Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates the perfect summer picnic - Features - Food + Drink - The Independent

Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates the perfect summer picnic

Bill Granger suggests a delicious range of nibbles that will keep you going from noon to dusk

What a summer of sport we're having. Australia and England might have made an early exit from the World Cup, but there's still been plenty of action both in the stadiums of Brazil and on the courts of Wimbledon to give us all regular excuses to get together with friends for drinks and overenthusiastic cheering.

Not that I need an excuse for a summery get-together: the moment the sun comes out, our home becomes an open house. I love having people over for casual garden lunches that last well into the evening. It's probably my favourite way of entertaining.

There's no formal structure to the meal, so everyone can let their hair down, nibbling happily throughout the day. To encourage a party atmosphere, I like to have the dishes dotted around, rather than laid out in one big spread. It gets people to move around and mingle, making hosting a breeze.

Coconut water, cucumber and lime cocktail

Some people think of non-alcoholic cocktails as a bit of a joke, but when you are planning a long lazy day outdoors, I'm all for taking it easy with deliciously refreshing booze-free drinks. Then again, these are also great with a bit of vodka, gin or, this summer's spirit of choice, cachaça, a Brazilian spirit made from sugarcane juice.

Serves 6

8 whole limes, washed and roughly chopped
4 tbsp golden caster sugar
Small bunch mint
1½ litres coconut water

To serve

Ice
1 cucumber, cut into 6 long slices
Vodka, gin or cachaça (optional)

Put the limes, sugar and most of the mint into a big jug and use the flat end of a rolling pin to muddle the ingredients together by pounding until the sugar dissolves and the limes have released their juice. Top the jug up with coconut water, give everything a good mix and keep chilled in the fridge.

To serve, fill long glasses with ice, drop in a few mint leaves and pour in the cocktail. Drop a cucumber slice into each glass and a straw next to it. If adding vodka, gin, or cachaça, pour a shot over the ice before pouring in the cocktail. Serve immediately.

Chicken and toasted rice larb

This is a spicy, crunchy minced-meat filling, wrapped in a fresh, crisp salad leaf. The fragrant contrast of texture and flavour in this Thai salad makes it the kind of food I will never tire of.

Serves 6 as part of a spread

1 tbsp jasmine rice
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 lemon-grass stalk, white only, finely chopped
1 green chilli, chopped
2 tbsp light-flavoured oil
500g chicken mince
3 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tsp caster sugar
1½ tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp lime juice, plus wedges to serve
1 tsp dried chilli flakes, plus extra to serve
2 cos lettuce, broken into leaves
Bunch coriander, leaves picked

Bill looks to Thailand for inspiration for his spicy chicken-mince larb served in crisp lettuce Bill looks to Thailand for inspiration for his spicy chicken-mince larb served in crisp lettuce (Kristin Perers)
Toast the rice in a small, dry frying pan over a medium to low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly until the rice is lightly toasted. Pound with a pestle and mortar until finely crushed. Remove and set aside. Bash the garlic, lemon grass and green chilli to a paste.

For the larb, heat a wok over a high heat, add the oil and, when hot, add the mince and spring onion and cook until the mince is browned. Remove from the heat, add the garlic-chilli paste, sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and chilli flakes and stir to combine.

To serve, pile the larb on to a bowl and sprinkle with ground rice. Serve on a tray with crisp lettuce, lime wedges, coriander and some extra ground rice and crushed chillies. Let your guests dig in and make themselves a larb parcel on their plate.

Beef rolls with pickled carrots and chilli jam

The fresh, vibrant flavours of these sandwiches always bring a smile to my face. A guaranteed crowd pleaser!

Serves 6 as part of a spread

3 sirloin steaks, 3cm thick (about 350g each)
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 lemon-grass stalk, sliced
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
2 baguettes, cut into 10 cm lengths
1 cucumber, cut into ribbons with a mandoline or peeler
Handful coriander leaves
Handful mint leaves

For the carrots

2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp rice-wine vinegar

For the chilli jam

4 red chillies
2 garlic cloves
2cm ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
3 tomatoes, quartered
3 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar

For the lime mayo

6 tbsp mayonnaise
Juice and zest 1 lime

Sirloin-steak baguettes with pickled carrots and chilli jam Sirloin-steak baguettes with pickled carrots and chilli jam (Kristin Perers)
For the chilli jam, place the chillies, garlic, ginger and fish sauce in a food processor and blend to a paste. Add the tomatoes and pulse until roughly chopped. Tip into a pan, simmer for 5 minutes, add the sugar and red-wine vinegar and simmer, stirring for another 5 minutes, until thick. Set aside to cool.

For the pickled carrots, mix the carrots, sugar and vinegar in a bowl and season with salt.

In a separate bowl, combine the ingredients for the lime mayo, season and set aside.

Place the sirloin steaks in a bowl and add the garlic, lemon grass, sugar and fish sauce. Season with black pepper and turn in the marinade. Allow to stand for at least 10 to 15 minutes.

Heat a griddle pan or large, non-stick frying pan over a high heat until hot then cook the steaks for 2 minutes on each side, turning a couple of times to ensure the meat is evenly cooked. Remove from the pan and allow to rest for 5 minutes, or until you are ready to serve. Cut into thin slices.

Split the baguettes, spread with lime mayo and fill with the beef, pickled carrot, cucumber, herbs and the chilli jam. Or, serve all the separate elements on a platter for people to assemble their own sandwiches.

Ginger, lime and lemon-grass jellies with watermelon

There's no more refreshing fruit than watermelon. Keep it chilled in the fridge to enjoy it at its best.

Serves 6

For the jelly

2 lemon-grass stalks, bruised
2cm ginger, sliced
Juice 2 limes, plus the zest in wide strips
250g caster sugar
1½ tbsp (20g) powdered gelatin

For the lime syrup

150g golden caster sugar
Juice 2 limes, plus zest in strips

To serve

½ watermelon

Ginger, lime and lemon-grass jellies served with scoops of watermelon Ginger, lime and lemon-grass jellies served with scoops of watermelon (Kristin Perers)
Place the lemon-grass stalks, ginger and lime zest in a pan with 850ml of water.

Bring to the boil, then take off the heat and leave for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid and return to the pan.

Stir in the sugar. Gently sprinkle the gelatin over the top and leave to soak for 5 minutes. Place over a low heat and stir until dissolved. Do not allow to boil.

Remove from the heat. Add the lime juice. Strain though a fine sieve into a bowl and refrigerate for 4 hours or until set.

Now prepare the lime syrup: place the sugar in a pan with 100ml of water. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then boil for 5 minutes. Add the lime zest and juice and set aside.

To serve, spoon the jelly into bowls. Top with scoops of the watermelon and spoon over the syrup.

Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, and 50 Sekforde Street, London EC1, tel: 020 7251 9032, grangerandco.com. Follow Bill on Instagram at bill_granger

Photographs by Kristin Perers; Food preparation: Marina Filippelli; Props merchandising: Rachel Jukes

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