Summertime, and the living is easy…
There is nothing like an impromptu weekend trip to the countryside to relax and unwind during the summer. With Irish weather a daily guessing game, wouldn’t it be great to jump into the family wagon and spin to leafy pastures for a few hours to revitalise? But steer clear of the calorie-laden eateries on the way and pack your own healthy picnic. Council Journal puts together the perfect picnic basket to help you on your way.
There is nothing like open-air eating, with the breeze trying to blow the paper plates off the table, the scent of trees in their full summer coats, and sated aftermath of the tasty picnic meal once the kids run off to play. Plus there’s no washing up.
A picnic can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. You could throw your picnic basket in the car, stop by a shop and pick up everything you need or you could do a little preparation, plan well and create a delicious and unique picnic using the recipes below.
When picnicking you should always bring paper plates, napkins, paper or plastic cups and disposable utensils. Unless it’s a date picnic, with a little romance involved, then it is probably better to bring real plates and cutlery. Bring a tablecloth or picnic blanket. Even if picnic tables are available, it’s always a good idea to have a tablecloth in case the table is too worn, in case you go full traditional and lay the cloth out and have a picnic on the ground.
Stay away from foods that need immediate refrigeration, like mayonnaise or sour cream based salads. Pack some ice to keep supplies cool and for using in drinks.
Pack baby wipes or even just a cloth that you can wet – very handy with children eating anywhere.
If you are going with the ready-made option, then before you whizz by the shop, grab your basket, a blanket, a corkscrew (or bottle opener), plates and utensils, salt, a knife and small cutting board.
At the store grab a couple of artisan cheeses, crackers and baguette. Scan the deli section for a few assorted meats and prepared salads. Fruit or pre-prepared fruit salad for dessert and a bottle of chilled white wine or rosé, water or beer if you prefer.
Planned picnic recipes
With these recipes, you can have ready a picnic for a crowd in under an hour.
Tomato, peach and red onion salad
You will need:
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 ripe peach, diced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper
Combine everything in a large jar or plastic container. Seal the container and shake to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings.
This is best made the day of the picnic.
Green beans with pesto and capers
You will need:
1 pound green beans, trimmed and blanched
1/2 cup pesto
2 tablespoons capers
1-2 cups arugula
Combine everything and taste to correct seasoning.
This salad can be made a day in advance.
Steak sandwich with horseradish butter
You will need:
1 1/2 lb flank steak
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
3 tablespoons oil
horseradish parsley butter (see below)
1 fresh baguette
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 hour and up to 24 hours prior to cooking, season steak with salt and pepper on both sides.
Preheat a 12-14 inch cast iron or stainless pan over high heat until just smoking. Add steak and sear on each side for 6-7 minutes, a total of 12-14 minutes for medium rare. Remove steak to a plate and let rest for 45 minutes. The long rest makes the meat tender and juicy. Slice it very thinly across the grain/on the diagonal.
Spread baguette top and bottom with all the butter and layer on the sliced steak. Finish with a sprinkling of good salt, thinly sliced red onion or a squeeze of lemon.
Horseradish parsley butter
You will need:
1/2 cup high quality salted butter (such as Kerrygold), softened
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (less if you don’t like too much heat)
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Combine ingredients in a bowl or a food processor and mix to combine.
It will keep for several days in the fridge.
Make sure wherever you travel to picnic you leave it as you found it so always bring bags for rubbish afterwards. And if jumping into someone’s field, make an attempt to locate the landowner or avoid land that looks like it’s being used for farming. There are plenty of public areas all over the country you can skip to without incurring the wrath of a non-too-pleased farmer.