It’s official, National Picnic Week is here and we’ve all gone an excuse to cancel our tragic ‘sandwich eaten at desk’ lunches and creep into the local park with a picnic blanket and baskets crammed with seasonal lovelies. We’ve put together five awesome alfresco dishes - from a zingy British asparagus salad to cumin crusted lamb - that let the best of the season’s produce shine (even iwhen the sun won’t).
1. Asparagus, Fennel and Goat’s Cheese Salad
Toss 250g British asparagus in 1 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of chilli flakes and cook in a hot griddle pan for about 4-5 minutes until charred on each side. Remove from the pan and cut each spear in half. Thinly slice one bulb of fennel and add to the cooling asparagus. Place 200g of washed rocket in a salad bowl, crumble in 150g of goat’s cheese and add the asparagus and fennel. Top with the juice of half a lemon, a drizzle of olive, salt and pepper. Toss and enjoy. Serves 6.
2. Whole Smoked Teriyaki Aubergine
Slice 3 aubergines in half lengthways and score the flesh in a criss-cross pattern, making sure you don’t pierce the skin. Cover with 2 pinches of sea salt and leave to drain in a colander for an hour. Whilst that’s happening make your Teriyaki sauce. Mix 150ml soy sauce with 3 tablespoons of Mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine). Add 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of runny honey, along with 2 tablespoons of water and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Reduce in a saucepan until slightly thickened - for 5 minutes or so. Drain and pat dry the aubergines. Cover the exposed flesh of the aubergines with the sauce. Light your barbecue and once the charcoals are grey, place the aubergines on the cooler edge of the grill for about 10 minutes until softened. Take a handful of beech or oakwood shavings and put them directly onto the hot charcoal, being careful to avoid the aubergines. As the smoke starts to rise, place the lid (make sure it’s tight-fitting!) onto your barbecue and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Serves 6.
3. Cumin spiced lamb chump steaks
Lightly season 4 lamb steaks with ½ teaspoon of crushed cumin seeds, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Leave the flavours to mingle for half an hour before placing on a medium-hot grill. Cook for 5-6 minutes on each side, depending on how rare you like it. Serves 4
The lamb raised by Andy at Park Farm are reared on Kent meadows of wild flowers and grasses which results in a healthier, happier animal; and because his cuts are the freshest from the farm you can get, a little seasoning and simple cooking is all they really need.
4. Beetroot, Whipped Goats Cheese & Mint Dip
Place 4 raw beetroot in a roasting tray and cook for 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 180 degrees C. Remove the skin from 1 log of goats cheese and discard. Add the juice from 1 lemon, a glug oil, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 220ml creme fraiche and a crack of salt and pepper to the cheese. Whip with an electric whisker until fluffy. Once the beetroot has cooked and cooled slightly, peel and pop into a food processor along with a handful of picked mint and blitz until completely whizzed up. Add the goats cheese mixture and pulse until fully incorporated. This is a winner in sandwiches and pittas, or as a side to our cumin lamb steaks. Serves 4 - 5
Beetroot, Whipped Goats Cheese & Mint Dip
5. Butter Rum Apricots
Halve 10 apricots and discard their stones. Melt very gently in a saucepan 100g butter, 100g brown sugar and 5 tablespoons of rum. Place the apricots on top of a large doubled-up sheet of tin foil (you want it to act like a tray to capture the precious boozy sauce) on the barbecue at a medium heat, carefully pour with the rum mix and leave for 2-3 minutes, turning the apricots occasionally. When the apricots are soft and too your liking, place them on a platter and serve with a jug of double cream and a few sprigs of mint. Thanks to food blogger Rosie Llewellyn who served this up at our Summer Fete!