There are some picnics that cry out for excess. If you’re watching opera while wearing black tie in a field, you might as well bring the candelabra with you. Once you’ve got over the idea of picnic extravagance it becomes a sort of game – what’s the least likely picnic food I can get away with here?
Think of meals that require special utensils – crab claw crackers, lobster picks, oyster shucking knives. Or meals that require delicate handling – souffle, spun sugar, mousse-cake.
Carry the dining table into a field. Dress it with a lace cloth. Light the candles, set out the best china. Pour champagne into crystal glasses. (It really helps if you have someone who’s prepared to do the carrying here. Luckily, Jon is and does.)
So this is my tribute to the full on romantic picnic. I’ve gone for sensible make-ahead dishes, so it’s not an almighty production, and my show off I can’t believe we’re doing this at a picnic desert gets 10 out of 10 for effect but is actually super easy to make.
It’s a picnic to propose at, a picnic to be swept up in, a picnic with which to fully celebrate the joys of being in love in summertime.Champagne and Caviar
Salmon with green goddess sauce, shaved asparagus salad and some great shop-bought bread
Salmon with green goddess sauce (serves 2)
I love cold salmon at a picnic – indeed, it was on the menu at my wedding (Jon chose to put sausages on the menu. It was kinda eclectic). I cook it the way I would cook it to eat it hot – semi poached, semi steamed, semi roasted in a foil package. I chill it in the fridge, scrape of the white salt foam that seems to always surface, then serve with this vivid green herb sauce in a silver sauce boat on the side.2 salmon fillets 2 shallots 2 tsp butter ½ cup white wine Salt and pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 350f
- Lay out a large rectangle of foil about the size of an oven tray, on an oven tray
- Dice the shallot and place in the middle of the foil
- Put the salmon on top, skin side down, season well and dot the top with butter
- Pull the edges of the foil up and over as though you’re going to make the parcel, then pour the white wine into the foil (not onto the salmon), seal the package, and lift the tray into the oven
- Bake for 15 minutes for rare fish (a little longer if your salmon is especially thick), 17 minutes for medium and 20 for well done. Cool and refrigerate
- Take off the skin and scrape off any salt foam that’s come out
Now make the green Goddess sauce
This recipe comes by way of Ina Garten, though it was originally created by Philip Roemer at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco in 1923 to honor a play of the same name. Fascinating food fact.1/2 cup mayonnaise 4 scallions 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves 1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice 1 clove of garlic 1 tsp anchovy paste (or 2 anchovies) 1/2 cup sour cream Salt and pepper
- Grate the garlic into the processor and add the mayonnaise, torn basil leaves, lemon juice, and anchovy paste
- Snip in the scallions (using the green and white parts) and process to combine
- Season well, especially with pepper
- Stir in the sour cream then transfer the mixture to a sauce boat. Keep cool until needed
Shaved Asparagus Salad (serves 2)6 thick stems of asparagus 4 handfuls of arugula (baby arugula is even better) Zest of and juice of 1 small lemon ½ cup toasted flaked almonds (toast them in a dry pan until they start to brown, don’t take your eyes off them) Olive oil Salt and pepper
- Shave the asparagus by putting it down flat on a board, then using a vegetable peeler to pare off long slices
- Toss with the arugula, the lemon zest and the toasted flaked almonds, season well
- Before serving, drizzle over a little olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon, season with freshly ground black pepper
Crepe Suzette (serves 2)
This is the most spectacular picnic dessert of all time. You’re setting pancakes on fire. It’s going to be awesome.4 – 6 shop bought pancakes (or you can make them yourself) 1 large orange 90g butter 40g sugar 50 ml Cointreau or Grand Marnier 1 camping stove
- Zest the orange into a saucepan, squeeze in the juice of the orange, add the butter and sugar, then cook for about 10 minutes until the sauce is syrupy. Put this into a carton to take to the picnic
- Arrange the pancakes in a frying pan – traditionally you fold them in half and into quarters to make triangles. Cover the pan with foil, and take to the picnic
- Pick up the bottle of cointreau (or measure out 50 ml into a plastic bottle) and take to the picnic
- At the picnic, heat up the camping stove
- Put the pan of pancakes on to warm up and pour the sauce over. Once everything is hot (3 – 5 mins) pour the Cointreau over and set it on fire
If this is a garden picnic, you can heat up the pancakes and sauce inside, then do the flaming back outside with a stove lighter, or, for the brave, a match.