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Sunday, 24 July 2011

Picnic Time

Assuming the weather remains fine during August a picnic is a distinct possibility. These three recipes will lift yours from the traditional Ham Sandwich and Crisps variety into a real celebration of al fresco dining without too much effort, and maintaining the traditional approach. One recipe is from Chez Panisse, America’s top restaurant, run by Alice Waters who reinvented Californian food and started their recent food revolution. Sophisticated but simple it will add a real highlight to any picnic, or indeed meal.

Pork Pie

THE traditional picnic food, and easier to make than you might think. Once you have tasted your own homemade pies you will make them again and again. This recipe is for a large “cutting pie” but if you have moulds make individual pies.

For the filling

450 g pork shoulder, (ask your butcher for the higher meat) finely chopped

55 g pork fat, finely minced

55 g bacon, minced

For the pastry

450 g flour

225 g lard

90 ml water

beaten egg yolks, or milk to glaze

For the jelly

300 ml water

1/2 envelope powdered gelatine, (about 6g) or 2 sheets of leaf gelatine

parsley, or other herbs (optional)

To make the pastry: put the flour in a mixing bowl and crumble in the lard. Work until beginning to come together. Add a pinch of salt and start adding the water gradually, working until the dough breaks (NB. it must not be stretchable). Let it rest for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5.

Knead the dough on a floured surface and roll out about 5mm thick. Reserve enough pastry to make a lid. Use the larger piece of dough to line the base and sides of a 20cm (8 inch) plain flan ring or, if you have one a springform tin.

To make the filling: mix the pork shoulder, pork fat and bacon and season with salt and pepper. Place this mixture in the dough case, but don't squash it in.
Brush the edges of the dough with water and place the lid on top. Make sure this is sealed well by pressing with a fork.
Brush the top with egg yolk or milk. Cook in the oven for about 1 hour 30 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and remove the flan ring immediately. Leave the pie to cool, and then chill overnight.

Next day, make up the gelatine with the water according to the packet instructions. Adding chopped parsley or other herbs is good. Make a hole in the top of the pie and pour the gelatine in until the pie is completely filled (the meat will have shrunk so there will be plenty of space). Let the pie set in the fridge overnight (or for at least 12 hours for the best results).

Scotch Eggs

Another great picnic dish, and so different from the shop bought variety. Try other coatings, Polenta is good or crushed oats, each gives a differing texture and taste.

4 large free-range eggs

275g/10oz sausage meat

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 spring onion, very finely chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

125g/4oz plain flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 free-range egg, beaten

125g/4oz breadcrumbs

vegetable oil, for deep frying Use a deep fryer at 180c if you have one.
Place the eggs, still in their shells, in a pan of cold salted water.

Place over a high heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for exactly nine minutes.

Drain and cool the eggs under cold running water, then peel.

Mix the sausage meat with the thyme, parsley and spring onion in a bowl and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper

Divide the sausage meat mixture into four and flatten each out on a clean surface into ovals about 12.5cm/5in long and 7.5cm/3in at its widest point.

Place the seasoned flour onto a plate, then dredge each boiled egg in the flour.

Place each onto a sausage meat oval, then wrap the sausage meat around each egg. Make sure the coating is smooth and completely covers each egg.

Dip each sausage meat-coated egg in the beaten egg, rolling to coat completely, then dip and roll into the breadcrumbs to completely cover.

Heat the oil in a deep heavy-bottomed pan, until a breadcrumb sizzles and turns brown when dropped into it. (CAUTION: hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended.)

Carefully place each scotch egg into the hot oil and deep-fry for 8-10 minutes, until golden and crisp and the sausage meat is completely cooked.

Carefully remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Serve cool.

(I often cut my eggs in half before covering them, they make a nice snack sized bite and you don’t have the yolk falling out when you cut them to eat!)

Chez Panisse Fresh Mozzarella Salad
Serves 4

This is the perfect recipe in which to enjoy fresh Mozzarella .As in all simple recipes, success here lies in the quality of the ingredients.

You must begin with very fresh mozzarella, the kind still floating in its milky whey. For this reason, locally made cheese is preferable. (At Chez Panisse they make their own mozzarella and serve it within hours while it is still soft and creamy.)

225g (8oz) fresh mozzarella

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh basil, marjoram, parsley, mint or thyme


Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes,

sliced prosciutto,


Have the mozzarella at room temperature.
Cut it into the ¼ inch slices and arrange on a platter.
Season very lightly with sea salt and generously with freshly ground pepper.
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Roughly chop the herbs (one herb or a combination) and scatter them over the cheese.

Serve the cheese salad very plain, or add an assortment of different coloured cherry tomatoes, sliced in half and salted; surround with prosciutto slices and decorate with black olives.

And of course you need Fresh Lemonade. The Famous Five may have gone for “lashings and lashings of Ginger Beer” but lemonade is much more traditional This is one recipe burned indelibly on my mind, having copped for Lemonade Duty on a regular basis at Ballymaloe.


1 pint water

10 oz sugar

4 oranges

2 lemons

Bring the water and sugar together to the boil and simmer three minutes (this is a stock syrup). Turn off the heat and cool.
Juice the oranges and lemons and add to the cooled syrup.
Refrigerate until needed. Then dilute with still or sparkling water to taste.

Try substituting other citrus fruits or adding a little grated ginger for a wide panoply of soft drinks!

One thing I will not suggest you make for a picnic is the “Sandwiches inside a Loaf “ masterpiece! It is great but just too “cheffy” for an article like this. Stunning to look at, a long time to make, and not as practical as a cool bag this little epic is only for the desperate to impress, though anyone who REALLY wants to make it can email me for the method, as we made several at Ballymaloe!

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