Monday, 30 November -0001

Food in the field

Summer means picnics. Whether it’s lazy days by the sea or hampers at Glyndebourne, cookery writer Annie Bell has a menu for every occasion – even if it’s raining

Written by Carolyn Hart

Recent Jubilee celebrations have brought the picnic, and its urban cousin the street party, centre stage – even Buckingham Palace joined in with a massive al fresco lunch at the beginning of June, catered for by Heston Blumenthal. It’s no surprise then that everyone now wants to have an al fresco party of their own, and while it’s madness to suggest that you need a guide to accomplish this age-old celebration successfully, there are times when you want something a little bit more sophisticated than the cheese sandwich, ginger biscuit, thermos of warm tea variety of outdoor dining.

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Handily, Annie Bell, who gave you The Camping Cookbook last year, has rummaged through her collection of recipes for easily transported food and notes on where to acquire stylish picnic rugs, lanterns and mismatched cutlery, to bring you The Picnic Cookbook. Apart from over 100 recipes for dishes such as aubergine veggie roast with goat’s cheese and tomatoes, mini pizzas, tortilla, cheese and onion muffins and oodles of dips, she has also included loads of sensible ideas, tips and hints on feeding people in the field.

A picnic check list, for instance (folding knife, corkscrew, matches, a rug, bags for left-overs… and so on), a guide to useful, all-purpose knives, ideas on lightweight plates, baskets and bags and the sensible advice to decide in advance what kind of picnic you want to have, and operate accordingly. Cherry tomato and Parmesan galettes and aubergine veggie roast with goat’s cheese and tomatoes, below, all make excellent, easily transported and consumed al fresco food.

The Picnic Cookbook by Annie Bell, with photography by Jonathan Bell (Kyle Books, £15.99).

Cherry Tomato and Parmesan Galettes

Pizza-like in their appeal, children are unlikely to notice the crust is that little bit more delicate. These are just the right size for one per person, but cut up are also good as a communal offering to hand round.

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For 6 people

Ingredients

  • 300g puff pastry
  • Dijon mustard
  • 300g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium egg yolk blended with 1 tablespoon water (eggwash)
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 30g finely shaved Parmesan
  • extra virgin olive oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C fan/210C/ gas mark 7. Thinly roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface – you can do this half at a time if it’s easier – and cut out 6 x 12cm circles using a bowl or plate as a guide. Arrange these on a couple of baking sheets.

Spread a little Dijon mustard in the centre of each circle, to within about 2cm of the rim. Place the tomatoes on top. Brush the surrounding rim with the eggwash, then season the tomatoes, cover with a few slivers of Parmesan, drizzle over a little olive oil and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and risen.

Aubergine Veggie Roast with Goat’s Cheese and Tomatoes

Roast-aubergine slices, crisp on the outside and deliciously succulent within, piled up with tomatoes and goat’s cheese, makes an excellent veggie picnic roast.

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For 6 people

Ingredients

  • 3 aubergines, sliced about 3cm thick, ends discarded
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 300g cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size
  • 150g young, firm goat’s cheese (such as Perroche), cut into about 1cm dice
  • coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C fan/210C/ gas mark 7. Lay the aubergine slices out on a couple of baking trays, with a little space between each slice. Brush the slices with extra virgin oil on both sides and season the top. Roast for 20 minutes, then turn them and cook for another 15-20 minutes until golden. At the same time, scatter a little salt over the tomatoes in a bowl and set aside.

Transfer the aubergine slices to a large roasting dish that holds them in a single layer with a little space in between. Pour 3 tablespoons of oil over the tomatoes and gently toss, and mix in the goat’s cheese. Pile this on top of the aubergine slices and return to the oven for 4-5 minutes to warm through, then leave to cool.

Scatter with lots of coarsely chopped parsley.

Transport in the roasting dish covered with foil, or transfer to a plate or container and cover.



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