I love a picnic spread: the informality, the way everyone chips in and shares . I love dips and eating little things with my hands; I love sandwiches and crisps and carrot batons. I also love the mad impracticality of it all: the ferrying of a slightly-too-elaborate meal on an outing and setting up camp to eat it. It always makes me think of Rat’s response to Mole in The Wind in the Willows, when asked what ’s in his wicker basket: “‘There’s cold chicken inside it,’ replied the Rat briefly; ‘coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssandwichespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater … It’s only what I always take on these little excursions.’”
Pork and prawn scotch eggs
Scotch eggs are perfect picnic food, with everything encased in one neat little transportable package. The filling for these is inspired by a classic dumpling filling. Make them in advance, ready to be fried the day before the picnic.
Prep 15 min
Chill 30 min
Cook 45 min
7 large eggs
4 tbsp sesame seeds
200g raw king prawns
300g unsmoked lardons
4 spring onions, trimmed and roughly chopped
5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped (25g net weight)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice-wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
50g panko breadcrumbs
3 tbsp plain flour
1½ litres vegetable oil, to fry
For the dipping sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice-wine vinegar
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
½ tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp chilli flakes
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then, using a slotted spoon, carefully lower in six of the eggs and cook for seven minutes exactly (if you prefer firmer yolks, give them a minute or two longer). Lift out the eggs and put them in a bowl placed under cold running water to stop them cooking further. Once the eggs are cool enough to handle, carefully peel off and discard the shells, leaving the eggs intact – a good trick to getting the shells off without damaging the eggs is to crack them gently all over, then put them back in the bowl of cold water: the water will get in between the shell and the membrane, making them easier to peel.
In a small saucepan, toast a tablespoon of the sesame seeds, then transfer to a food processor. Add the prawns, lardons, spring onion, ginger, garlic, soy, rice vinegar and sesame oil, and pulse until well combined.
With wet hands, take about 90g of the prawn mix and flatten it into a thin patty in the palm of your hand. Place a peeled egg in the centre of the patty and gently work the prawn mixture around the egg, pinching and smoothing it as you go, until the egg is fully enclosed. Repeat with the remaining prawn mixture and boiled eggs, then refrigerate the wrapped eggs for 30 minutes.
Combine the remaining sesame seeds and panko breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Crack the last egg into a second bowl, and beat. Put the flour in a third bowl.
Take one wrapped egg, gently roll it in the flour, then shake off any excess. Roll it in the beaten egg, until coated, then transfer to the breadcrumb bowl, gently roll it around until evenly coated and put on a large plate. Repeat with the remaining eggs and coatings.
In a small bowl, stir all the dipping sauce ingredients and put to one side.
Have ready a slotted spoon and a rack lined with kitchen paper. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil to 170C. To test that it is up to temperature, drop in a few panko crumbs: if they sizzle immediately, the oil is ready. Turn down the heat to medium-low and carefully lower in two scotch eggs. Fry for five minutes, turning regularly, until golden brown all over, then lift out with a slotted spoon and transfer to the paper-lined rack. Repeat with the remaining eggs in batches of two.
Serve warm or cold with the dipping sauce alongside.
Serve slices of this tuna loaf with a salad or, even better, stuff them into sandwiches. For a picnic in the park, fry and cool the slices before transporting, but if you’re serving them at a garden picnic at home, set up a DIY sandwich station with a selection of filings, and let everyone create their own sandwich.
Prep 15 min
Cook 55 min
Cool 2½ hr
220g cherry tomatoes
½ onion, peeled and roughly chopped (40g net weight)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
80g parmesan, cut into roughly 2cm chunks
40g tomato paste
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet mild paprika
¾ tsp chilli flakes
150g pita, torn into roughly 2cm chunks
Salt and black pepper
3 x 160g tins tuna in olive oil, drained and the oil reserved
60g baby capers, drained
25g basil leaves, finely chopped
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7, and grease and line a standard 9cm x 24cm loaf tin.
Put the tomatoes, onion, garlic, parmesan, tomato paste, mayonnaise, mustard, cumin, paprika, chilli flakes, eggs, bread, half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper in a food processor, then pulse to a rough, wet paste.
Scrape the mixture into a large bowl, add the tuna, capers, basil and two tablespoons of the reserved tuna oil, then fold to combine. Spoon this into the lined tin, and mould the top into a loaf shape. Brush the top of the loaf with a tablespoon of the reserved tuna oil.
Bake for 45 minutes, basting the loaf with a bit more tuna oil after 15 and 30 minutes,then remove and leave to cool for 15 minutes. Unmould the loaf, transfer it to a rack and leave to cool completely for about two and a half hours. Once cooled, carefully cut the loaf into 2½cm-thick slices and brush both sides of each slice with some of the remaining tuna oil.
Heat a large, non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, fry the slices, in batches if need be, for two minutes on each side, or until they have a nice golden crust. Serve with salad or in a sandwich.
Roasted carrot and garlic dip with seed dukkah
This dip can be made up to a day ahead and is great with crunchy vegetables and tortilla chips. Make more of the dukkah than you need here: it keeps well and is lovely sprinkled over all sorts , from other dips and roast veg to leafy salads.
Prep 10 min
Cook 45 min
500g carrots (ie, about 4), skin left on, trimmed and cut at an angle into 1cm lengths
2 large mild red chillies (50g), stems, seeds and pith removed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 whole garlic bulb (50g), the top sliced off to expose the cloves, and the whole thing wrapped in aluminium foil
1½ tbsp cashew butter (or any other nut or seed butter)
1 lime, juiced, to get 2 tbsp
For the seed dukkah
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 tbsp sunflower seeds, toasted
½ tsp tbsp cumin seeds, toasted
⅛ tsp flaked salt
⅛ tsp caster sugar
½ tsp urfa chilli flakes
Heat the oven to its highest setting – 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9.
Mix the carrots and chillies with two tablespoons of the olive oil and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt. Spread out on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, make some space for the foil-wrapped garlic and add that, too, then roast for 30 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the chillies and set aside, and give the carrots a stir. Once the 30 minutes are up, remove from the oven, unwrap the garlic and leave it to cool alongside the carrots. Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the flesh out of the cloves and on to the carrots, then discard the papery skins.
Transfer the contents of the tray to a food processor, add the reserved chillies, cashew butter and a tablespoon of the lime juice, and pulse until coarsely mashed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.
Spoon out into a rough circle on a large plate,make grooves in the dip with a spoon, and drizzle over the remaining tablespoon each of olive oil and lime juice.
Put all the ingredients for the dukkah in a mortar and bash until they are coarsely broken up. Sprinkle the dukkah over the dip and serve.