It’s Picnic Time

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Now that her bathroom is 100% tiled and ready to go, I’m delighted to welcome Jen, author of Pie in Soup. I hear there’s to be some more nice weather this weekend so get ready to get cracking with your picnic baskets. So without further ado, it’s over to Jen!

I love picnics.  Who doesn’t?  They remind you of days in the sun when you were a kid, playing rounders and eating chicken legs and drinking fizzy juice out of plastic cups. Or boozy afternoons with friends in the botanic gardens.  Or romantic balmy evenings on the beach.  So picnics are pretty much the bomb.  But.  But.  You can’t really plan them in advance.  The weather being what it is in Scotland you have to grab your picnic opportunities when the arise.  For this reason I favour fayre that requires minimal shopping and simple, speedy prep.  Usually something meaty and a couple of salads.  If Mabel invites me back I might share tomato tarts and my favourite rice salad with you, but today you’re getting lemony steak; chorizo, bean and tomato salad and potato salad.  I slung them together from one swift on-foot supermarket trip, and they can all be suped up or styled down as you need them.  Grab some nice bread, olives and fruit and you’ve got a stew cooking.

Lemony steak
What you need…
1 really big rump steak, or 2-4 regular sized (however many you need really)
juice of a lemon
slug of olive oil (about 3 tablespoons)
sprig rosemary or a couple of sprigs of thyme
2 cloves of garlic, bashed (don’t bother peeling them)
salt and pepper

The cooking bit…
1. Heat up a griddle pan or frying pan or your George Foreman.  Fling your steak on it.
2. Put all the other ingredients in shallow dish.  Give the herbs a bit of a bash.
3. When the steak is done to your liking (about 2 minutes for pink on the George Foreman, longer in a pan) put it in the dish with the marinade and swish around.  Flip it every so often.  When you’re ready to eat it sharpen your favourite knife, trim off any fat and slice it nice and thin.  Stuff it in rolls or have it with the next couple of salads on the side.
If you’re really organised (or truly trust the weather forecast) you can also marinade the steak the night (or a few hours) before for extra lemony-ness!

Bean, chorizo and tomato salad
What you need…
400g tin of beans of your choice (I used butter, but pretty much any bean would be good, or chickpeas)
About 200g cherry tomatoes (or more, if you love tomatoes), halved
A small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped (or basil would be ok)
1/2 clove of garlic, grated, crushed, chopped real tiny or smushed up with a little salt in a mortar and pestle
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cider or sherry vinegar, or lemon juice
About 100g chorizo, skinned and sliced
a splash of sherry, if you have it

The cooking bit…
1. Drain the beans and chuck them in a bowl along with the tomatoes, parsley, garlic, olive oil and vinegar/lemon juice.
2. Fry the chorizo on a medium to low heat, turning it round and round for a minute or two.  Keep an eye cause it has a tendency to burn fast.
3. When it’s nicely browned throw it into the bowl along with any fat that came out of the chorizo.
4. If you have any sherry put the pan back on the heat and then splash some in and let it bubble for a minute, then pour that on top and give everything a stir.

Potato salad
Crunchy, vinegary supermarket potato salad is groty to the max, obviously; but homemade is he greatest thing ever.  I make loads of different kinds, this is the one I fancied at the weekend.
What you need…
1kg baby/salad potatoes
2 dessert spoons mayo
1/2 clove garlic, grated, crushed or smushed up with salt
a couple of dessert spoons of capers, roughly chopped (don’t think you don’t like capers, you really do)
about 8 cornichons, roughly chopped
couple of squeezes of lemon juice

The cooking bit…
1. Boil the potatoes until just done.  Check by poking one with a sharp knife; if it goes in smooth and easy they’re done, if there’s a sort of grainy resistance they’re not.  Sorry for insulting you if you’re already a potato cooking ninja, they took me years to master.
2. When they’re done either leave to cool on their own if you have time (they’ll take maybe an hour), or cover repeatedly with cold water until they’re cold.  Whichever method you use make sure they’re completely dry when you use them.  This is important.  They go gross if they’re sitting around in water.
3. Cut them in half.
4. While the potatoes are cooking mix the other ingredients together in a big bowl and when the potatoes are cold and dry stir them into the dressing.

If you’re in a hurry, make a really quick potato salad by following the potato bit above, but for the dressing just mix your favourite shop bought salad dressing with mayo until it’s the consistency you want and mix with the potatoes.

And that’s the food.  You should be able to turn it all out in an hour/an hour and a half.  Less if you skip the beans and make the lazy potato salad.  Even less if you just go for just the steak in some rolls.

If you have any spare time though, any at all, allow me to encourage you to make your own lemonade.  You’ll be kind of disgusted by the amount of sugar it involves, but it’s crazy easy and ever so dreamy.  It’s like a picnic in a glass.  And if you have some gin to go in it, even better.

What you need…
220g white sugar
150ml water
juice of 5 lemons
couple of sprigs of mint, crushed a bit in your hand
litre of bottled water (you could use tap water, but do yourself a favour and use bottled, cheapest shop’s own stuff is fine, fizzy is nice)

The cooking bit…
1.Put the sugar in a pan with the 150ml water and heat to make a syrup.
2. Once the sugar is all dissolved put it in a jug with the lemon juice and mint, top with the bottled water and stir well.
3. Transfer it to the receptacle of your choice for transport.  Maybe one of those swing top bottles if you’re a posh domestic goddess, or a few jam jars if you’re a hipster.

Thanks Jen! For more wonderful recipes check out Pie in Soup by clicking HERE!

If you’ve got any go to picnic recipes or fond memories of the last time the weather was good enough to eat al fesco comment below, we’d LOVE to hear from you!