Shore thing: Mark Hix's simple, sensational recipes will make your beach picnic go with a swing
Saturday 01 August 2009
Beach picnics can be fun if you make sure that you are reasonably organised about your preparation and packing – the first priority, of course, being a decent cool box with plenty of ice packs. Another good tip is to freeze down lots of soft drinks in advance, such as smoothies or fruit crushes in plastic bottles, and then pack them in among your picnic to keep other items cool – with the added benefit of having ice-cold drinks on hand, too.
I always think a picnic's more fun if you introduce an element of cooking on site and there are some neat little foldaway barbecues available these days, as well as the handy disposable variety.
Summer veg salad
Why not make the most of summer beans and peas while they are still around? You can use any type of bean for this recipe and then add peas, samphire or cucumber – whatever tastes of summer. I would advise taking the dressing to the beach and tossing the salad at the last minute.
150g podded weight of peas
150g podded weight of broad beans
200g runner beans, finely sliced on the angle
150g green beans
Half a cucumber
6 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1tbsp chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the dressing
1tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
2tsp Dijon mustard
4tbsp rapeseed oil
Cook all of the beans and peas separately until they still have a bit of a crunch, then refresh under cold water. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, then slice on the angle. Whisk all of the ingredients together for the dressing and season and pack into an airtight container or bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Mix all of the vegetables with the spring onions and chives and transfer to an airtight container.
Mix the vegetables with the dressing on the beach and season to taste.
Chicken salad with broad bean relish
Barbecueing on the beach adds a bit of drama to a picnic and an element of heat, too, which always comes in useful as the sun goes down.
Just be careful, however, that you don't light your barbie upwind of any sunbathers – or you may have a bit more than a full-on picnic on your hands.
8-10 free range chicken thighs, boned
The grated zest of 1 lemon
A handful of rosemary, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2-3tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 heads of little gem lettuce, trimmed and washed
For the broad bean relish
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
30g fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
tsp ground cumin
75ml extra virgin olive oil
200g podded weight of fresh or frozen broad beans, cooked
1tsp tomato purée
2 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
Half a lemon, pips removed
Salt and pepper
1tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
1tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
The night before, mix the lemon zest rosemary and olive oil with the chicken thighs and season, then transfer to a plastic container ready to take to the beach.
To make the broad bean relish: gently cook the onions, garlic, chilli, ginger and cumin slowly in the olive oil without colouring until soft. Add the broad beans, tomato purée, chopped tomatoes, water and the half-lemon (in one piece). Season with salt and pepper and simmer gently with a lid on for 15-20 minutes. Check it from time to time and add a little more water if it seems too dry. When cooked, the relish will have a nice red oily appearance. Remove the half-lemon. Add the mint and coriander to the relish and remove the pan from the heat. Once cool, transfer to a container. Depending when you make this, it will be better if you leave it at room temperature.
To assemble the salad, just barbecue the chicken thighs on a medium heat for 5-6 minutes on each side and serve on top of the little gems with the broad bean relish spooned over – or serve the ingredients separately and let people help themselves.
Stewed peppers with goat's cheese
This is a great starter or a main course accompaniment. Try to buy nice thick- fleshed peppers so that they stay pretty much intact when cooked.
If you are serving this as a side dish, you might want to leave out the goat's cheese – unless, of course, you have any vegetarian guests.
2 red onions, peeled, halved and cut into rough 1cm dice
4-5tbsp olive oil
4 thick-skinned red peppers
1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
120-150g soft goat's cheese
Halve the peppers, then cut each half into three sections lengthways, making sure that you remove any seeds carefully.
Lay the peppers on a board skin-side down and with a sharp knife cut the skin away from the flesh, getting the knife as close to the skin as possible, then cut them into rough 1-1 inch squares.
Heat the olive oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan and gently cook the red onion for 4-5 minutes with a lid on, stirring every so often.
Add the red peppers, season and cook with a lid on for 3-4 minutes, giving the peppers the occasional stir.
Add the tomatoes and continue cooking for about 15 minutes with a lid on, stirring every so often.
Re-season the peppers if necessary and leave to cool.
Transfer to a serving dish and break the goats cheese into nuggets and scatter over the peppers.
Raw sea bass with pickled samphire
I always think it's such a shame to cook really freshly caught sea bass – and this raw sea bass recipe makes the perfect light and healthy dish for a beach picnic. (If you can't get hold of sea bass, you could always substitute any firm-fleshed, very fresh, white fish.)
One thing you must make sure about, however, is that once you have sliced the sea bass, it's placed directly on to frozen ice-packs. This will ensure that it's kept as cold as possible and stays fresh during your picnic.
You can buy those neat little takeaway sushi boxes from shops such as Muji – they will fit neatly on top of an ice pack within another container.
400-500g very fresh sea bass fillet, skinned and boned
150-180g samphire with the woody stalks removed
3-4tbsp cider vinegar
1tsp caster sugar
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
First make the pickled samphire; mix the vinegar, sugar and pepper together and pour over the samphire. Leave for 2-3 hours, then strain off the liquid. Cut the sea bass vertically with a sharp knife into ¼cm slices; lay neatly on a serving dish with the slices overlapping. Serve with the samphire scattered over the fish.
Summer fruit fool
This is a simple dessert to knock up and it is sure to prove very popular at your beach picnic – but do surround it with plenty of ice packs, or the cream will melt in the heat. You can use whatever berries are available at the moment, or just raspberries or strawberries.
400ml double cream
60g caster sugar
The juice of 1 lemon
250-300g mixed berries
100g extra strawberries or raspberries, blended in a liquidiser
Whisk the cream and sugar until the mixture is beginning to thicken, then pour in the lemon juice and stir carefully until the cream thickens up.
Gently fold in the blended raspberries or strawberries to form a rippled effect. Transfer to a container that is suitable for the beach.
To serve, just scatter the berries over the fruit fool.
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