Tuesday, 3 September 2013

last gasp picnic

I learnt my picnic technique from my mother, who could prepare a hamper with a whole salmon and all the trimmings to feed 10, throw together a sandwich or knock up a fire on a beach and cook sausages. It helps to have the right gear, but the main ingredient necessary is being up for it.

Yesterday the local festival, here in the cultural centre of the world, Cricklewood, had scheduled an outdoor showing of Some Like It Hot in a park on the dark side (Barnet). Hurray for the Cricklewood Silk Road Festival. Outdoor viewing said picnic to me. So I started getting the picnic kit together, and decided on the menu: chicken and salad wraps with cider to wash them down.

The chicken was marinaded for a few hours and then thrown on the griddle. It cooked beautifully, but left me wishing that I'd spared my clean hob and grilled it instead, letting the oven take the flack. I finally cooked some of the lovely looking split peas I have had for a while, to make a herby salad, and the mayo in the jar was going to get a makeover with paprika and friends. Add some rocket and a wrap, and napkins would be needed to catch the drips and wipe the mouth while it was being devoured.

What else do you need for a picnic? Leaving aside the hordes of helpers to carry the full dining table, crockery and chandelier, I prefer not to do disposable. This the gear I go for:

  • a drying up cloth (tea towel to some) with cutlery rolled into it: sharpish knife, spreading knife and spoons
  • duralex glasses or other almost unbreakable glasses, in another cloth, to prevent cracking
  • picnic blanket, such as bedspread or a couple of sheets. 
  • cold bag or box with ice, camping cold pack or my preferred version, a not quit full plastic bottle of water - if it's full it cracks btw. And maybe some ice to throw into a drink as well.
  • food
  • drink
  • something warm to wear in case the weather changes
So this is a cookery blog, let us consider the food prep. 

Chicken with basil and parsley marinade

  • Chicken pieces - I cut up a whole chicken following this video , but cutting it into eight pieces
  • 1 clove garlic
  • small bunch of basil
  • small bunch of parsley
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • glug of cider
  • pepper and salt
  1. blitz the garlic, basil, parsley and lemon juice together, or chop the dry ingredients finely and then add the liquid and seasoning
  2. mix with the chicken pieces and leave for a few hours - to speed things up you can slash the pieces to help the marinade penetrate
  3. to cook grill or griddle all the pieces until both sides are well browned, about 5m a side

Maionnaise with additions - I like to add paprika, garlic, lots of pepper, lemon and olive oil to bottled mayo, to give it a kick. This salad is refreshing and not too heavy, the peas should be firm but not at all hard, and they keep a lovely green colour. The herbs and lemon lift the flavour.

split pea salad
  • small bowl of split peas
  • handful of each: mint, parsley, coriander
  • 1 clove garlic
  • two tomatoes
  • half an onion
  • pepper
  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  1. cook the split peas in boiling water, it takes about 20 minutes
  2. deseed the tomatoes and dice the flesh
  3. finely chop all the herbs, onion and garlic
  4. drain the cooked peas - they should still be firm - and mix in the herb mixture, and leave to cool
  5. add chopped tomatoes, then pepper, salt, lemon juice and olive oil to taste
For the wrap, I start with a smear of the spiced up mayo, add rocket, pea salad and bits of chicken, and then I roll the lot up, carefully folding one end. Don't think it won't drip, because it will.

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