There’s a little creek that runs right through this farm, and while in Summer it slows to a trickle and sometimes stops completely, during Spring, especially wet ones like this, it flows beautifully. And so on Saturday afternoon we parked ourselves on a flat field by one of its prettiest turns and while the kids all got wet running through and around the water, playing cops and robbers and generally having an unreal time, the older folk made paella, had a few glasses of wine, sat in the sun and relaxed. It was pretty much my perfect day.
So in honor of lovely picnics, here below are a few ideas, recipes and tips that I hope will inspire you to organise a picnic this weekend….See you outside!
- Paella’s are a big favourite of ours, but I only ever seem to cook them for picnics. They are a really great way to feed lots of people and despite looking a bit fancy, are mucho easy. I usually do all my chopping etc back at home and then put all the different elements in plastic containers ready to add in situ. Yesterday we went with the classic chicken and chorizo (recipe here) and cooked it over the fire because we forgot the gas bottle. It was smokey, delicious and gone very quickly.
- Otherwise of course, a bunch of good (preferably venison) sausages, short-loin chops and some tomato sauce is a classic picnic staple.
- And to go with the above, pack one good sturdy salad; potato ones like this are perfect, pasta salads do the trick too and slaw’s are always good (this one looks particularly picnic-some) and/or something like this lentil and celeriac salad. Think chunky, easy to eat and happy to transport.
- Delegate. Always say yes when people offer to bring something. And when they ask, I usually just give them ‘nibbles’ as I find that part of the catering equation the most uninspiring.
Tray bakes and slab cakes – these are your friend on a picnic. A slab of cake like the one below is easy to transport, cut and serve and yes very nice to eat too.
- Remember garbage bags because I never do.
- A few changes of clothes are essential if we picnic anywhere near water. Tom is great at getting wet within minutes of set up.
- A jar of spiced nuts or freshly popped popcorn are both options for keeping the troops happy while fires are built and meat cooks.
- We have a few cheap collapsable and foldable tables and I usually just throw a drop sheet from the paint shop over the top to cover any unsightly plastic legs (they cost about $15 from paint shops, are huge and the best value table cloth going).
- Make up a big batch of this orange and rosemary cordial for the kidlets and non-drinkers.
- Have an awesome day! As Natalie Merchant says in one of my all time favourite songs, these are the days…
Orange and vanilla picnic cake
Golden, buttery and perfect for a sunny afternoon lying on the grass (see exhibit A below); this is just the basic butter cake recipe found at the back of my book spiked with lots of orange zest and vanilla then iced with a basic orange icing. You could of course swap the orange with lemon zest or any other flavour you like.
250g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
4 eggs at room temperature
1 2/3 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp buttermilk or plain milk
1/2 cup milk chocolate pieces
1 cup icing sugar
Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a roasting tray (mine is about 20x15cm) or a 24cm springform cake tin. Cream the butter, sugar and zest from both the oranges together in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy (this should take about 5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Sift the flour and baking powder together then fold this, the chocolate and the buttermilk through the butter mixture. Spoon mixture into the tray and smooth over the top. Bake for 25/30 minutes or until the sides of the cake are just pulling away from the tin and a skewer comes out clean. Let cool completely in the tray while you make the icing. To do this just squeeze the juice from both oranges and gradually add to the icing sugar until you have a nice thick icing. Spoon this over the cake, finish with a little extra orange zest if you like (I do) and cut into big squares to serve.