Whilst the whole of Britain has been basking in (unusually) glorious weather, it is time to dust off the picnic basket and hamper and head for the great outdoors.
From egg and cress sandwiches, pork pies and salt and vinegar crisps to smoked salmon and champagne straight out of a luxury hamper, us Brits certainly do love a picnic.
Come rain or shine, in a busy sun drenched park, on a windswept beach or even whilst taking shelter in the car, there can be few better ways to soak up the traditional British summer. And we’re certainly not going to let a few chilly days in June or drizzly weekends in July put a stop to that.
In fact, a good picnic can show true British determination and grit at its finest.
Of course the traditionalists out there will say that a picnic isn’t a picnic without at least a few of the following: soggy sandwiches, lukewarm drinks, a slight chill in the air, a spot of rain, kids with Frisbees and uncontrollable dogs. Oh, and wasps. A picnic definitely isn’t a picnic without having to duck and dive out of the firing line of a wasp.
The History of the Picnic
Brits enjoying picnics can be traced as far back as the 14th Century, when it was common for an open aired feast to be staged before a large hunting event. Whilst these early picnic style feasts were without cheese and pickle sandwiches and a packet of ready salted, similar food to that which features in many picnics today was often served. This included things like hams and other baked meats, as well as large pieces of pork, baked in some kind of pastry, with distinct similarities between that and a pork pie.
Picnics have also featured in literary books from the likes of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. In Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, the gang of five budding young detectives often had their picnics with lashings of ginger beer. Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willow’s famously begins with Rat and Mole enjoying a boating picnic.
Today, the popularity of picnics hasn’t waned and rest assured, the slightest bit of good or even mediocre weather will see droves of people head to their local park, to the seaside or even further afield to enjoy what for many Brits is the very best of al fresco dining.
More than just soggy sandwiches
The image of a family on holiday enjoying a rain sodden picnic, sheltering under a sheet of tarpaulin as the wet weather lashes down is almost ingrained in the British psyche. Why go and holiday abroad or soak up the sun in the south of France when you can eat egg and cress sandwiches whilst wearing your favourite rain coat?
But the truth is that a picnic doesn’t have to mean waterproof clothing and soggy sandwiches. Picnics can also be luxurious, decadent and downright delicious. A lovely summer evening enjoying a bit of twilight dining in Regent’s Park, eating such delicacies as caviar and fine seafood from a luxury picnic hamper doesn’t sound half bad.
How about a day at the races drinking fruit packed Pimms or an ice cold G&T before tucking into a delicious longhorn beef and horseradish sandwich or honey roast ham with Brie De Meaux and cranberries?
Top 5 Readymade Picnic Hampers
If you want a more refined picnic and convenient al fresco dining experience, then a readymade picnic hamper is the way to go. Here are five of the best:
Carluccio’s Italian Picnic
The popular Italian restaurant chain offers a delicious picnic conveniently packed in a reusable cooler bag. Inside, there are 3 courses of Italian treats, which includes goat cheese tart, olives, chicken supreme with a parsley, tarragon and breadcrumb crust and for dessert, individual strawberry and balsamic tartlets. Serves 2, from £45. Find out more here.
Fortnum and Mason Luxury Picnic
For those with appetites to match their even deeper pockets, Fortnum and Mason’s Belgravia hamper is up with the very best of picnic companions. The hamper includes an array of truly decadent delights such as veil salami, smoked salmon, caviar, handmade chocolates, a wine selection, a bottle of Champagne and some vintage port. From £500 Fortnum & Mason online.
Picnic 2U by James Martin
Hand prepared, deliciously made, ready to go picnics delivered direct to your door. The Lawn Picnic Hamper from James Martin is just enough for two and includes, amongst other delicious tidbits, a baby prawn salad with gem lettuce and elderflower cream, char grilled chicken with rosemary gremolata and a tasty orange and almond cake. From £55.
Fortnum & Mason Formal Picnic
For a special occasion, which doesn’t have to cost the earth, the three course formal picnic from Fortnum and Mason is just the ticket. Packed with delicious freshly made food there is enough here to feast on for a whole afternoon. Tuck into crab and avocado salad, chicken supreme, potato salad and a summer raspberry pannacotta, all washed down with a bottle of Touraine Sauvignon Blanc. From £100.
Make your own picnic hamper
Whilst a ready made picnic hamper can be luxurious and convenient, part of the fun of going for a picnic is to make the food yourself. Be creative, your picnic doesn’t have to be all about boring sandwiches and packets of crisps.
A delicious caramelised onion and bacon tart, or a pressed picnic ciabatta stuffed with proscuttio, spinach, peppers and mozzarella are great alternatives to sandwiches. A curried chicken and mango salad is not only simple to make, it tastes great and travels well.
The Watch – Meridian Prime MP-01
The MP-01 from Meridian is simple, yet subtly stylish and embodies all the virtues of great British watch making from days gone by. The watch measures 45mm in diameter and is made from matte stainless steel. It is powered by a Swiss ETA 6497 movement which is modified in the Meridian’s Norwich workshop. The black sandwich dial displays hours and minutes, with small seconds at 9 o’clock.