Summer picnic food ideas

Caroline Cassidy

With summer hopefully bringing us some sunshine and warmth, now is the time to make the most of the weather and do some al fresco dining. Getting out into the countryside, the beach or a local park with a picnic lunch means the whole family can enjoy a little time away from home.

summer picnic food ideas
summer picnic food ideas

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If, however, you've had quite enough of the traditional pork pie, hard-boiled eggs and sandwiches, here are a few simple ideas that'll spice up your picnic fare.

Summer salads
Salad doesn't have to consist of shop-bought coleslaw and potatoes smothered in mayonnaise. With fresh ingredients, a little vinegar, seasoning and olive oil and you can create a sumptuous salad out of almost anything.

For a simple slaw, take one pound of beetroots, a small peeled cucumber and a large apple, grate them into a bowl with a little ginger and add 2 tbsp of white vinegar, a dash of salt and pepper and 1/2 tbsp of good quality extra virgin olive oil. What you'll end up with is a crunchy slaw that's sweet and tangy.

Similarly, carrots can be used for a super-simple child-friendly salad. Simply grate tasty, fresh carrots, add one chopped apple and a handful of raisins and mix with mayonnaise.

Glorious grains
Staple cupboard foods such as rice, pasta and couscous make for more filling summer salads and can easily be prepared ahead of time.

Couscous, for example, simply needs soaking and takes all of its flavour from whatever you put in it so you really can add anything you like. A chopped chilli and red onion, a little extra spice in the form of paprika and cumin, and a little orange juice and zest mixed with olive oil are all that's needed for a tempting coucous creation.

Rice is similarly simple to use when it comes to salad. Cooked brown rice with small, still-crunchy broccoli florets and a few chopped walnuts and parsley, is a wonder when combined with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice.

And tabbouleh, a real summertime favourite, requires only chopped, seeded tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice with cooked bulgur wheat and parsley to make a clean, refreshing salad. Add crumbled feta cheese for added texture.

Meat feast
Carnivores might miss the promise of the ever-popular pork pie but there's plenty for meat lovers to enjoy without Melton Mowbray's most famous export.

If you've braved a roast in the hot weather and have left-over meat, now's the perfect time to use it. Thinly-sliced lamb combined with cherry tomatoes, olive oil, mint, feta and red onion provides a quick, easy meaty salad.

And that roast chicken can be picked clean and used to make wraps. For a tasty tortilla, take the remaining breast meat (or grill some fresh), brush the wrap with pesto and fill with the chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and rocket.

If you're preparing the night before, chicken wings are a must for the picnic basket. Just toss the wings in olive oil, salt and pepper, grill or roast until crisp and add a mustard, honey and lemon juice drizzle before chilling until you're ready to head out.

Of course, old favourites such as quiche (which can include whatever ingredient you want to add) and dips with cut carrots, celery or baked sweet potato chips will always be welcome too.

What are your favourite picnic recipes? Leave your comments below...