Summer Picnics

One of the great joys of summer for our entire family are the picnics involving all the generations from Granmas to the youngest great grandchild. They range from simple picnics to elaborate feasts in the woods, by the sea, up the mountains or beside a gurgling stream. We have many favourite picnic spots and more are added every year. We don’t just picnic in the summer we enjoy picnics all year round. I picnic on the train, in planes or cars - everyone laughs when I produce a picnic but they are more than happy to tuck in!

It can be a simple farmhouse cheese sandwich or a little pot of Ballycotton shrimps with some homemade mayonnaise and crusty brown soda bread. We keep a picnic basket packed with the basics all the time then it just takes a few moments to grab a hurricane kettle or fill a flask 

In summer, pack a portable barbecue and a pack of good quality sausages, maybe a few lamb chops, a bottle of sweet chilli sauce and some good mustard. Flat mushrooms sprinkled with sea salt are also delicious sizzling on the barbie. Keep it simple. Bring a few salads, tuck in and have lots of fun. I deeply regret the advertisement sponsored by the Food Safety Promotion Board this year entitled Safe Food. I can’t help feeling that they are whipping up even more hysteria around food safety – within a few short years many people have become paranoid about this subject- even older people seem to have forgotten that the human race has survived before ‘best before dates’ and anti -bacteriological soaps and sprays. Perhaps its because I remember life before electricity that I am more philosophical.

However, I am very careful about the source of the food I eat and feed to my family and friends. I choose fresh local food in season. This is particularly important for picnics or barbecues where food is to be transported in the boot of a car. If you are serving chicken cook it well particularly if it is intensively produced. A cold box is a useful piece of kit, everyone has them.

Favourite picnic food, ours tend to be very simple. We’ll sometimes bring a quiche or frittata, a piece of good smoked salmon and a good salami, a freshly roast chicken or a joint of juicy loin of bacon or Kassler is also good. Chicken Wings with Sweet Chilli Sauce are always enjoyed. A bowl of ripe tomatoes, a crisp cucumber or some cucumber pickle. Always a bowl of homemade mayonnaise, Ballymaloe country relish or a good chutney. We’ll also include a hunk of cheese, maybe a piece of mature cheddar or a wonderful Irish farmhouse cheese in peak condition. If we get some lovely fresh shrimps or prawns from Ballycotton, we’ll cook them quickly in well salted water and serve them with a bowl of dill mayo, lots of crusty soda bread or brown yeast bread and good fresh butter. We all peel our own shrimps

A morsel of fruit cake, banana bread or Auntie Florence’s orange cake or tangy lemon squares are favourites, some bananas and nectarines, or maybe a punnet of strawberries or raspberries in season. A chilled melon and some homemade lemonade and a few beers round off a simple picnic.

Take lots of napkins , a damp cloth in a plastic bag, a tea towel, kitchen paper to wipe off plates and of course a rug to spread out all the goodies on.

Sea salt and a pepper mill are also essential. So pack a picnic, pile everyone into the back of your car and head for the beach - That’s what memories are made of.

Shrimps, Mussels or Prawns on Brown Bread with Mayonnaise

Serves 4
Don't dismiss this very simple starter, freshly cooked prawns, shrimps or mussels are wonderful served on good, fresh bread with a home-made mayonnaise.

6 ozs (170g) freshly cooked prawns, shrimps or mussels
4-8 leaves butterhead or oakleaf or lollo rosso lettuce
3-4 tablesp. home-made mayonnaise
4 slices of buttered Ballymaloe brown yeast bread (thinly sliced and crusts removed)
sprigs of watercress, flat parsley, fennel or garden cress
4 segments of lemon

Put a slice of buttered bread on a plate, arrange 1 or 2 lettuce leaves on top and place 5-6 fat, freshly cooked prawns or equivalent quantity of shrimps or mussels on the lettuce. Pipe a coil of home-made Mayonnaise on the prawns. Garnish with lemon wedges and sprigs of watercress, flat parsley, fennel or garden cress.
Note: If using shrimps use a little of the coral for garnish.

Chicken Wings with Sweet Chilli Sauce

chicken wings
sweet chilli sauce – available from supermarkets and Asian shops
soy sauce
toasted sesame seeds
fresh coriander leaves
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400F°/Gas mark 6

Put the chicken wings into a bowl. Drizzle with sweet chilli sauce and toss well to coat. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cook for 30 minutes tossing regularly. Add more sweet chilli sauce and a dash of soy sauce, toss again. Cook for a further 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and lots of fresh coriander and serve.

How to Line a Flan Ring – Darina Allen back to basics recipe
Use either a flan ring or a tin with a removable base. It should be at least 2 inches (5 cm) deep for a quiche.
Pastry made with 4 ozs (110 g) flour will line a 6-7 inch (15-18 cm) flan ring
Pastry made with 8 ozs (225 g) flour will line a 10-12 inch (25.5-30.5 cm) flan ring

Sprinkle the worktop and rolling pin lightly with flour and roll out the pastry quite thinly, making sure to keep it in a circular shape. The pastry should be 1½-2 inches (4-5 cm) wider than the flan ring. 

