Let’s be honest here. We do sometimes make mistakes when we’re picking the perfect picnic spot. But who can possibly count on the tide coming in, rather than going out?
This special day I spent barbecuing with two of my closest friends on the sandy, sun-soaked banks of the River Orwell. Featuring a three salad combo, incoming tides, and multi-functional Birkenstocks all topped off with a scorching summer burn, this picnic was more concentrated on a friendly catch-up than a tidal one.
Meet Freya and Phoebe.
Freya (left) is now entering the working world as a junior doctor. I mean, did I just type that? Where does the time go! It really does seem like it was only yesterday that our eleven-year old selves held our first conversation. It went something like this:
Me: Hi, what’s your favourite animal?
Freya: Er, sharks.
Me: Cool, mine’s penguins.
Freya: Cool. [Walks away and we don’t speak again for a couple of years.]
And that was the awkward beginning to a long and happy friendship. Our tendency to be told off in-tandem during maths lessons and our “disruptive behaviour” in PE soldered those friendship bonds together.
Phoebe (right) is a fledgling artist and fellow foodie. Together, we’ve experienced life-threatening situations. Like our bungee jump at some far out, dodgy-looking location in South Africa. Like the time I saved Phoebe from smoking a cigarette at the lit end. And like, well, other times too. Ok, maybe there were less life-threatening situations than I first thought…
With such good company, it was no surprise to me that this picnic was simply delightful. It has cemented a little sunny space in my memory that I hark back to every now and again.
Phoebe and Freya were, essentially, the perfect ingredients to my summer picnic.
Plus, there was loads of picnic stuff to carry to the beach.
If my picnics were to have a theme, it would be abundance.
That means lots of prep and lot’s of effort, but it’s worth it for a bountiful picnic paradise.
Phoebe has special dietary requirements, so that means no sugar and no dairy. She’s not too strict about it, but I tailored the menu to her needs as much as possible.
Pea and spring onion soup.
Barbecued king prawns marinaded in lemon, garlic and parsley.
Barbecued chicken thighs and legs with a choice of homemade BBQ sauce or the lemon and garlic marinade.
It’s just my simple, homemade recipe. Trust me, hummus never goes amiss at a picnic!
Prep time 10 mins • Cook time 0 mins • Total time 10 mins • Serves 4-6
400g/1 can of chickpeas
Juice of 1/3 lemon
1-2 garlic cloves
1 tsp tahini
1 tsp paprika
Olive oil (make sure it’s a good one, as olive oil is the make or break of hummus)
Just chuck all the ingredients in the blender. Be very generous with the (good quality) olive oil, and be quite generous with the salt. Put however much garlic/lemon juice/paprika as you want. Just a tip with the garlic, I roast mine to bring out the sweetness before I add it to the hummus mix, and I pop a raw clove in as well.
I got this recipe from the Table for Two Blog, underneath “Zucchini Chips” (I just go for the British version of that title). I love Julie’s blog, but the courgette crisps just didn’t turn out quite as I had imagined…
I thought this would be the ideal creative crisp to dip into my picnic hummus. I mean, doesn’t “courgette crisp with hummus dip” have a certain gourmet ring to it? Well, I’m not sure if it was because I sliced the courgette too thinly, but two hours in the oven shrunk them so much they virtually disappeared. Whatever it was that was left on my baking tray was more akin to courgette crumbs than courgette crisps.
On top of that, even trying to remove the reasonably substantial crisps from the grease-proof paper proved a bit of a nightmare. The grease-proof didn’t prove greasy enough for my carefully chopped courgette slices, so my advice would be to grease that paper up a little more.
I’m not sure if this is a common problem people have with this recipe, or if it’s just me, but I’m definitely willing to give it another go and to see if remedying my mistakes will bake a better crisp.
Prep time 25 mins • Cook time 2 hrs • Total time 2 hrs 25 • Serves Around 3 for snacking
1 large courgette
2 tbsp olive oil
Please click here for the method which will redirect you to Table for Two’s blog.
Taste: Well, the crumbs tasted good… • Level: Quite easy • Worth another go? I think so.
