How to have the perfect pandemic picnic

It's the perfect time to eat al fresco with friends and family. Picture: Shutterstock
It's the perfect time to eat al fresco with friends and family. Picture: Shutterstock

Pandemic picnics have become a thing. Whether it's an impromptu get together or something that's the equivalent of a dinner party - just on a rug - it's the perfect opportunity to get friends together.

Food writer and stylist Katy Holder offers recipes that are accessible, interesting and contemporary and ideas to take al fresco meals to the next level.

"Let's take this opportunity to explore the great outdoors, not only on longer road trips and camping trips, but also closer to home," she says.

"Its time to make new discoveries and see our neighbourhood, local parks and even our own backyard in a new light. So throw down a picnic rug ... and let's enjoy food outdoors."

  • Good Food Outdoors by Katy Holder. Hardie Grant Explore. $19.99.
Good Food Outdoors by Katy Holder. Hardie Grant Explore. $19.99.

Good Food Outdoors by Katy Holder. Hardie Grant Explore. $19.99.

Prosciutto wrapped prawns

Prosciutto wrapped prawns. Picture: Supplied

Prosciutto wrapped prawns. Picture: Supplied

Once cooked, these prawns are dipped into a homemade aoli. You could, of course, buy a jar of aoli, but your homemade version will taste far superior. If you're taking these to a place where there's a barbecue, prepare them before you leave, then cook them on arrival. Otherwise, cook them beforehand and eat cold.

Ingredients

20 large raw prawns, peeled and deveined, tails left on

100g prosciutto olive oil, for brushing

Aoli:

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 tsp sea salt

2 free-range egg yolks, at room temperature

250ml mild-flavoured olive oil

3-4 tsp lemon juice

Method

1. Soak 20 wooden skewers, preferably about 20cm long, in water for 20 minutes.

2. To make the aoli, put the garlic in a medium bowl with the salt. Using the back of a fork, mash the garlic and salt together until it forms a paste.

3. Add the egg yolks and, using an electric hand mixer, mix until a thick paste forms. With the mixer in motion, start adding the oil, drop by drop; don't be tempted to add it faster, otherwise the aoli may split. Once the aoli becomes thick and creamy, you can add the oil in a steady stream. (This process should take 10-15 minutes, so don't rush it.) Add lemon juice to taste and check the seasoning, adding extra salt if needed. Keep in the fridge until required.

4. Thread each prawn lengthways onto a wooden skewer. Cut the prosciutto into long strips about 3cm wide, then, starting just above the tail, wrap a strip around each shrimp, leaving 1cm of shrimp visible at the top. Brush with oil.

5. Cook the prawns on a chargrill pan or on the flat plate of a barbecue for about two minutes on each side, or until the shrimp are cooked through. Serve the shrimp hot, warm or cold with the aoli dipping sauce.

6. If transporting, the prosciutto-wrapped prawns can be taken uncooked and then cooked at your destination, or cook and chill them before you go. Transport in a lidded container in a cool box.

Makes 20.

Chicken and pork picnic pot pie

Chicken and pork picnic pot pie. Picture: Supplied

Chicken and pork picnic pot pie. Picture: Supplied

This is a rich savoury pie, the kind we used to take on picnics in England. It's made up of layers of poached chicken, sausage meat and a bacon-and-sweet-corn stuffing, all encased in a delicious shortcrust pastry. For added flavour, I use sausage meat from sausages, rather than plain sausage meat. If using sausages, don't worry too much about the amount - anywhere from 400-500g will work just fine for this recipe.

Ingredients

500g boneless, skinless chicken breasts,

450g good-quality pork sausages

1 free-range egg, beaten

green salad, to serve

chutney, to serve

Pastry:

400g plain flour

180g chilled butter, diced

Stuffing:

2 tsp olive oil

75g rindless bacon, roughly chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

100g fresh breadcrumbs (from day-old bread)

handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped

handful basil, chopped

1 corn cob, kernels sliced off (or 100g frozen corn, thawed)

1 free-range egg, beaten

25g butter, melted

Method

1. To make the pastry, put the flour and butter into a food processor and mix for about 30 seconds, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add 100ml cold water and process for 10 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl or work surface and form into a ball, adding a little more water if necessary, and knead very briefly. Divide the pastry into two portions of about 1/3 and 2/3. Press each portion into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 15 minutes.

2. Roll out the larger of the two pastry pieces to a circle about 33cm, or sufficient to line the base and side of a 20cm springform or loose-based pie tin about 6cm deep, allowing any excess pastry to hang over the sides. Chill until needed.

3. Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally. Place in a saucepan and add just enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Remove from the heat and leave for 10 minutes (the chicken doesn't have to be cooked through). Drain the water and set aside.

