How to have the perfect summer picnic

Summertime means eating outside time, so whether you’re packing a posh repast for the point-to-point or slinging some sandwiches into your saddlebag for a long cycle ride, we’ve got some top tips to make your alfresco meal more enjoyable.

1. Be comfortable

Really, there’s nothing worse than getting up after a picnic to find your trousers are soaked – particularly if you’ve got to walk or cycle home. Grass that looks dry can be deceptively wet, even if the weather’s hot.

If you’re having a ‘car picnic’ at an event it’s easy – there’s a range of lightweight folding chairs on the market that really do fold up small so are practical to sling in the boot.

Otherwise, take a picnic rug that’s waterproof on one side.

If you’re going to be walking miles and don’t want to carry any extra weight, it’s still well worth taking a fold-up foam sit mat or a Rubbastuff Pacmat Patch so that you can sit and enjoy your meal in comfort.

2. Be bug free

Did we say there’s nothing worse than a wet seat at a picnic? Well, we might change our mind – maybe the biting insects are worse!

Midges and mosquitoes can make a meal miserable, especially in the evening. Remember to use lots of insect repellent and take extra with you.

Wear long sleeves and trousers if you’re going to be near water such as a pond. You can also get clothing with built-in insect repellent, if you don’t like wearing sprays. Take a citronella candle with you to burn during the meal, as well.

3. Make an occasion

When you’re packing for a picnic, it’s tempting to think of it as a casual meal. There are some really pretty melamine plates and cups on the market now, though, which will add some glamour to your outside meal.

You can also get plastic wine glasses and tumblers that are almost indistinguishable from glass, but are lighter and more durable.

We all love the idea of a proper wicker picnic basket, but they can be really heavy if you’ve got any distance to walk. They’re great for ‘car picnics’ when you can leave everything in the boot, but otherwise invest in a picnic rucksack fitted with all you need.

4. Get the food right

The key to delicious picnic food is not to pack anything too soggy or delicate! You also don’t want to do too much fiddly preparation when you get there.

Our favourite picnic foods include a big mixed salad (different salad leaves, cherry tomatoes, spring onions, pear slices, toasted seeds, feta cheese) – pack the salad dressing separately though so you don’t end up with a slimy mess on arrival.

Make your own pasties for four people by rolling out a sheet of bought puff pastry and cutting it into for. Put a couple of spoonfuls of the filling of your choice in the middle – roasted vegetables, chili con carne, spinach and ricotta or cheese and onion – then wrap the pastry round it and seal firmly. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius until golden, then allow to cool and pack. This also works well with sweet fillings such as apple and blackberry.

5. And the drinks!

Two things that go well together are eating outside and sparkling wine, so packing a bottle of fizz is a must.

If you’re planning to walk or cycle home afterwards, though, or have members of the party driving, it’s nice to pack something special that’s non alcoholic.

Try making your own lemonade with fresh lemon juice, sugar and water. You can make your own cordials, too – put fruit (such as blackcurrants) in a large pan and add sugar (around a third of the weight of the fruit).

Simmer gently until the sugar has dissolved, then turn the heat up a little and let it stew for 10 minutes or so. Drain through a fine sieve and allow to cool. Dilute with sparkling water.

By Sara Walker

(Images courtesy of Pixabay)

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