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Superior spreads and happy hampers


Superior spreads and happy hampers

There’s something to be said for eating outdoors: In the fresh air, any picnic spread seems to be all the more flavourful. And, as well as delicious food, the beauty of a picnic is its portability – you are never limited to just one spot; picking and choosing between the seaside, sunset viewpoints, or a possie that provides plenty of room for the kids to play. Nor are you limited to just one type of social gathering – a picnic is a great way to get a large group of friends together for potluck fun, without all the effort of catering for a dinner party. It’s also a relaxed way to get to know new acquaintances and a very romantic gesture to prepare for a beloved.

The French are said to have been the first to cultivate the art of le ‘pique-nique’, when, following the revolution, royal parks were made available to the public for the first time. Rightly so, French locals took the opportunity to dine out on this newfound freedom. The picnic has been celebrated in art for centuries, including Monet’s Luncheon on the Grass (1865-6) and Matisse’s Luxe, Calme et Volupté (1904) and in literature too. But your picnic doesn’t need to be worthy of an artist’s canvas – make it as simple or as sophisticated and Instagrammable as you like.

A sunset spread can be as quick, easy to transport and delicious as a few quality cheeses and a glass or two of wine. If you have a hankering for old-school flavours, a picnic is the time to get out the Edmonds Cookery Book and prepare Scotch eggs, stuffed potatoes and layer up a jar salad. Sandwiches, tarts, pies, sweet loaves and tray bakes, such as brownies, are also popular picnic foods as they are so easy to pack and go.

If fresh and contemporary is your thing, the options are many and varied. And remember, if you’re taking a leafy salad, make it just before departure and pack the dressing separately, adding it before serving to ensure the greens are in mint condition and not wilted by time and transport. More robust salads, such a potato or pasta, often improve as they soak up their dressing, which results in well-rounded flavours. Put a little thought into what goes into your hamper and you’ll avoid leftovers that won’t keep by the time you get home.

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