Perk up your Picnic

Guy’s latest ‘Hints & Tips’ session was all about how to perk up your picnic.  Take inspiration for your picnic below!  All you need to do is dust off the hamper and find yourself a shady spot.

SUMMER FARO SALAD WITH TOMATO, CUCUMBER AND BASIL

Olive oil, for cooking

2 large shallots, finely chopped

500g faro (uncooked) or pearl barley

1 ltr chicken or vegetable stock

60ml red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

125g large cucumber, diced

60g finely chopped basil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy saucepan over a medium heat.  Add the shallots and saute until translucent – about 5 minutes.  Add the faro and cook, stirring to coat each grain – do this for 1 to 2 minutes.  Pour in the stock and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the farro is soft but still chewy in the centre – for about 12 minutes.  If there is more than a tablespoon or two of stock leftover, strain it out.

Cool the farro to room temperature.  Add the red wine vinegar and olive oil and stir to combine.  Fold in tomatoes, cucumbers and basil.  Season with salt and pepper and adjust the vinegar and oil amounts to taste.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

You can add additional flavours at this stage – crumble in some feta cheese or stir through smoked salmon trimmings or thinly sliced smoked chicken.

 

COUS COUS STUFFED BEEF TOMATOES

150g cous cous

4 beef tomatoes

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 spring onions, roughly sliced

1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped

1 bunch of mint, roughly chopped

1 lemon, juice only

50g toasted pine nuts

50g sultanas

2 tbsp olive oil

1 breast of smoked or roasted chicken, optional

Pre-heat the oven to 200c fan \ 180c \ GM6

Put the cous cous in a heat proof bowl, then pour over 175ml of boiling water.  Cover and leave for 5 minutes.  Cut each tomato across about a third of the way down and scoop out the inside with a teaspoon, keeping the tomato intact.  Place the tomato bits in a bowl.

Scoop out the lid, discarding the core, then reserve the lid. Add garlic, paprika and couscous to the bowl of tomato bits.  Leave for 1 minute and then mix with a fork.

Put the spring onions, coriander and mint in a bowl, then add the lemon juice, pine nuts and sultanas, olive oil and seasoning.  Mix well, add to the cous cous and stir until combined.

Using a spoon, fill the tomato cases with the cous cous mix.  Top with the lids, place in a roasting tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and bake for 10 minutes until starting to soften but don’t allow to overcook or its difficult to transport them as they get too soft.  You could also leave them uncooked for a very fresh flavour.

 

SANDWICHES

Chicken and tarragon

Smoked salmon with herb and lemon cream cheese

Plum tomato, rocket, red onion and pecorino cheese with pesto

Methods:

Poach two chicken breasts until cooked – should take about 10 minutes

Chicken and tarragon

Chop one large shallot and cook until soft in some butter, add a little garlic towards the end so that it doesn’t burn and then remove from the heat.  Chop a small bunch of tarragon and add this to the shallots while still warm, the residual heat will bring out the flavour.

Now chop the cooled chicken, place in a bowl with the cooked shallot mixture and add enough mayonnaise to bind it together along with a few drops of lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Smoked salmon with herb and lemon cream cheese

You can use either the traditional smoked salmon or hot smoked salmon which is drier and more flakey.

Beat the cream cheese with a wooden spoon to soften it up and add the juice of a quarter of lemon and some chopped soft herbs such as parsley, chervil, tarragon and chives and season.

You can either spread this onto the bread or fold the fish through the mixture and then assemble the sandwiches.  If the cream cheese is very stiff you can always loosen it with a bit of cream.

Plum tomato, rocket, red onion and pecorino cheese with pesto

Cut the tomato into quarters and remove the seeds and then cut each quarter into four.  Slice the red onion and wash the rocket making sure it is as dry as you can make it.  Take a peeler to the cheese and make some shavings, then evenly distribute the ingredients onto the bread and spoon drip some pesto onto the filling and make your sandwich.

PICKLED VEGETABLES

Brine

450ml boiling water

225g cider vinegar

150g caster sugar

4 tsp salt

900g baby carrots peeled or scrubbed

Pack the carrots into jars and pour over the hot brine, place the lid on and refrigerate, leave for a few days before consuming.

Fennel – Follow the same process as above but cut the fennel into chunky pieces down through the heart.

Beetroot – as above, peel the beetroot and then cut into eighths

SPICY CHEESE STRAWS

250g puff pastry

50g parmesan cheese

1 fairly hot chilli or chilli flakes

1 clove of garlic crushed

1 egg

Roll out the puff pastry and cut into two equal halves, brush the bottom half with beaten egg and sprinkle with half the parmesan, the chopped chilli and garlic, trying to spread equally over the surface.  Lay the other half of the pastry on top, egg wash the top and sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan.  Press the two layers together gently.  Slice into lengths, about 8cm by 2cm and then give them a twist and place on a baking sheet.

Bake in the oven at 200c until crisp and golden.

BLUE CHEESE DIP

300g soured cream or crème fraiche

100g mayonnaise

150g blue cheese, crumbled – I like Mr Moyden’s Wrekin Blue but you can use Stilton or Roquefort

1 tbsp white wine vinegar and 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Mix the soured cream with the mayo, vinegar and Worcester sauce then crumble in the cheese and make it as lumpy or smooth as you like.  Season with salt and pepper.

Use with the pickled vegetables or take along some crudites

 

MASALA BISCUITS

A nice crunchy, spicy biscuit that is great with cheese!

110g salted buter

75g caster sugar

50g plain four

150g porridge oats

Pinch of baking powder

3 teaspoons of garam masala

Cream the butter and sugar together, mix all the dry ingredients and add to the butter mixture.  Once all the ingredients are incorporated, roll out to the thickness of a pound coin and cut out.  Place on a baking tray and bake in a pre-heated oven (200c) for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

STRAWBERRIES WITH ELDERFLOWER CHAMPAGNE AND BISCOTTI

500g strawberries

1 bottle of elderflower champagne or sparkling wine

Biscotti

22g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

½ tsp ground cinnamon

50g hazelnuts peeled

50g whole almonds, chopped

30g glace cherries

30g plump raisins

30g chopped dates

2 free-range eggs

Grated rind of one lemon

50g butter, melted

25g flour mixed with 25g icing sugar for dusting

Icing sugar for dusting

 

Pre-heat the oven to 180c \ 350f \ GM4

For the biscotti, mix together flour, sugar, spices, nuts, lemon and fruit in a bowl

In another bowl, beat the eggs and butter together until pale and fluffy, then add to the flour mixture mixing to form a dough.  Shape the dough into a ball.

Flour a work surface with the flour and icing sugar mixture.  Turn the dough out onto the work surface, halve it and roll each half into a 24cm \ 10inch long rectangle 1cm \ 1 ½ inch thick.

Place the rectangles of dough onto a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden.  Remove from the oven and cool for 10-15 minutes, then cut 12 biscuits out from each cake.  Return the biscuits to the oven and bake for 15 more minutes or until brown and crisp.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 20 minutes.  Eat with the strawberries and champagne.

BARLEY WATER

120g pearl barley

60g sugar

Rind of ½ a lemon with no pith

Water

Wash the barley, cover it with water and bring to the boil, simmer for 3 minutes and then strain.

Place the lemon rind and barley and the sugar in a heat resistant container and pour over two pints of boiling water, stir until the sugar has dissolved and leave to cool.

Strain into a bottle, chill in the fridge and pack in your picnic.