Hello and my sincere apologies for a huge break between the posts. Unfortunately, my old laptop died and I received the replacement only after my vacation.
Late spring is one of my favourite times of the year. It's not too hot yet, but everything blooms and, if we are lucky in Britain, the sun shines. Perfect time for picnics and garden parties!
My family has plenty of occasions in late May and early June, and, weather permitting, I always aim at celebrating outdoors. When it is so gorgeous out there, even the best restaurant is not comparable to what outside has to offer: fresh and crispy air, green surroundings with bloomy accents and a good relaxed company of the close ones!
The outdoor party or picnic can be themed or completely down to earth, it can be done in the park, beach etc or someone's garden. It can be a barbecue or just basic snacks and wine one! The surroundings and the company will make up for any format and forgive any sorts of shortcomings. Let's set the barbecue and garden parties aside for separate posts and concentrate on picnics for now. They are simpler, more casual and extremely versatile!
Several years ago I had the queen's jubilee themed picnic. It was really fun to come up with the recipes that would reflect British theme and buy all the little touches - from Union Jack Trifle to pork pies and Pimm's cocktails! Since I discovered Pinterest, the whole world of ideas is at fingertips length distance.
Probably, everyone has their favourite picnic food. When I plan my picnic table, I try to choose the recipes which taste good unheated or cold, not messy (mostly finger food) and are easy to transport. Most of the dishes are usually light, refreshing with lots of crispy vegetables and herbs. I prefer wine or simple "aperitivo" style cocktails (Pimms, Aperol etc based) to accompany the food. Chilled beer sounds good for many, but, usually, you will need loads and it might be inconvenient to transport.
Below are just some of my favourites recipes for the picnic.
Vietnamese Inspired Rolls
I love Vietnamese rolls - they are incredibly yummy and versatile, while their fillings can be modified in so many ways and to accommodate so many tastes. In my opinion, they are perfect for a picnic: served cold, they are refreshing and convenient to eat. Over the years I experimented with those so many times, that they, probably, hardly reflect the original Vietnamese recipe now ;)
So, the only mandatory ingredient for this recipe is the rice paper (can be bought in Asian section of the supermarket, in Asian stores, on Ebay or Amazon). Then, I would define the ingredients in the following way:
- something crispy, for example, cucumber, carrot, celery stalks/julienned and salad or lettuce leaves
- base filling, for example, rice vermicelli noodles, Singapore style noodles
- protein :), for example, shrimps, chicken, cheese etc
- herbs, for example, basil, mint, cilantro, chives
- refreshing note, for example, mango, avocado etc
- sauce - Hoisin, peanut or cashew, sweet chili etc. Just remember to always serve the sauce on the side. Once, I put the sauce inside and it melted the rice paper before the picnic started.
I am certain that with time you will find some perfect combination of the notes above for your taste. One of my favorites is combining carrot, lettuce, mango, shrimps, cilantro and ready made Singapore noodles. The basic method is as follows:
- Prepare all the ingredients. For example, you might need to cook your vermicelli (I just buy ready made from the supermarket) or prawns. For convenience purposes put all the ingredients: julienned vegetables etc in separate bowls.
- Fill some large bowl with the hot water and submerge dry rice paper there for about 3-5 seconds. It might not seem pliable at first, but, trust me, by the time you arrange all your staffing on top it will get more elastic.
- Layer all the vegetables, shrimps or meat etc on top of each other on the paper. I suggest you start with the "prettiest ingredient", because the paper is transparent whatever comes first is seen through. I usually start with shrimps or couple of multicolored stalks.
- If you are a novice, try to put less filling at first - this will make rolling process easier. Roll tightly and tuck the ends in somewhere in the middle of the process.
- If you are not consuming the rolls immediately, layer the rolls with slightly moist paper towels and transport them in a lidded plastic container.
"Crab" Cheese Balls
- 100g grated cheese of your liking (emmentaler, gruyere etc)
- 150g cream cheese
- 2 boiled eggs
- 1 garlic clove
- pinch of paprika, black pepper and salt (if cheese is not salty enough)
- 150g of grated crab, seafood sticks or similar
- mayo to achieve desired consistency
Chop or grate boiled eggs finely. Mix together with grated cheese, cream cheese, crushed garlic and condiments. Depending on the grated cheese you choose, the consistency of the mixture might be still a bit crumbly, if so, add some mayo until you can roll small balls out of it which would hold their shape. Coat the cheese balls in grated crab sticks crumble. Keep in the fridge and serve cool!
Rye Bread Sandwiches with Dill Cucumbers
- one loaf of dark rye bread, preferably several days old
- pickled, dill or sour cucumbers finely sliced or halved depending on the size
- smoked sprats, or sardines, or kippers in oil
- several cloves of garlic
Toast slices of dark rye bread on a lightly oiled frying pan from both sides until golden brown. While the toasts are still hot, rub them with a cut of garlic clove from both sides (the garlic will be literally grated off against the rough surface of the toast). Cover the toast with the thin layer of mayo and add one fish and a piece of cucumber on top. It might not look very gourmand, but, trust me, it is one of the most delicious sandwiches you've ever eaten!
Enjoy good weather and company!