Pea and Spring Onion Soup
This was a real success, thanks to BBC Good Food. The taste is not at all overbearing. It’s perfect for getting your taste buds into action without the full feeling afterwards, making it the ideal way to welcome an abundant picnic.
Prep time 20 mins • Cook time 25 mins • Total time 45 mins • Serves 6
1 tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
1/2 bunch spring onion, sliced
1 potato, diced
1l hot vegetable stock
900g frozen petits pois
1/2 small bunch of mint
85g parmesan, finely grated
Please click here for the method which will redirect you to the BBC Good Food page.
Taste: Fresh and light • Level: Easypeezy! • Worth another go? Oh yes!
Barbecued King Prawns Marinaded in Garlic, Lemon and Parsley
Thank you AllRecipes for this gorgeous treat! So simple, and so unbelievably tasty. Perfect for a picnic barbecue.
Prep time 35 mins • Cook time 5 mins • Total time 40 mins • Serves 6 (or 3 if you’re me, Phoebe and Freya)
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp minced garlic
freshly ground black pepper to taste
crushed chilli flakes to taste (optional – I didn’t use this)
700g fresh king prawns, peeled
Click here for your prawngasm.
Taste: Oh, oh, oh YES! • Level: Easy • Worth another go? Do I have to answer that?
Barbecued Chicken Thighs/Legs with Homemade BBQ sauce
Delia Smith does this gorgeous recipe of pork belly strips basted in a homemade BBQ sauce, and I absolutely love it. So I decided to use the sauce with other things, such as barbecued chicken, and it works a treat. Thanks Delia, I am forever in your debt!
Prep time 10 mins • Cook time 25 mins • Total time 35 mins • Serves 4-6
Ingredients for the sauce (you know how to barbecue chicken).
1 medium onion, chopped thin
5 tbsp dry cider or wine
5 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 heaped tbsp tomato purée
1 heaped tbsp ground ginger
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp light soft brown sugar
Click here for Delia Smith’s original pork belly recipe. How I did it with the chicken, however, was as follows:
I chopped the onion, and fried it over a gentle heat for around 10 mins. During this time I put all the other ingredients into a bowl, thoroughly mixed them up, and poured that over the frying onion. I left the sauce on the heat, occasionally stirring, for around 20-25 minuted, until it tasted gorgeous basically. I then put this into a little pot and brought it along to the picnic. Once the barbecue is nice and hot, I chucked 8 oiled chicken thighs on. Now, they take a while to cook, and on those disposable barbecues you have to be especially careful as the heat isn’t always spread evenly, so check each chicken piece individually when you think it’s ready. I then get a clean pan, or foil tray, and put the cooked chicken pieces in there with Delia’s BBQ sauce, until it’s all nicely heated up and tasty.
Taste: Packed with it! • Level: Pretty easy • Worth another go? Well, I’ve already made it a million times.
Choice of Three Salads
I always think having a varied selection of salads is a nice way to complete that feeling of a bountiful picnic. Two of the salads (green leaf and potato) are my own simple recipes, whilst the third (couscous) is a scrumptious recipe I found on Cook Republic.
Pick•Nic Potato Salad
Prep time 10 mins • Cook time 15 mins • Total time 25 mins • Serves 4-6
1kg new potatoes
4 rashers of bacon, cut up nice and small
3 spring onions, finely chopped
A drizzle of my salad dressing
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
A sprinkle of celery salt
Boil the potatoes in salted water for around 15 minutes. Whilst this is going on, fry the bacon until it’s nice and crispy. Make up the salad dressing. Once the potatoes are ready, chop them into sizeable chunks (I just chop the bigger new potatoes in half). Leave to cool, along with the bacon. Once cool, add a drizzle of the salad dressing, the wholegrain mustard, the spring onions, the bacon, chives, parsley, celery salt and season with freshly milled black pepper. Put it in a Tupperware and off you go!
Taste: Fresh and tasty • Level: Simple • Worth another go? Yes.
