Elaine, the sous chef at Hartford House, is an 'outdoors' girl and needs no excuse for a picnic. Her enthusiasm brings some interesting and enticing new-age picnic ideas.
It's important to remember the heat factor when putting a picnic together. There is nothing less appetising than a warm tomato sandwich or a selection of semi-melted rubbery cheese. Think cleverly and innovatively.
Here are some ideas to make your picnics interesting yet stress free for the person hosting the occasion.
Homemade vegetable/potato crisps and/or crudités (vegetable batons), with a delicious olive tapenade dipping are simple, satisfying and scrumptious.
Scotch eggs are a boiled-egg pleasure - and one that is so often forgotten. They are so much more interesting than egg sandwiches or a container full of cocktail sausages.
A chicken-and-cream-cheese pancake/crepe wrap is another practical idea. The pancake/wrap has the advantage of keeping the chicken cool. For picnics I prefer using cream cheese rather than mayonnaise. The sustainability of the raw egg in the mayonnaise is questionable.
Devils-on-horseback (prunes filled with camembert and rolled in bacon) are a popular, yet often overlooked, option. Their make up ensures limited oozing and provides savoury bursts of flavour.
Plan ahead and make spicy muffins the night before. They will still be fresh and they promise to impress. Alternatively, freshly-baked health bread layered with butter, sliced beef fillet and a sundried tomato smear goes down a treat. Remember to keep this cool.
Fruit is always refreshing, and chopped strawberries always make an impact. Marinated in sugar, balsamic vinegar and pink peppercorns ensures the enhancement of flavour, so time improves this combination.
My piece de resistance is my red velvet cake recipe. I use it to make muffins. Oven baked with a white-sugar topping and a black cherry centre, this promised to wow your fellow picnickers. Cream cheese icing is one of my firm favourites but I wouldn't chance it for this occasion.
Now that you have a selection of enticing ideas may I suggest you take a drive into our picturesque Midlands - bubbly in one hand and a picnic basket in the other? As you will be driving my recommendation is that you chill a bottle of Appletiser. It will save you the possibility of a hefty fine - or worse...
Take these recipes and try them.