THIS IS A PAID POST IN ASSOCIATION WITH STELLA ARTOIS

Whilst I am all for al fresco dining in its myriad versions (I have a lot of time for a table and a pergola), there’s no reason why a picnic served on a blanket can’t still be a delicious treat.

That being said I do favour a little bit of upscaling: cushions make a welcome addition for sideways lolling, and pretty tin plates, proper napkins, and a thermos of ice for scorching hot days will all go a long way towards the making of a perfect picnic.

Where the food is concerned, I like dishes that travel well: no complicated serving requirements or things that might melt and, if the meal is going to be eaten on a blanket, rather than sitting at a table, it’s a bonus if most of it can be eaten with a single fork, or with your fingers. (Don’t forget to pack a damp flannel in a bag for hand wiping – known in my family as a sticky paw cloth.)

There’s no reason why a laidback picnic can’t still be a delicious treat. I like food that travels well: no complicated serving requirements, garnishes, or need for chilling.

I favour pies and cakes for this reason. I like to make a moreish pudding cake, squidgy and fragrant with fresh fruit, often peaches, sometimes cherries or rhubarb, under a crunchy sugared crust, as cake travels well, wrapped in a greaseproof paper parcel, and is always welcome. Pack a box of berries to eat with your fingers, and you have the makings of a proper feast.

I also find that it helps to bring security on one’s picnics. A pesky squirrel might be considering stealing the strawberries or a curious labrador may come gallumphing through the grass with designs on your plate of food. Security is also helpful for guarding the picnic hamper.

Here is one of my recipes for one of my most loved picnic classics: the Greek Kolokithopita, a riff on spanakopita, that glorious feta and spinach pie, rejigged to make use of the upcoming seasonal courgette glut, and which pairs perfectly with beer.

I like to use a metal pie dish which gives a lovely crispy, burnished finish to the pie. If you don’t have a pie dish, then a 23″springform cake tin is a good substitute. You’ll want to line it with greaseproof paper first.

This pie also works if you know a guest is lactose-intolerant: simply switch out the butter for olive oil, and make sure that the feta is the good stuff, made from sheep’s milk, not cow’s milk. (Obviously do check with the guest that this is okay for them.)

I pack little tubs of homemade houmus and olives to eat with this heavenly pie.

Ingredients 

200gm butter 
1 packet filo pastry 
2 eggs, beaten together
5 large courgettes (zucchini)
1 bunch spring onions (scallions), finely sliced, including green tops
1 packet feta cheese, crumbled (approx 250gm weight)
pinch chilli flakes
Sea salt & black pepper

Method 

Spiralise the courgettes. (If you don’t have a spiraliser, grate them on the large side of a box grater.) Roughly chop the courgette spirals into inch or so long pieces. Pile all the courgettes into a sieve or colander over a large bowl sprinkle with salt, and leave for around twenty minutes.

Mix together the, spring onions, crumbled feta, a good pinch of salt, several hefty grinds of black pepper, the chilli flakes, and beaten eggs.

Squeeze all the moisture out of the courgettes, and mix into the bowl with the other ingredients.

Melt the butter.

Place a dry tea towel on your work surface, open up the filo pastry packet and unroll the pastry onto the tea towel. Using a pastry brush, paint butter over the entire surface of the pie dish. Take one piece of pastry and lay it across the dish with half the piece hanging over the edge. Paint the pastry with melted butter. Repeat the process at an angle until you have used all the pastry.

Carefully spoon in the courgette cheese mixture and level it off. Cut one piece of pastry in half and place it over the pie. Then, piece by piece fold the overhanging pastry layers over the mixture to form the pie lid.

Once the lid is complete, scrumple up some of the very top layers to make it extra crispy. Paint the whole pie with the rest of the melted butter.

Cook at 180C for approximately 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Slip the pie out onto a wire airing rack and allow to cool.

I wrap the pie in a clean tea towel to transport it, but if you are worried about a bumpy ride, you can always slide it carefully back in the metal pie dish.

It is so exhausting guarding a picnic.

THIS IS A PAID POST IN ASSOCIATION WITH STELLA ARTOIS

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