It’s National Picnic Week, and there’s nothing I like more than an excuse to get out to the nearest park and have a good picnic. It’s a chance to enjoy the great outdoors, some delicious food and drink, and some excellent company. Perfect, what more could you want?
Well… it doesn’t always work out like that, does it? Sometimes a picnic doesn’t turn out as well as you’d like, so here are my top tips for troubleshooting some of the most common problems and making sure your picnic isn’t a wash out. No #PicnicFail here!
The curse of the soggy sandwiches
Yep, soggy sarnies are a very common complaint from the contents of your picnic basket, but do not fear. The simplest way to stop your sandwich fillings from making the bread all mushy is to spread an even and generous coating of butter on each slice. The oil content effectively provides a layer of waterproofing, stopping water from leaking out of the fillings. Not entirely healthy, but definitely nicer to eat.
For even more effect, quickly toast the bread on one side for a few seconds and leave to cool before making the sandwiches. You can also press fillings such as tomato or cucumber to remove some of their liquid by wrapping slices in a clean tea towel and weighting it down with a heavy plate or large bowl for an hour or so. Failing that, pack the buttered bread and the fillings separately and assemble just before eating.
This happens far more often than any of us would like: you arrive at your destination only to realise that your containers have leaked over everything else in your hamper, and everything’s spoiled. If these are pots that you’re going to be using again and again for years to come, it pays to invest in ones that have decent seals and possibly clips as well.
It’s also a good idea to keep runny dressings, sauces and syrups separately in smashproof bottles or jars if possible. One final trick is to put a sheet of strong kitchen paper at the bottom of your pot, followed by a sheet of baking parchment, then topping it with your fruit salad or coleslaw etc. This will help to absorb excess liquid without getting any paper into the food.
Wasps, midges and other flying nasties
A small swarm of biting or stinging insects is more than enough to ruin your meal, and any chances you have of taking it easy and relaxing. While citronella candles can be great for repelling creepy crawlies on a balcony or in the garden, flames and picnic blankets are not a good combination. Instead, spray some insect repellent around your ankles and a little onto the surrounding grass before you start unpacking your feast. You can even make your own ground spray by using some citronella essential oil in a small reusable spray bottle.
Look up into nearby trees for bee swarms or wasp nests before you put your blanket down, and check for ants too (stamp on the ground a couple of times and you’ll see them start running around if you’re near a nest). Keep bugs and stray bits of grass out of your food with a couple of the £1.50 folding net covers from Wilko, a cheap investment that looks pretty smart and should last for years.
Warm, tasteless beer
On a hot day there’s nothing worse than lukewarm drinks, so look for lightweight coolers for more refreshing, er, refreshments. For a sophisticated picnic, buy a nice bottle of rosé wine instead for that perfect summer flavour. Chill it down overnight if there’s time, and carry it in an insulated chiller sleeve so it arrives in perfect condition. Keep those ice packs and chiller sleeves in the freezer all summer so they’re ready at a moment’s notice.
I’ve recently tried the Maison Williams Chase Rosé 2016 from 31Dover.com, which pairs well with all kinds of savoury foods and would be something to consider for a special occasion. It’s dry and zippy, with minerally notes and a hint of citrus and strawberry, ideal for sipping in the sunshine.
That’s it for today, but I’ll be back soon with some clever hacks for raising your game and creating the perfect picnic.
Full disclosure: Wine sample provided by 31 Dover. This is not a paid-for post.
What are your biggest bugbears about picnics and al fresco dining? Apart from the unpredictable British weather, of course!
What’s been your most annoying or funny #PicnicFail?