Perfect picnics: Britain's top chefs reveal what to put in your hamper
Packing for a picnic is a personal affair – simple sandwiches and pork pies or an elaborate alfresco feast? Britain's top chefs have the answers...
Thursday 30 July 2009
Chef and patron of Murano and York & Albany in London
I'd recommend things that are easy and that travel well – nothing too soggy and nothing with too many tomatoes. I like a tuna, celery and white-bean salad; all you need is chopped celery, a tin of white beans, a tin of tuna and a nice vinaigrette. I'd do loads of charcuterie, some nice little salamis that you could cut there and then, plus a pork pie – you can't beat it. A pork pie and a bit of piccalilli is probably perfect. And a green bean and mustard salad is good, as are grapes and a little fresh fruit salad for dessert. I'd go to Victoria Park in east London, it's really lovely, and I'd take a really nice pink champagne, or a pink prosecco.
Antony Worrall Thompson
TV chef and restaurateur and author of books including 'Barbecues and Grilling'
I would think practically, so I'd have to have an Esky, a refrigerated box, because too many people take picnics in baskets and get food poisoning – I think it's time we modernised our picnics. I like taking a portable barbecue so I'll have marinated some ribs and some prawns, in ginger, chilli, garlic, a bit of sesame oil – I like lots of Asian flavours. For burgers you can make a nice cheese butter, which you freeze and then put into the centre of the burger, so the butter will start to melt and ooze into the meat, keeping it nice and moist.
I don't think you can beat strawberries and raspberries for dessert at this time of year. Just toss them in a bit of caster sugar to make them juicy and serve with vanilla cream. And for adults you can pour some of the juice into a glass of champagne.
TV chef, food writer and author of 'Seriously Good! Gluten-free Cooking'
I would have poached wild salmon, with tarragon mayonnaise, English new potatoes, a little bit of English asparagus salad, then flasks of margherita and English strawberries and clotted cream to finish. Another great idea is to get a cottage loaf, slice it and add olive oil to each layer with salt and pepper. Then you pack it with all sorts of stuff, like chopped boiled eggs, salmon, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes. Wrap the whole thing in foil and bake it in the oven for an hour, then take it out of the oven and, while it's still hot, press it, then cool it and chill it. In the morning all you need to do is cut big wedges and all the flavours sink together. And where? I'd go to a beach in Cornwall. To me, Cornwall on a nice warm evening is the best place in the world.
Chef and patron of Clarke's restaurant in Kensington
Chilled soup is great for picnics. It's actually easy to transport in Thermos flasks but you should add a few ice cubes before screwing the top on then shake before serving. Then you can put the chilled garnish in another container. For example, tomato soup could have a gazpacho garnish of chopped vine tomatoes, diced cucumber and red onion, sliced spring onion and chopped basil leaves. Mix gently with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and serve piled in the centre of the soup. Beetroot soup could have a scoop of crème fraîche with chopped dill, and chilled leek and potato soup could have a mixture of soured cream with chives. And I always take a plastic bag with a dampened cloth – ideal for sticky fingers, mouths, or plates and cutlery that get dropped in the mud.
'Independent' food writer and restaurateur
My favourite picnics are usually on the boat or near the beach. I always try to keep it to a theme as well. For example, you can't beat a cold lobster and mayonnaise on the beach – although one of my most memorable picnics was at the polo many years ago, where I barbecued a lobster in the carpark. I'd have a nice summery salad like the one I'm making now, with runner beans, peas, broad beans, cucumber and a herb vinaigrette. For me, something really simple is perfect.
For dessert I'd choose a jelly because it's easy to eat and not too heavy. I'd use an elderflower base and then serve it with some seasonal fruit. It's great because you can just take it in the cups you're going to serve it in. I'd take a really nice dry white wine, or some rosé; it's one of my favourites for the summer.
Co-owner of three tapas restaurants, including Soho's Quo Vadis
If I put my English hat on, I'd start off with sourdough bread, made at the restaurant. I grew up near Melton Mowbray so I'd take a Melton Mowbray pork pie. I really like cold chicken on picnics so maybe a whole chicken, and then some rosé, with strawberries for dessert.
And if I put my Spanish hat on, I'd take toasted almonds, a bottle of cold sherry, and a tortilla; they're great because you can wrap them up in foil so they keep warm. I'd definitely go for things that don't need a knife and fork.
Head chef at the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room in London and author of 'The Modern Vegetarian'
I'd take Greek meatballs (keftedes) along with some beetroot keftedes for my vegetarian friends. Both are delicious and easy to eat. There'd be houmous and a pile of refreshing crudités made up of watermelon wedges, celery, breakfast radishes, fennel, tomatoes, carrots and apples. Tabbouleh is a great salad to take along since you won't have to worry about it going soggy. If I had time I'd marinate some chicken in allspice, cinnamon, lemon and garlic and barbecue it on skewers, then take it to eat cold.
TV chef and one half of the BBC's Hairy Bikers
I'd have a bottle of really good prosecco – it's a fabulous sparkling wine. I'd have pecorino, salami, crunchy bread, artichoke hearts in olive oil... and I'd have a genie with a magic lamp so I could give it a rub and keep asking for more. Oh, and a pork pie – there's nothing better than a pork pie is there? My most memorable picnic was up in the hills near Castel Franco in Italy, where we were looking for a mushroom that grows underneath the snow. We took a flask of soup and made a fire to heat it up, and we ate it with big hunks of bread and a massive salami – it was brilliant.
Head chef at Maze in London
My perfect picnic has got to be cheese and Branson pickle sandwiches, made with Lincolnshire poacher on a really good French stick – you can't mess around too much when you're having a picnic. I love tapas so I'd have some roasted chorizo sausage, and some beautiful artichoke salad with fresh lemon grated over the top. I'd have to have my favourite wine, a Chilean sauvignon blanc called Amayna.
I really like Eton Mess, so I'd have crushed-up meringue, some fresh English strawberries, clotted cream, with vanilla sugar, just mix all that together and that would be my dessert, although I'd have to have some Victoria sponge as well. Having said all that, nothing beats picnics on the Norfolk Broads when I was a small boy my mum used to make sandwiches with haslet and Branston pickle, and I remember fishing, and then my mum unwrapping the picnic, it was just wonderful.
Head chef at Launceston Place in London
It's got to be panzanella because it's got a lovely texture, the slightly crunchy bread against the tomatoes. It's the perfect way to use up your stale bread – dice it up, toast it in the oven gently, then dip it in a little bit of cold water and vinegar and it gives it a phenomenal texture, especially with tomatoes, a few salad leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil or whatever you fancy. The other one is Eton mess, which works phenomenally well. You just chuck cream, meringue, strawberries together, so it doesn't matter if you traipse across a field and your lunch gets all shaken up – it just gets better. I also love fresh bread with ham or cheese. The only problem is that I'd love to take some Stilton, but it's far too smelly and you'd lose your friends quite quickly!
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