Green Leaf Salad
Prep time 10 mins • Cook time 0 mins • Total time 10 mins • Serves 4
For the salad:
1 gem lettuce
1-2 spring onions, finely chopped
5 organic cherry tomatoes, chopped into quarters
1 avocado, peeled, pipped, and chopped into bite-sized chunks
For the dressing:
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 heaped tsp dijon mustard
1-2 heaped tsp granulated sugar
Juice of half a lemon
Wash the lettuce and put into a plastic container. Chuck in the tomatoes, avocado, and spring onions. For the dressing, get a nice big jar. Put in all the ingredients, and shake shake shake! Add more of whatever you think is lacking. I often put a lot more olive oil in than that, but it’s best to start with less, rather than too much, so that you can keep adding.
Taste: Fresh • Level: Easypeezy • Worth another go? I make this pretty darn often if that means anything.
I’m so glad I’ve finally found a couscous recipe that is both simple and sumptuous! Thank you Cook Republic, this will be a recipe for many of the picnics to come!
Prep time 20 mins • Cook time 1 hr 30 mins if you include the roasting of pumpkin/butternut squash • Total time 1 hr 50 • Serves 6
2 cups couscous (dry)
2 cups water
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp thyme (dried)
1 tsp rosemary (dried)
1 tsp garlic granules
juice of half a lime
2 cups spinach leaves, chopped
1/2 cup spring onion, chopped
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup goat’s milk feta cheese, cubed (I didn’t use this because I was trying to be non-dairy)
1/2 cup whole black olives
1 cup roasted pumpkin, cubed (I used butternut squash – works just as well)
a dash of olive oil
Click here if you want to know more. For the pumpkin/butternut squash (two peas of the same pod), I cut it in half, take out all the pips, and score a couple of lines in the flesh. I then pour on olive oil. I get a whole bulb of garlic and cut it in half, putting one half in each of the butternut squash depressions.
Tip: Use the roasted garlic for your hummus!
Taste: Moreish • Level: Pretty easy • Worth another go? Oh yes!
Need I say more?
Idyllic, isolated… incoming tide?
Well, if it hadn’t been for my negligence of changing tides, it really would have been picnic perfect. Picture perfect it was, however.
If you are based in or near Suffolk, Stour and Orwell Walk, otherwise known as Nacton beach, has a certain magic about it. Apart from the wholly unexpected patches of graffiti on the resident driftwood and talk of unbecoming behavior in the bracken during the late pm, Nacton beach does emanate the picturesque.
Dog-walkers, barbecue-ers, and picnickers alike share the sandy shores and seaweed-scented air that the estuary has to offer. If you amble further east during June and July you might even find some sprigs of samphire to add to the gorgeous fish on offer just down the road at the Felixstowe docks.
Setting the picnic out on a nice firm bit of sand and lighting the disposable barbecue, which for once burnt perfectly all-over rather than in one, isolated patch, we thought our luck just couldn’t get any better.
But the tides changed, as they say.
Relocation, relocation, relocation, is never so difficult as when you have to maneuver a flaming barbecue, and this is when my resourcefulness kicked in.
“Use the Birkenstocks,” my survivor instinct told me.
And that’s just what I went and did.
Equipped with my cardigan-tied belt hitched with all the vital utensils, Lara Croft style, I made my way from the rising waters to safer shores. Matches, long fork, skewers for the prawns, and the skewered prawns themselves were the condiments to my picnic pandemonium through the rising tides.
Amidst the sparks and blazes of the roaring barbecue (I recommend taking this with a pinch of Maldon salt) and with the help of my trusty Birkenstocks, I made my way from a disappearing shoreline to grassy banks; with the barbecue still intact! Ok, a few skewered prawns may have had an extra dose of saltiness from a dunk in the River Orwell, but what’s a sandwich without the sand?
As you’ve probably figured out by now, I really enjoyed this sunny June picnic. Ok, we had to move all the picnic goods to pastures new when we clocked that the tide was coming in and not going out, but all these little hiccups help to make a picnic that bit more memorable.
All I can say, is that I hope my next picnic is as successful, and I also hope you enjoyed reading about our picnicking foray into the depths of the Suffolk wilderness. And even if I bored you to tears, you may have at least come across some tried and tested picnic recipes to pack into your own picnic baskets.
Happy picnicking, from your loving hamper-harlot,