Making the most of the great outdoors

Style: "GU_Buffet"The arrival of May brings with it the enticement of outdoor festivities. I’ve found that one of my favourite ways to ritualise the coming of spring is to plan a fantastic day of picnicking with friends and family. While the payoff is massive, planning a day out can entail more considerations than you might think. If you’re looking to plan a day of picnicking, there are a few tips that will give you a head start in ensuring your picnic is a great success.

Although London has some stunning parks that provide a great setting for a day of al fresco fun, I always jump at the chance to get away from the city and soak up the beautiful British countryside. For a fantastic day of outdoor festivities, I recommend heading down to Garsons Farm in Esher (http://www.garsons.co.uk/garden-centre), which my family and I have frequented for years. A scenic farm only 15 miles from the centre of London, Garsons’ large pick-your-own farm makes for a brilliant day of picking and picnicking.

Picnic food—there really is no better way to eat outdoors. Taking simple ingredients and a picture-perfect setting and putting together the things you want to eat in the sunshine: fresh, vibrant tomatoes, soft fruits, crusty bread and smelly cheeses, to name but a few. A picnic is not a truly successful occasion unless you have sticky fingers and a huge mess to shake off the rug afterwards!

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My ideal picnic basket consists of breads, cheeses, fresh salads, and bright, flavourful dishes. For a lighter option, I like to make Sweet and Sour Noodles with Chargrilled Vegetables—this is a great simple dish that is suitable for serving as a main course or alongside other dishes as an accompaniment. It’s packed with flavour and texture, and the aroma of the herbs is delicious.

I don’t think that a picnic is complete without a mouth-watering cheese. A hard cheese is the safest bet if you want to be able to enjoy it all afternoon. Simple garnishes and a knife are all that is needed…quintessentially British! One of my favourite hard English cheeses is Montgomery’s Cheddar, and there is now a Montgomery made with Jersey milk, which is just delicious! (One of my favourite cheesemongers in London is Neal’s Yard Dairy—they offer a fantastic selection of artisan cheeses). Be sure to bring fresh-baked bread with you to pair with the cheese, as well as great olives and tasty tomatoes – or mix the two for the ultimate picnic salad of Heirloom Tomatoes with Olives, Capers and Basil.

Style: "GU_Buffet"Oysters are also a great food to have on a picnic; obviously care has to be taken to ensure they remain iced and are eaten early, but how better to enjoy the outdoor experience than with a glass of champagne and some oysters ‘au naturel’. Simply serve with bread and butter, a lemon, and maybe a hidden bottle of Tabasco for good measure.

When picnicking with the family, it’s great to put a bit of thought into bringing a refreshing drink for everyone to enjoy. For this, I love to prepare fresh homemade Iced Limeade—something a bit more unusual than your standard lemonade. Limes are slightly more perfumed than lemons and give a tanginess that is very moreish. Good homemade limeade should have a kick of refreshment, be tangy without being bitter, and be sweet enough that the limes don’t attack your throat. Mixed with chilled beer it makes a great shandy.

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Overall, it’s about using those wonderful seasonal ingredients that allow us to spend a few hours grazing in the sun.

 

Sweet and Sour Noodles with Chargrilled Vegetables

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Homemade Iced Limeade

 

Adam Byatt