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How to Pack the Perfect Picnic

As a child, picnics were a great treat. When traveling with my family by car, each day one of us girls - three sisters - chose the picnic spot. To the dismay of my father, who preferred to sit next to the car and smoke his pipe, my eldest sister would choose a remote spot to lug the picnic basket. My middle sister pleased him by choosing a lay by. I took the middle road and would choose a field just a short way from the car.

We had a big tartan rug, wicker basket, and sandwiches wrapped in grease-proof paper. They were always made with wholewheat bread, filled with a choice of cheddar, homemade chutney, egg mayonnaise from our free range chickens, home-grown cucumber, and tomato. To finish off we'd have apples and cake. My parents would sometimes have a glass of wine and we children would enjoy lime squash. Idyllic memories!

So, what's essential to recapturing the magic of a good picnic? Simplicity.

Pick your picnic location

First, don't overthink your picnic spot. Whether you're at the bottom of your garden, a park near your office, or the Greek islands, a picnic is always a treat. Truly, all you need is a bit of sunshine and something to eat. Hopefully your friends and family also enjoy the informality of sitting on the ground, eating with their fingers, and skipping a lot of washing up! I always like the rug rather than tables and chairs, fingers versus plates and cutlery.

My most memorable picnics seem to have been up mountains with cheddar and chutney sandwiches or on the Greek Islands, where everyday is picnic day up in the hills. Buying the ingredients first is part of the experience, choosing small Greek cucumbers, large irregular shaped beef tomato and a slab of local sheep’s cheese and then to the bakers on the way out of town for a warm loaf of bread. As one walks up an appetite, augumenting the picnic with freshly picked herbs, such as perfumed oregano and if lucky plucking sweet ripe figs. All eaten on a scenic wall, with a penknife to slice up the vegetables and curious cats to watch over you. 

The key to perfect picnic food

My criteria for a relaxed picnic is to choose food that you can make in advance, travels well and is delicious eaten cold. I’m a great fan of tarts as they look beautiful, can be eaten with your ngers and made individually and, most importantly, can be cooked in advance. Sandwiches need not be boring – choose a crusty baguette and layer it up with marinated tofu, chilli mayo and salad vegetables. And don’t forget fruit and vegetables that you can nibble on, such as cherry tomatoes, crunchy gem lettuce, radishes, bunches of grapes, punnets of berries and melon that you can cut on site – it tastes so much better when warm and the juices run! 

Stay hydrated! 

Don't forget to pack something to wash all your delicious food down with. Water is essential on a hot day, but pack something special, too.  Elderflower cordial or even a drop of elderflower champagne make for a perfect English Summer Picnic! 


Favourite Picnic Recipes

Make your picnic extra special with these delicious recipes:

Lemongrass Tofu Bahn Mi


Vegan Savoury Tarts


Turkish Fatayer


Spanish Tortilla


Lydia's Amazing Elderflower Cake


Delicious food photography by Rob Wicks of Eat Pictures.

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