The season of long, languid days is upon us (well, it will be soon, surely?) and a Chap’s mind is turning to lolling about with a picnic, a bunch of chums and some glorious sunshine. Failing that, don a stout set of woollies and invest in a big brolly. A picnic is a delightful way to spend an afternoon by the river, in the grounds of a country house or by the sea. A tartan picnic rug is essential, as is a wicker picnic basket and a set of deckchairs.
In this Jubilee year, we couldn’t miss this venerable mix of chicken, mayonnaise and curry. Created especially for the Queen’s coronation in 1953 by Constance Spry or Rosemary Hume (and controversy rages over exactly whom), it should be made with curry powder, not fresh spices, to replicate the post-war lack of availability. For a really retro feel, serve on iceberg lettuce with flaked almonds.
White bread with the crusts cut off, cucumber with the skin peeled off, a little butter and a smidgeon of salt. A faff, yes, but delicious. The writer would recommend the addition of a few nasturtium leaves for an added bohemian twist and to give a little pepperiness to the whole affair.
This must be homemade and not bought, unless one can source it from the lovely ladies of the WI. Should be light but substantial and filled with homemade jam and fresh cream. Try to avoid the temptation to muck about with this classic by the addition of entirely unnecessary ingredients like crème fraiche, however recherché.
Strawberries and Cream
Avoiding the ‘Elsanta’ rubbery variety beloved of the slightly more down at heel supermarkets, the strawberry is a treat for picnics in June and July. Sourced from England or Scotland or, preferably, from one’s own patch, nothing can replicate the taste of an English summer like a really ripe berry, smothered in thick, double cream.
Allegedly invented by Fortnum & Masons in 1738 (and who are we to quibble?), the scotch egg combines salty chopped pork or sausage meat and a fresh egg in breadcrumbs. Handy to eat and provides a good wallop of stodge to wash down the alcohol, there are many fancy variations on the theme including quail’s eggs and other nonsense. Make your own; they are by far the best and to be really nice, here’s a cracking (ahem) recipe.
A real treat, especially if a chap can source fresh game from a nearby estate. Game pie has an ancient pedigree dating back to Roman times with many recipes and variations. Ideally a pie should contain a mix of both birds (grouse, ptarmigan, pigeon or pheasant) and some venison or rabbit for flavour and be served cold. In The Mating Season, P.G. Wodehouse notes that Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright once hit the game pie at the Drones six times with six consecutive bread rolls from a seat at the far window. These days, a chap should be a little more restrained.
Refreshing between courses and something to keep a chap hydrated whilst quaffing champagne, Pimms and other giggling juices, homemade lemonade is a perfect combination of freshly squeezed lemons, sugar and water. The author would recommend adding a little ginger to spice things up a bit! For those who find this a little too sweet, some homemade ginger beer will do nicely.
Eton Mess with Pimms
Combining meringue, fresh cream, berries steeped in Pimms..ooh heavenly! Eton Mess is one of the Savvy Chap’s Top Ten Puds but at a picnic a little Pimms will add a little more of the English summer (!) to the day.
Any picnic without some tea would be a poor show indeed. One must have a chi-chi little camping stove to boil water as tea, naturally, must be made with freshly boiled water. The choice of tea is very important and the Chaps would recommend a light Darjeeling for a refreshing cuppa.
The fish kettle is a little used and lonely kitchen accoutrement, so dust it off and really push the boat out by poaching a whole salmon. Serve this with nothing more than a twist of lemon and some brown bread and mayonnaise. Classic!