We’re counting down the days until sweet, sweet freedom and yep, we’re going to make a meal out of it. We can already meet one friend to socialise outside, and from March 29, we’re able to meet outdoors in groups of six, which means alfresco and picnic blanket-based action.
Chef and owner, Max Halley from Max’s Sandwich Shop in north London, has shared some recipes ideal for all the outdoor eating we’ll be doing. A good picnic shouldn’t be limited to sandwiches, sausage rolls or crisps, he says.
“Picnicking like a boss is all about having a beady eye for what’s available to you and making the most of it,” Halley tells HuffPost UK. “Never forget a pickled egg shaken up in a packet of crisps is still a picnic! Or a leftover lasagne stuffed in a croissant and wolfed on the bus.”
One of the biggest downfalls to eating outside is battling with how foods travel and ensuring maximum freshness. Halley’s tips? “Don’t make a soup sandwich (nobody wants that) and wrap it appropriately in tin foil, not cling film. You want minimal wet ingredients and thick bread to soak up any moisture,” he advises.
“Put salads in Tupperware, wet a J cloth or piece of kitchen towel and put that over the salad, then put the lid on. That’ll keep your salad perky as anything.”
Here are three of Halley’s picnic recipes to try with your pals when it’s allowed.
Full English Breakfast Shooter’s Sandwich
Makes: 4 | Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 25-30 mins, cool and weighed down overnight
12 rashers smoked streaky bacon
8 pork sausages
8 hash browns
Rapeseed (canola) oil we need, for frying
400 g (14 oz) mushrooms, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 medium round crusty loaf
6 free-range eggs
2 large Beefheart tomatoes, sliced into rounds
Relish or ketchup, to serve (optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 220°C/430°F/gas 8 and line a couple of trays with foil.
2. Lay out the bacon, sausages and hash browns on the baking trays, then cook in the oven for 10 minutes. Check the bacon and turn it if needs be. Return the trays to the oven and keep cooking until the bacon is brown and starting to crisp, about 5 minutes, then remove and set aside on a plate. Turn the sausages and hash browns and keep cooking for a further 10 minutes until golden brown.
3. Heat a frying pan until it is smoking hot, then pour in the oil. Add the mushrooms, settling them into a single layer and leaving them alone for a minute to get some colour. Toss them and then push into a single layer again and leave for a full minute to get more colour. Keep doing this until the mushrooms are browning nicely. At this point, add the garlic and salt and toss. As soon as you can smell garlic, remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice. Leave to one side to cool.
4. Cut the top off your loaf, about 2.5 cm (1 in) below the top. Using a small knife, or your fists, remove most of the inside of the loaf. Now start to build up your layers in your hollowed-out loaf: go your own way, but mushrooms are a nice place to start, perhaps followed by bacon, then hash browns, sausages, tomatoes and eggs. Push the layers down and place the lid on.
5. Tear off a couple of large sheets of baking parchment and a couple of even larger sheets of foil. Lay the parchment inside the foil and then wrap the shooter tightly. Put the whole thing into a container, place a weight on top and leave in the fridge overnight.
6. Next day, unwrap your shooter, take a serrated knife and cut yourself a wedge.
Serves: 2 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 5-10 mins
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, any fronds reserved
Juice of 1 orange, ideally a blood orange
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Large pinch of salt
1. Slice your fennel as thinly as humanly possible. A sharp knife is fine, a mandoline is finer still. Be careful, obviously. Run a knife through any fronds from the fennel.
2. Place the sliced fennel in a bowl and hit it with the orange juice, oil and salt.
3. Work the dressing into the fennel with your fingers. You then want to leave it alone for 5–10 minutes to let the citrus work its magic on the fennel.
4. Before you eat, stir through any fennel fronds and have a taste: does it need a little more orange juice, a crunch more salt? Other than that, eat away. Or pop it into a Tupperware and eat later. That is the joy with this salad – it’s as good now as it will be tomorrow, or the day after that. (It will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge).
Three Toasted Croissants
Makes: 1 | Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 5 mins
Ham, cheddar, mustard and béchamel croissant:
1 tablespoon béchamel
2 slices thick-cut ham
50g mature Cheddar, grated
Dijon mustard, to taste
1. Spread each half with a layer of béchamel, then put a slice of ham on the bottom, smear it with mustard, cheese on top of that, other slice of ham on top of that and put the lid on.
2. Either pop the croissant in your toastie machine or put a heavy-based frying pan over a low-medium heat. You want to grill/toast the croissant slowly with a weight on top of it so that the inside melts completely before the outside burns. When the bottom is looking lovely and tempting, turn the croissant over and repeat.
3. Remove from the pan and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Nduja or chorizo, taleggio and honey croissant:
30g ’nduja sausage or chorizo slices
4 thick slices Taleggio cheese
2 teaspoons honey
1. Use a serrated knife to open up your croissant.
2. Spread the ’nduja (or lay the chorizo) over the inside bottom half of the croissant and put the Taleggio on top. Close the lid.
3. Either pop the croissant in your toastie machine or put a heavy-based frying pan over a low-medium heat. You want to grill or toast the croissant slowly with a weight on top of it so that the inside melts completely before the outside burns. When the bottom is looking lovely and tempting, turn the croissant over and repeat.
4. Remove from the pan and allow to cool for a few minutes before drizzling with honey.
Mascarpone, almond and lemon curd croissant:
2 tablespoons mascarpone
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 tablespoon lemon curd
25g flaked almonds, toasted in a dry frying pan
1. Use a serrated knife to open up your croissant.
2. Spread a layer of mascarpone on each half of the croissant, followed by dollops of almond butter and lemon curd.
3. Scatter over the toasted almonds, then close the lid.
4. Either pop the croissant in your toastie machine or put a heavy-based frying pan over a low-medium heat. You want to grill or toast the croissant slowly with a weight on top of it so that the inside melts completely before the outside burns. When the bottom is looking lovely and tempting, turn the croissant over and repeat.
Recipes from Max’s Picnic Book by Max Halley & Ben Benton, published by Hardie Grant, £16.99. Out now.