Ready, steady… PICNIC!

With lockdown restrictions easing and spring in the air, it’s time to dust off the picnic blanket and dig out the old hamper. It’s time to picnic. Come April, the rule of six will be back in earnest, with gardens and parks sure to be brimming with alfresco dining. So, forget soggy potato salads and bland quiche’s, it’s time to up your picnic game and I have just the recipes to get you started.


Minimum effort, last minute picnic
“You can’t go wrong with a fancy bottle of red wine, a freshly baked baguette and a couple of good tapenades.”

Black & green olive tapenape
Black & green olive tapenape

Black & green olive tapenade
Serves 6-8 / Hands on time 10 mins / Total time 10 mins / V Vn Gf Df
You’ll need: A food processor
Black olive tapenade:
200g (drained weight) pitted black olives in brine. I used a mix of Kalamata olives and black.
1 tsp capers
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
Small handful of chopped parsley to serve (optional)
Green olive tapenade:
200g (drained weight) pitted green olives in brine
1 tsp capers
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 pickled jalapeño pepper, stalk removed
1 tsp white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
½ lemon, juice
2 tsp pine nuts
Small handful of chopped parsley to serve (optional)

Method 
Drain the olives and put them in a food processor along with the other ingredients, leaving out the parsley. Blitz until you have your desired texture, I like my tapenade quite coarse so keep the blitzing to a minimum. Serve on toast, sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.


The impressive picnic offering
“Been invited to a picnic and need to bring a dish? Then pop this loaf in your handbag along with a good quality butter for an easy, yet impressive offering.”

Leek and cheddar loaf

Leek and cheddar loaf
Makes 1 loaf / Hands on time 20 mins / Total time 1hr 20 mins + cooling / V
You’ll need: 2lb/900g loaf tin, baking paper
Rapeseed oil or butter for greasing
150g leek (1 medium leek) finely chopped
75g strong mature vegetarian cheddar, grated
250g self-raising flour
50g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt flakes
250ml semi-skimmed milk
2 eggs
Few springs of thyme, leaves picked
Black pepper
40g vegetarian Italian hard cheese or Parmesan*, grated
Small handful pumpkin seeds

Method
1. Preheat an oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ 350°F/gas mark 4. Grease a loaf tin with oil or butter and line the bottom with baking paper. Put to one side.
2. Finely chop the leek and grate the cheddar. Mix together in a medium sized bowl and add the Italian hard cheese, keeping a handful a side for later.
3. In a larger mixing bowl, measure out the flours, baking powder, salt and mix until combined. Add the leek and cheese mixture, thyme leaves and a good crack of black pepper and mix well until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
4. In a mixing jug, measure out 250ml of semi-skimmed milk and crack in 2 eggs. Beat with a fork until fully incorporated. Pour straight into the dry mixture and mix quickly until combined – adding the wet ingredients to the dry activated the baking powder so the sooner you can get it in the oven the better.
5. Pour into a loaf tin and top with the remaining cheese and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds. Bake in the oven for 1 hr.
6. Remove and cool in the tin for 10 mins before turning out and cooling fully on a rack. However, if you’re desperate to eat it warm feel free, just bear in mind the loaf will be a little soft so slice carefully. Serve on its own or spread with butter. Wrap in foil and keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.


The picnic for two
“Simply add a large bag of crisps, a bottle of fizz and a punnet of fresh strawberries and clotted cream. Done!”

Smokey Sweet Potato Bean Wraps
Smokey sweet potato bean wraps

Smoky sweet potato & bean wraps
Serves 4 / Hands on time 25 mins / Total time 45 mins / V
Filling:
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium sweet potato, baked
½ medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbs tomato puree
Pinch of chilli flakes
2 cans of mixed beans, washed and drained
1 corn on the cob or 1 can of sweetcorn, drained
To serve:
4 large wraps
2 handfuls fresh spinach
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
4 tbs Greek yogurt
40g cheddar cheese, grated

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°fan/400°F/gas mark 6. Score the sweet potato carefully with a knife and stab it through the middle a couple of times. Bake in the oven on the middle shelf for 45 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, make your bean filling. In a large pot, sweat the chopped onion in the oil for about 5 minutes on a medium heat (add a dash of water to help them steam). Once softened, add the garlic and the smoked paprika and cook for a further minute. Add the tomato puree and the chilli flakes and give it a good stir.
3. Cook for a few minutes before adding the beans. Stir and cook for a further 5 minutes before seasoning well with salt and pepper. If using a fresh corn on the cob, remove the kernels by standing on its head and running a sharp knife, carefully down the sides slowly (they tend to go everywhere, so proceed with care). Add the corn to the beans and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes.
4. Take the beans off the heat, cover with a lid and put to one side. Slice the cheese and the avocado ready to fill your wraps.
5. Once your sweet potato is soft, carefully remove from the oven and cut into quarters to cool it down a bit. Lay your wraps out and spread one half with a tablespoon of warm sweet potato and the other half with plain yogurt. Top evenly with a couple of spoons of the bean mixture and a layer of sliced avocado and cheese. Season well with salt and pepper and top with a layer of fresh spinach.
6. Fold the top and bottom of the wrap in on itself and carefully roll it until you have, well a wrap. Serve straight away or wrap up in foil and take to work for lunch.


For more foodie blogs like this, visit learningwithexperts.com


If you’ve had a go at making any of my recipes, I’d love to hear from you. Follow me now @corrieheale and tag your recipe pictures using #corriesrabbitfood.


Want to get the most out of your veg? Then why not learn from expert Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and up your five-a-day game.



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