4. To make the stuffing, heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon for three minutes. Add the onion and garlic and fry for about five minutes, until softened. Transfer to a bowl and leave in the water to cool for five minutes. Stir in the breadcrumbs, parsley, basil, corn and beaten egg. Mix thoroughly, season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir in the melted butter.

5. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced. Take half the stuffing and spread it over the pastry base, pressing it down gently with the back of a spoon. Shred the chicken and layer it on top.

6. Slit the skins of the sausages and put the meat into a bowl, squashing it all together, then spread it in a layer over the chicken, pressing it out to the edges. Top with the remaining stuffing, once again gently pressing it down.

7. Roll out the remaining pastry to a circle about 22cm across, or enough to cover the dish. Brush the top edge of the overhanging pastry in the tin with the beaten egg, then lift the pastry lid onto the pie. Seal together gently, pressing down with the tines of a fork. Trim the edges, ensuring the pie is well sealed. Brush the lid with beaten egg, then cut a cross in the middle to allow steam to escape.

8. Place the pie on a baking tray and bake for 50 minutes. Brush the top with egg again, to give a glossy finish, and bake for a further 10 minutes. Leave to cool completely in the tin before slicing. If transporting the pie, leave it in the tin to keep it safe. Serve with a dressed green salad and chutney.

Serves 8-10.

Little Thai beef and noodle salads to go

Little Thai beef and noodle salads to go. Picture: Supplied

Little Thai beef and noodle salads to go. Picture: Supplied

This salad looks great served in bamboo or cardboard takeaway noodle boxes. Fill the boxes before you leave home, then hand them out at mealtime. For a bit of fun, offer chopsticks or search out some bamboo cutlery.

Ingredients

3 kaffir lime leaves

5cm piece of lemongrass

1 garlic clove

5cm piece of ginger

2 tsp vegetable oil

1 tsp fish sauce

700-800g beef scotch fillet

1 tbsp olive oil

375g rice stick noodles

250g cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 small red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced

large handful coriander, leaves picked

large handful Thai basil or mint, leaves picked

Chilli-lime dressing:

3 kaffir lime leaves, thinly shredded

80ml lime juice

21/2 tbsp fish sauce

3 tsp vegetable oil

11/2 tsp sugar

1 small red chilli deseeded and finely chopped

Method

1. Roughly chop the lime leaves, lemongrass, garlic and ginger, and place in a spice grinder or small food processor with the oil and fish sauce. Grind to a paste. Rub the paste all over the beef and marinate in the fridge for at least one hour, or up to four hours.

2. Heat a chargrill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the beef with the olive oil and cook for three to four minutes on each side for medium-rare, or until cooked to your liking, bearing in mind that it will continue to cook while it rests. Cover with foil and set aside to rest for 10 minutes, then slice it very thinly against the grain.

3. Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Rinse under cold water, drain well and set aside.

4. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour about three-quarters of the dressing over the noodles and toss well, then leave to cool completely.

5. Divide the noodles among six noodle boxes (you may need to loosen the noodles a little using a couple of forks or tongs), then top with the cherry tomatoes, onion, herbs and beef. Alternatively, put the noodles in a leakproof container and top with the remaining ingredients. Take the remaining dressing in a separate container.

6. Serve the salad with a little extra dressing spooned over the top, mixing the salad gently as you eat.

Serves 6.

Raspberry cake

Raspberry cake. Picture: Supplied

Raspberry cake. Picture: Supplied

If you're not a particularly confident baker, this is the cake for you - it looks great but is pretty simple to make. Fresh or frozen raspberries can be used, so it can be made all year round (I actually prefer to use frozen as they're often juicier). Serve it as a simple slice of cake or with a dollop of cream as more of a dessert.

Ingredients

120g salted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

225g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

185g brown sugar

3 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

60ml milk

grated zest of 1 orange

2 tbsp orange juice

1 tsp baking powder

200g fresh raspberries, or thawed frozen raspberries

icing sugar, for dusting

thickened cream, to serve (optional)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced. Butter and lightly flour the side of a 23cm springform or loose-based cake tin.

2. Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar for four to five minutes, until creamy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition, then whisk in the milk. The mixture may look like it has curdled, but it should be fine when the flour is added.

3. Stir in the orange zest and juice, then sift in the flour and baking powder and fold through. Gently fold half the raspberries through. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin, smoothing the top. Scatter the remaining raspberries over the top, pressing them gently into the batter.

4. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cake has risen and is golden and a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar and serve in slices, accompanied by cream, if desired. This cake is best eaten the day it is made.

5. If transporting, return the cake to the tin to keep it safe.

Serves 8.

This story How to have the perfect pandemic picnic first appeared on The Canberra Times.