Organising a picnic at this time of year is a given — the weather is starting to warm up, the sun is shining, and everybody wants to get out and enjoy themselves. We’ve compiled six staple dishes that will make every picnic perfect.
1. Pasta salad
Is there anything more classic than the quick, delicious and versatile pasta salad as a summer side dish? We think not. When it comes to making it, however, you may not take into consideration the best type of pasta to use. It’s worth noting that some varieties of pasta are far better suited to salad than others. According to Pasta Evangelists: “short pasta shapes like farfalle, penne, rotini, calamarata or even orecchiette work wonderfully in a pasta salad. Their shape and size mimic that of the other ingredients in the dish, such as roasted vegetables, olives, and cuts of cheese or meat.”
It’s also preferable to make the pasta salad as close to the time of the picnic as possible, but if planning ahead, refrigerating it will keep the dish fresh for at least a few days. However, you may opt for oil-based dressings instead of dairy-based to keep it at its best for longer — especially in hot springtime weather.
2. Charcuterie board
“Shaa-koo-tuh-ree” is nothing new — the French term for ready-to-eat cured meat. Before refrigeration was widely available, this was a common method to preserve meat. Since then, however, charcuterie — alongside pickles, fermented vegetables and kombucha —has been resurrected and elevated by the fermented food movement.
To make a picture-perfect charcuterie board, delicately layer meats (such as prosciutto, parma ham and salami) alongside soft and hard cheeses (parmesan, gorgonzola, and burrata). Then, add your preference of fruits and vegetables — figs, cherries, olives and artichokes are all good accompaniments to a well-balanced board. Don’t forget the bread — opt for small slices of crostini drizzled in olive oil.
3. Finger sandwiches
The dish that defines the English afternoon tea, finger sandwiches should be light, delicate and small enough to be eaten in two to three small bites.
To pay homage to the quintessential British ritual, cut ‘fingers’ of crustless white bread into thin rectangles, then lightly butter before adding your choice of filling. Finger sandwiches allow for a lot of creativity, but to embrace tradition (and your inner Anglophile), opt for cheese and pickle, smoked salmon and cream cheese, or cucumber and herb butter.
4. Mixed mezze
Mezze, which translates from Arabic into “to taste or snack”, is an unpretentious platter with pita bread, dips, fresh veggies, and cheese. It’s excellent for feeding a crowd — a good mezze will have at least two to three types of dip — baba ganoush, the succulent and smoky aubergine appetiser, is an essential choice, as are hummus tzatziki and taramasalata.
Mezze is also a perfect opportunity to incorporate more fruit and vegetables into your picnic menu. Play with colours, textures and flavours: you can throw in nuts, grapes and stuffed vine leaves to create a colourful grazing board.
5. Corn on the cob
Does finger food get any better than corn on the cob? Golden, crunchy and universally beloved — sweetcorn is essential to any picnic basket.
For ease, wrap in foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until tender. Simply garnish with a generous knob of butter and a good sprinkle of salt, or for succulent summer smokiness, bring a portable BBQ and simply toss on your corn, turning frequently. For extra flavour, remove the husks beforehand and cover with shavings of parmesan cheese and lashings of black pepper. Hot tip: bring toothpicks — your party will thank you!
6. Pudding pots
The viral Twitter account, WeWantPlates, is a humorous crusade against serving food on bits of wood, roof slates, and mugs. While absolutely nobody wants cheesecake served on a chessboard (yep, that’s actually happened), sweet little jam jars make perfect individual containers for pint-sized puddings. Quick, sweet and creamy, summer pudding pots make fabulous alternatives to fresh fruit or as a decadent, post-lunch snack.
Much like the other items in our picnic menu, the key to a great pudding pot is in the layers — found in these tasty, no-bake recipes.
We’re very proud to bring you this feature in association with Pasta Evangelists and Mamor. For more culinary inspiration, please pay a visit to our food and drink page.