I’m going to be brutally honest here! Family picnics are a bit like Christmas, they never quite live up to my expectations. I imagine myself presiding over a perfect check picnic blanket, wicker basket filled with goodies, apple-cheeked grandchildren playing happily and my children chatting amiably as they keep a beady eye on said apple-cheeked kiddies.
The sky is blue, the sun is warm, a gentle breeze ruffles our hair and maybe there’s even a meandering brook for the children to paddle in……… Well, that’s enough daydreaming let’s get back to reality! Usually our picnics consist of grabbing whatever salad is in the fridge with some ham and cheese to make sandwiches on the go, crisps, biscuits and fruit, thrown into the old cool bag, along with some bottles of water! The weather is unpredictable; there are wasps and the apple-cheeked children are just red in the face from rushing round like maniacs and getting over tired!
The rain was lashing down on the day I chose to try all my latest recipes but undeterred we picnicked indoors and grandsons Henry and Eddie were quite happy! Family life – I love it!
Cheese and Apple Sausage Rolls
Ingredients (Makes 24)
1 320g puff pastry sheet
6 Pork and apple sausages (about400g)Mine were form Morrison’s!
100g grated cheddar cheese
A little milk for brushing
Preheat the oven to 220C/Fan 200C.
Remove the sausages from their skins and place in a bowl with the grated cheese. Mix well together (using your hands is easiest).
Unroll the pastry sheet and cut in half down the long side. Take half the sausage mix, roll it into a long sausage shape and place along the centre of one half of the pastry.
Take the pastry over the top of the sausage and start to roll it up, brushing a little milk along the long edge of the pastry just before you finish rolling. Make sure the edge is well sealed and underneath the roll. Cut into 12 pieces and make 3 little cuts across the top surface of each. Place on a baking tray.
Repeat with the remaining pastry and sausage meat to make another 12 sausage rolls.
Brush with milk and bake in the preheated oven for 18 – 20 mins until golden brown.
Scrummy Butternut Houmous Dip
Before anyone gets upset over the spelling of Houmous, I’ve looked it up and this seems to be the English way of spelling it! Please do start with just the lower amount of tahini and harissa and taste until it’s right for you.
Ingredients (Serves 6)
About 400g of butternut squash peeled and cut into 2 cm pieces
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tbsp olive oil
2 – 3 tbsp tahini paste
1 – 2 tbsp harissa
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (optional)
Heat oven to 200C/Fan 180C. Put the butternut squash and garlic cloves in a small roasting tin, season well and add 100ml of water. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Leave to cool.
Drain the squash if needed and put into a food processor and add the garlic cloves, squeezed out of their skins. Add the remaining ingredients, season with some salt and blend into a paste. (Add tahini and harissa to taste, you can always add more if needed).
For a picnic, scoop the houmous into plastic containers or jam jars as I did. Chill in the fridge until needed, then serve with breadsticks and celery, red pepper, carrot and cucumber sticks.
Very Berry Custard Tarts
I’ve chosen to use bought tart cases for ease and speed. You could make your own with sweet pastry of course. The tarts are quite sweet so you might choose to leave the jam out.
Ingredients (Serves 6)
6 sweet pastry tart cases (available from supermarkets)
25g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
100ml whole milk
Optional, 3 tsp jam (whatever you have to hand, I used blackcurrant).
A handful of raspberries and blueberries.
Icing sugar to serve.
Heat the oven to 170C/Fan 150C. Place the tart cases on a baking tray.
Crack the egg into a bowl and add the caster sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk well with a balloon whisk then slowly add the milk, stirring.
Spread half a teaspoon of jam in each tart, if liked. The tarts I used were quite shallow so I halved some raspberries and placed 3 halves in each tart and then added a few blueberries, halved if large. Carefully, using a jug, pour the egg custard mix into each tart case. (There may be a little mix left over). You really don’t want to spill any as it will burn on the tray. Even more carefully transfer the tray to the oven and bake for 15 – 20 mins or until just set.
When cool dust with a little icing sugar, chill and then carefully pack into a plastic box for your picnic.
Ingredients (Serves 6)
6 unwaxed lemons, washed
125g granulated sugar
To serve – 1 litre of sparkling spring water
Remove the lemon zest with a peeler, avoiding the white pith, and place in a saucepan. Add the sugar and 400ml water. Place on a low heat and bring to the boil slowly, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, juice the lemons.
Once the syrup is boiling, add the lemon juice and remove from the heat. Leave to cool completely and then strain into a bottle or jug and chill until needed. Mix with sparkling water to serve.
I hope you enjoy these recipes and they help you to have the perfect picnic!