COOKING FOR CHILDREN; BASKET CASES

SUMMER PICNICS: Annabel Karmel suggests practical and interesting picnic foods for kids
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The Independent Culture
Lazy picnics on a warm summer's day are magical and memorable times for children and are made far easier if you have the right equipment.

Insulated chill boxes are ideal, they not only keep food fresh and drinks cool but also protect delicate foods from being crushed. Other "ingredients" for a successful picnic are a large rug, paper plates and plastic cutlery, wet wipes, and a large bag for rubbish.

Apart from obvious picnic foods like sandwiches, crisps and fruits you can try crudites with dips, salad and home-baked cakes. How about getting your children busy designing their own edible jewellery while you prepare some tasty morsels to take with you.

EDIBLE NECKLACES

Making necklaces using a variety of non-messy foods is fun for children. They are ideal for a picnic as children can eat them while on the move. I use a large darning needle and thick thread to make the necklaces. It looks especially decorative if you cut some of the larger vegetables into shapes using biscuit cutters. Here are some suggestions for budding jewellery designers.

Healthy foods: chunks of cucumber, carrot, kohlrabi or sweet pepper. Cherry tomatoes. Try grapes or dried fruits, cubes of cheese, breakfast cereals with a hole in the middle like Cheerios, or any other food that can be threaded on to a necklace but is not too messy.

Treats: Licorice Allsorts, marsh-mallows, biscuits with a hole in the middle, Hula Hoops.

VEGETABLE RISSOLES

These are really tasty and are good eaten hot or cold. They can also be eaten in a bun or pitta bread with some salad.

Makes 12 rissoles

2 medium (about 150g/5oz) carrots, grated

100g/312oz butternut squash, peeled and grated

75g/212oz white of leek, finely chopped

115g/4oz button mushrooms, finely chopped

1 tablespoon parsley

115g/4oz wholemeal breadcrumbs (made from fresh sliced bread put in a food processor)

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 egg lightly beaten

salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Using your hands, form into about 12 rissoles. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and saute the rissoles over a medium heat for about eight to 10 minutes, turning occasionally until golden and cooked through.

BEST-EVER BROWNIES

Children love brownies but prefer them without nuts so I have added chocolate chips and zest of orange to give these a luxurious flavour. Something chocolatey is just the thing to finish off a delicious picnic. These can be made ahead as they will keep for at least a week in a sealed container.

Makes 8 squares

125g/412oz good quality plain chocolate broken into small chunks

175g/6oz unsalted butter

4 eggs

75g/212oz castor sugar

75g/212oz light muscovado sugar

finely grated zest of one orange (about 1 teaspoon)

75g/212oz ground almonds

75g/212oz plain flour

50g/112oz each plain and white chocolate chips

sifted icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Melt the chocolate and butter together either in the microwave for two minutes or in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the eggs, sugar and orange zest in a mixer for about five minutes or until light and fluffy. Stir in the melted chocolate mixture. Fold in the almonds, flour and chocolate chips. Grease and line a 20cm/8in square baking tin. Pour in the mixture. Bake for about 30 minutes or until well risen and slightly firm at the edges. Leave to cool before turning out. Dust with icing sugar and cut into squares.

! Annabel Karmel's latest book `Annabel Karmel's Quick Children's Meals' (Ebury Press pounds 10.99) is available in book shops or by phone on 0171 355 4555

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