind in advance), a choice of filling, 3 eggs beaten with a cup of milk and plenty of seasoning.
Chicken curry tart
Tarte au camembert
Aubergine tartlets
Quiche Lorraine

The filling for this picnic pie requires smoked bacon lardons, fried off and drained and a bag of spinach, washed and cooked for 2-3 minutes until wilted. Let the spinach cool and then squeeze it hard in clean hands until no more moisture can be extracted. Scatter the lardons over the pastry base, tear the spinach up and distribute it over the bacon. Pour on the egg and milk mixture, sprinkle on a little grated cheddar cheese and bake in a moderate oven 175 degrees for 20 minutes or so until risen and golden. (I like my quiches firm and golden - not wobbly and pale, but if you prefer yours that way, just cook at a slightly lower temperature and take out to rest when it is just set.)
Spinach and Bacon Quiche

To pack this up for a picnic, slice it into 1/8ths and layer in a plastic container with some baking paper between each layer.

For easy-eating salad, make individual pots with a fork tied on with string or a rubber band. I've used mustard glasses with lids which I hoard after French holidays.- but you could use any jar with a screw top lid. You can either put some dressing in the bottom of the glass before adding the salad or carry some separately for adding later in a little jar (hotel breakfast jam pots are excellent for this.)
Picnic salad jars

I like either a potato salad (leftover new potatoes mixed with plain yoghurt and chives) with mixed leaves
Potato salad
or a mixed tomato salad ( lots of unusual shapes and colours at my greengrocers- mix and match for an attractive effect.)
Mixed tomato salad

Everybody has their own tastes in sandwiches and spreads. I like dainty sandwiches for an afternoon tea but hearty ones for a main meal. Here are two of my favourites- roast beef with horseradish
Roast beef with horseradish sandwiches
and fish finger with tartare sauce. Pack them up in plastic containers but serve them on a plate with garnishes.
Fish finger sandwiches with tartare sauce

For pudding I have made a summer pudding in a pot.

Cut the crusts from 4 slices of white bread ( save these for croutons to have with soup) and line a pudding basin (one which has a lid for later) with three of them cut to fit. Stew some rhubarb and summer berries with a tablespoon of sugar (more if you have a sweet tooth) and 1/2 cup of water until the rhubarb is tender. Pour the mixture, including all the juice into the bread mould. Take the last slice of bread and push it down over the top to make a seal. Place a saucer over the top and a heavy can to weight it down. Leave to cool and set overnight in the fridge.
Summer Pudding in a Pot

Snap on the lid and take it to the picnic. You can then either serve it straight from the pot or turn it out on a plate. I like to serve it with mascapone- which comes in its own handy pot. Great for the picnic - and ready to be added to my plastic container collection afterwards!
Summer Pudding Revealed!

Wherever you are and wherever you're going, long may the picnic weather continue!

PS. I'm halfway through my blog challenge this week. Phew!

I hope you think it's worth carrying on.

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