Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Picnic Cookbook Review and Interview with Laura Mason

I love the idea of having a picnic. Nothing quite says that Summer is here than preparing and packing for a picnic. I have fond memories of eating sandwiches outdoors as a child whilst on a picnic, however I am embarrassed to say that I have not been on many picnics as an adult. But what sort of foods are you supposed to carry on a picnic: egg sarnies, scotch eggs, mini sausage rolls? The Picnic Cookbook by Laura Mason revolutionises certainly my idea of what foods can be brought along to a picnic. Laura starts by giving a comprehensive overview of the history of picnics in the UK from the Victorian era to today. Laura also gives key changes in the growth of picnics such as the introduction of barbecues.
There are 22 chapters, 17 which contain recipes. And because the book is so comprehensive I'll share all the chapters in this book. 

                 
  • An Afternoon Tea Picnic
  • Children's Picnic in the Park
  • The Big Family and Friends Picnic
  • Picnics for Special Events
  • Bonfire Night Picnic 
  • Packed Food for Long Walks
  • Picnics on the Road
  • Using Fire
  • An Easy and Delicious Barbecue for Four
  • A Cypricot-influenced Barbecue
  • Kofta and Naan: Some Indian Food
  • Sunday Roast on the Barbecue 
  • Casual Barbecue for Family and Friends
  • At the Seaside
  • Travelling Light
  • Forager's Fare
  • Around the Campfire
There were so many recipes that I bookmarked to make and devour: I am slowly working my way through this list. I usually share one recipe when reviewing cook books, however I quickly tried the Flapjacks, Oriental Filling Sandwich and Baked Banana with Brown Sugar, so thought I'd share how I got on making these.
Flapjacks


Flapjacks in the making. 

Flapjacks pre bake.

Oriental Sandwich.

Oriental Sandwich.

Oriental Sandwich

Baked Bananas with Brown Sugar.

Bananas and West Indian Cake.


The recipe I chose to share, Flapjacks  is from the Packed Foods for Long Walks, but before I do that,  let me the interview with Laura Mason, the author of this fabulous book. Many thanks to National Trust books for arranging this.

I  I love how you have shared the history of the British love for picnics in your cookbook, it is very informative. What was your inspiration behind writing this book?


Laura) Food always seems to taste better outdoors, and the British seem to love eating al fresco, even though the climate is so unreliable.  I like the optimism behind the idea of planning to eat outside, perhaps a long away from home, even if the reality turns out to be a chilly day with mist obscuring the view.

      You have covered different styles of picnics in your book, which picnic occasion (or gathering) is you favourite?

Laura) This is a bit like asking someone to choose among their children. If pressed to make a choice, I'd say the Food for Long Walks - I love to go for a walk in some beautiful landscape with family or friends, taking a pack up to eat halfway round. From the barbecue section, I'd go for the Sunday Roast and make beer can chicken and eat it with some salads and lots of bread.

     If you have to choose your favourite recipe what would it be?

Laura) Again it's a difficult choice, but chicken satay is also a winner, and damper dogs are fun to make for a simple, impromptu campfire snack. I'm also very fond of the buttermilk posset - it's easy to make and a lovely dessert for a special picnic or barbecue.

    Your photographs in your book are stunning, how important is it to have visible appealing picnic.
     Laura) They are lovely, aren't they? They were actually mostly taken by Yuki Sugiura, who works for other publications, such as the Guardian's Cook Magazine. Wei Tang did the styling and Valerie Berry was the home economist who cooked them to perfection.  Food should always look as good as possible, but this can mean careful packing especially if one has to carry things for some distance. Plastic boxes have their uses and the food can be nicely arranged within them. But when I was researching the book I played with the idea of using vegetables and fruit as containers too.
      For those who have never prepared a picnic, where would you suggest they start?
  Laura) Choose something simple which can be made well in advance. Pressed sandwiches can be made the night before, are delicious and travel well. Brendon's bacon and egg pie is another option which is simple and good (don't forget the ketchup to go with this). If you can keep things cool, also take some green goddess dip and some raw vegetables to dip in it.  For something sweet, try banana and ginger cake, flapjacks or granola bars. Add fruit and something to drink and you've got an outdoor feast.


Recipe for Flapjacks - Children and adults will love you once you make this. I promise you.
Makes 16
175 g butter, plus extra for greasing
350g jumbo oats
a pinch of salt
175g soft light brown sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup
100g dark chocolate (optional)

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 20cm x 20cm x 20 cm square tin with a non-stick baking parchment. Take half the oats and process them in a blender or food processor or until they are reduced to a coarse powder. Tip them into a bowl. Add all the remaining oats and the salt, and mix well to combine. 
Tip into the prepared tin and level the top carefully, using the back of a spoon to press it down well. Make the surface as even as possible, especially along the edges and in the corners.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and slightly puffy, but check periodically to make sure the mixture is browning evenly. It should be evenly golden, bubbling a little have a wonderful nutty, buttery smell. 
Leave to cool a little in the tin, then and cut into 4 along each side. Cool completely in the tin. 
If using the chocolate, melt it in a heatproof over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water.
Pipe or drizzle the chocolate in lines back and forth across the pieces, or dip each one to coat half the top. Leave to set, and store in an airtight tin. These are best eaten within a day or two of baking.

Overall, a beautifully written and comprehensive book which shares several easy to follow recipes for the perfect picnic. 

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of The Picnic Cookbook for review purposes, as always all opinions are my own.

xxx


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3 comments

  1. Sounds like a lovely book. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow the book really does sound so comprehensive, it's great that it covers lots of different food types!

    ReplyDelete

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