Because we’ve had such an early summer this year, with plenty of gorgeous sun filled weekends and multiple heatwaves already behind us, it’s easy to forget that we’re actually only at the end of July and still have the potential for lots more sunshine – complete with picnics in the park, warm summer evenings spent outside and garden paties aplenty – to come in the next few months.
This recent bout of grey skies and thunder storms was almost enough to see me digging my cosy knitwear out of the wardrobe and filling my Pinterest boards with autumn scenes, gingerbread bakes and pumpkin lattes, getting giddy at the idea of cosying up in front of the fire, drinking hot chocolate. But then the sun came back out, I sauntered out of the house in just a T-shirt, remembered that I hadn’t nearly hit my yearly quota for alfresco dining just yet and gave myself a good talking to not to fast forward the year quite so quickly.
Because just last week, scenes like the above were happening; patio doors wide open, sun streaming down onto the grass outside, bunting lining the garden, and a delicious summer spread (the epitome of posh picnic – smoked salmon, soft creamy Boursin cheese, fresh baguettes, sweet strawberries and thirst quenching watermelon) laid out in front of us.
I have to admit that picnic-ing is one of my favourite summer pastimes. There’s something so satisfying about eating outdoors (or in your kitchen with the patio doors open while bouncing a baby around) and indulging in easy, light and tasty snack foods is the ultimate way to dine in summer. On really hot days, I find I never have much of an appetite for a huge meal, and picky foods are definitely my preference. While posh snacking used to be reserved for picnics in the park, or lazy weekend afternoons at home when we couldn’t face cooking a meal, now, with a baby in tow, it’s pretty much a daily occurrence for me. Tucking into bitesize foods and odds and ends throughout the day, is the only way I manage to eat anything at all. Because aint nobody got time to cook while wrangling a tired baby all afternoon.
Come the weekend, we’ll pick up a crusty baguette from the corner shop, and lay the table full of all of our favourites – cold meats, cheeses, tomatoes, chutneys and fruit – and simply tear the bread apart with our hands and dive straight in. Add a cold glass of Pimms, an instagrammable picnic hamper and some pretty flowers and you’ve got the perfect at home picnic.
So let’s talk favourites and what makes up my ideal summer snacking spread. Well I’m a big cheese lover (and am still making up for the fact I had to spend 9 months avoiding a lot of it when pregnant) and am a sucker for a soft creamy cheese like Boursin. So when they sent over a large picnic hamper packed full of fruit, crackers, chutney and of course, a few packs of their delicious garlic and herb variety, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
I’m sure most of you already know and love this cheese – it’s a classic on a cheese board and a true favourite in the supermarket aisles, but I’m also championing it as the ideal accompaniment to your summer picnic or light lunch – it’s creamy and crumbly with a hint of garlic but not overpowering when teamed with other flavours. Personally I’m addicted. Spread on a baguette and topped with a little smoked salmon, or simply a few sweet cherry tomatoes, and lunch times were suddenly looking a whole lot more exciting than my usual toast and Nutella offering. For those picky moments, I grab a cracker, spread on a layer of Boursin and top with a dollop of sweet onion chutney – the perfect mouthful. And added into the picnic mix, it’s great with everything from prosciutto ham to rocket and sundried tomatoes.
Other than a soft baguette and some indulgent meats and cheeses, the rest of my summer spread reads pretty simple. Things which don’t require any cooking or prepping make the best snack ideas, and seasonal fruit like strawberries, mangoes and watermelon are ideal alongside your savoury items.
To add a little ambience to your posh picnic (even if it’s only at home), throw out o a colourful picnic blanket, a few napkins, and some teelight lanterns to create the right look. Add some fresh summer blooms to brighten the table/grass up and make yourself a refreshing summer drink as the finishing touch.
What makes up your ideal summer picnic? Do you find yourself creating a mini summer spread at home when the weather is nice out?