Sprinkle the pastry with flour, fold in half and then into quarters and then lift on to the ring. Alternatively, roll the pastry over the pin and unroll into the ring. Gently press the pastry on to the base of the tin, or if you are using a flan ring, onto the baking sheet, and right into the edges. Next press some of the overhanging pastry forward and cut off the edge by pressing it down on to the rim of the tin with your thumb. Tuck the cut edge in against the sides of the tin or flan ring and decorate the resulting rounded edge with a knife or pastry crimpers. Make sure that no pastry sticks to the outer edge or it will be difficult to remove the tin later. Prick the base of the pastry lightly with a fork. 

Ballymaloe Quiche Lorraine 
Serves 6
4 ozs (110g) white flour
Pinch of salt
2-3 ozs (55-85g) butter
1 egg, preferably free range or 4-5 tablesp. cold water or a mixture of egg and water

1 tablespoon olive or sunflower oil
4 ozs (110g) chopped onion
4-6 ozs (110-170g) rindless streaky rashers (green or slightly smoked)
2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk, preferably free range
½ pint (300ml) cream or half milk, half cream
3 ozs (85g) freshly grated Cheddar cheese or 2 ozs (55g) finely grated Gruyére cheese
¼ - ½ oz (15g) Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
2 teaspoon chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Flan ring or deep quiche tin, 72 inch (19cm) diameter x 13 inch (3mm) high.

First make the pastry. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs stop.

Take a fork or knife (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you 
need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, shorter crust.

Line the flan ring or quiche tin and bake blind in a moderate oven 1801C/3501F/regulo 4, for 20-25 minutes.

Cut the bacon and cut into 2 inch lardons, blanch and refresh if necessary. Dry on kitchen paper. Heat the oil and crisp off the bacon, remove and sweat the onions gently in the oil and bacon fat for about 10 minutes. Cool.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, add the cream (or cream and milk), herbs, cheese, bacon and onions and cool. Season and taste.

Pour the filling into the par baked pastry shell and bake in a moderate oven 1801C/3501F/regulo 4,* for 30-40 minutes, or until the centre is just set and the top golden (don't over cook or the filling will be slightly scrambled).

Serve warm with a green salad.

Picnic Scrambled Eggs

Serves 2
Cold scrambled eggs, sounds revolting, but in fact it makes the best sandwiches. It must be made with decent eggs, free range and organic if possible. Add a few chopped chives or perhaps some smoked salmon or mackerel to embellish it further – so easy and one of our favourite picnic foods. Spread on slices of fresh brown soda bread.

4 eggs, preferably free range and organic
2 tablespoons creamy milk
a knob of butter
salt and freshly ground pepper

Break the eggs into a bowl, add the milk and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Whisk well until the whites and yolks are well mixed. Put a blob of butter into a cold saucepan, pour in the egg mixture and stir continuously preferably with a flat bottomed wooden spoon over a low heat until the eggs have scrambled into soft creamy curds. Serve immediately on warm plates with lots of hot buttered toast or fresh soda bread.

Scrambled eggs with Smoked Salmon

Some hotels serve it for breakfast but I rather prefer it for supper on a tray beside the fire.
A few seconds before the scrambled egg is fully cooked, add 2-3 tablespoons diced smoked salmon trimmings, stir once or twice, sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Mackerel and Dill

Substitute mackerel and dill instead of salmon and parsley in the above recipe.
Note: If the plates are too hot the scrambled egg can actually over cook between the stove and the table.

Lemon Squares
Makes 24

6 ozs (170g) soft butter
6 ozs (170g) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
6 ozs (170g) self-raising flour
freshly grated rind of 1 lemon
freshly squeezed juice of 1-2 lemons
4 ozs (110g) castor sugar
10 x 7 inch (25.5 x 18 cm) swiss roll tin, well greased

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4. Put the butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the well buttered tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen. Meanwhile mix the ingredients for the glaze. As soon as the cake is cooked, pour the glaze over the top, leave to cool. Cut into squares.

Remove the biscuits from the tin if keeping for a few days unless the tin is coated with teflon.

Top Tips

This is a busy weekend on the Irish Show Scene – so pack the picnic and head off- a great family day out -

Sunday 3rd – Kilgarvan, Co Kerry, Claremorris, Co Mayo.

Monday 4th – Tinahely, Co Wicklow, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, Bonniconlon, Co Mayo.
BIM have recipes and suggestions for ‘Fish al Fresco’ 

Slow Food Annual Summer Picnic takes place on Sunday 10th August – for information on joining Slow Food and booking a place on the picnic – contact Meredith Benke at 087-9613600 Clodagh McKenna at 038-33929 

Bord Bia recently announced the winners of the inaugural ‘Ireland the Food Island Food and Drink Industry Awards’ - they included The Irish Chocolate Company for their Butlers Chocolate Cafes and The Butlers Pantry in Dublin – for full list of winners

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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