It was my birthday yesterday and me and my boyfriend went off on a jaunt to Epping Forest, the largest piece of open public green space in London. Stepping off the train in Chingford and ambling to the entrance of the ancient forest we felt like we had truly escaped London, however London hadn’t escaped us. We were there in our normal get ups, wandering around with a huge hamper and a Marks and Sparks cooler whilst everyone else was sporting Barbour jackets and hunter wellies and were covered in mud from their cycling ventures. We nearly wept with laughter at our countryside inneficciency when a) he fell into a river and b) I put my foot in a bog and we had to spend the rest of the day with 3 out of 4 wet feet.
Due to our heavy load, and probably a bit of laziness, we made it about 30m into the forest before setting up camp and getting stuck into the grub that Mike had lovingly prepared the day before. He used one of Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute meal recipes, not so that it would only take 30 minutes to prepare (like our attempt and Summer Veg lasagne) but because the spread really did look delicious. And that it was, plus it felt healthy which is sometimes hard to achieve in a picnic with the temptation of the ham, cheese, white baguette combo.
Making up our hamper of treats were:
- Sausage rolls with cumin, chilli and parmesan
- Griddled asparagus with lemon and lancashire cheese
- Watercress, pickled onion and pear salad
- Mackerel pate
- Eton mess
- A bottle of champers (instead of Jamie’s recommended lemonade!)
The sausage rolls were totally yummy and ridiculously easy to make. I’ve tried to make Jamie’s sausage rolls before and have got caught up in prepping additional ingredients and playing with flavour combos, which is great, but doesn’t save on time. These little rolls didn’t require any complex techniques, but the simple flavours of chilli, cumin and cheese made them punchy, meaty and tasty. Jamie recommends using fennel seeds but it is my one and only pet hate, chilli and cumin as an alternative worked perfectly, making them warm and smokey. There was also nothing stodgy about them and there was great joy in knowing all of their ingredients, unlike most other sausage rolls!
The asparagus was simply gorgeous. It was griddled on a very low heat for about ten minutes which meant the stems were soft and juicy, but there was a crunch left in the tips. The chargrilled flavour was cut through by tangy fresh lemon and the creamy lancashire cheese took the edge off the whole dish and made it irresistable, good on its own, good plonked ontop of some fresh bread and perfect with the salad.
The salad was the only dish that didn’t stand out on its own, but each element complimented something else. The pears and the pickled onions worked wonders with the sausage rolls, especially with a dollop of English mustard and the watercress brought the makerel pate to life. I assume this is why Jamie uses a really simple olive oil dressing so as not to complicate anything or disctract from the bolder flavours, clever him. The pate would rival my friend Florence’s, and hers is VERY GOOD. It was the addition of fresh chunky radishes that turned it into more of a dip rather than a spread, and the fresh parsley that made it taste summery and light.
By the end I was craving something of a different colour (nearly all the veges were green) and so was happy that it was time for Eton Mess. I LOVE strawberries, and although its not their season, sainos do still have some imported ones which are tasty and bright. These muddled up with Rachel’s yoghurt, fresh mint, orange and vodka (we had no pimms..!) and some sticky meringues and I was in heaven, and a bit drunk (hence the side-step into a bog).
All in all this was a grand picnic and I recommend the recipes for anyone who wants to make something that is easy, healthy, fresh and good for sharing. I would have added a tomato salad or some roasted red peppers just to vary the vege options a bit. For full recipes, please click below.
For the sausage rolls
- Plain flour, for dusting
- 1 x 375g ready-rolled puff pastry sheet
- 1 egg
- 1 x 12-pack of good-quality lean
- Chipolatas (approx. 400g)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds and chilli flakes
- Parmesan cheese, for grating
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
For the asparagus
- 350g asparagus
- Half a lemon
- Lancashire cheese, to serve
For the pâté
- 1 heaped dsp creamed horseradish
- 300g smoked mackerel
- 1 x 200g tub of light cream cheese
- Bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 lemons
- 1 small bunch of radishes
- Loaf of crusty bread
For the crunch salad
- 1 x 100g bag of prewashed watercress
- 4 pickled onions
- 1 pear
- Half a lemon
For the seasonings
- Olive oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and black pepper
For the Eton mess
- 400g strawberries
- 1 heaped tbsp golden caster sugar
- 1 blood orange
- 2 tsp vanilla paste or extract
- Splash of Pimm’s/vodka!
- 250g low-fat yoghurt
- 1 x 8-pack of meringue nests
- Couple of sprigs of fresh mint
- English mustard
- Champers (providing it’s on offer..)
How to make Jamie’s British picnic with sausage rolls and Pimm’s Eton mess meal
To start: Get all your ingredients and equipment ready. Turn the oven on to 220ºC/425ºF/gas 7 and get a griddle pan on a high heat. Put the standard blade attachment into the food processor.
Sausage rolls: Dust a clean surface with plain flour and unroll the puff pastry. Slice the pastry in half lengthways. Beat the egg in a little bowl, then use a pastry brush to paint the pastry halves. Line the sausages up so you get 6 on each half (just like in the picture). Bash 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes and cumin seeds in a pestle & mortar and sprinkle over. Finely grate a layer of Parmesan over the sausages.
Fold the pastry over the sausages, then use a fork to quickly crimp the edges together so you end up with 2 long sausage rolls. Paint these with the rest of the egg wash, then sprinkle over the sesame seeds. Drizzle olive oil over a baking tray, then roughly cut each long roll into 10 smaller rolls. Lay the rolls on the oiled baking tray and put into the oven on the top shelf for around 15 minutes, or until golden and puffed up. Wash your hands, then put the loaf of bread for the pâté into the oven to warm through.
Asparagus: Trim off and discard the woody ends of the asparagus, quickly rinse the tips, and lay on the hot dry griddle pan. Turn occasionally and cook until nicely charred on all sides.
Pâté: Put 1 heaped dessertspoon of horseradish into the food processor with all of the mackerel and cream cheese, the bunch of parsley and a good pinch of pepper. Finely grate in the zest of a lemon and squeeze in the juice of 1½. Let the processor run for a few minutes while you wash and halve the radishes and arrange them around the edge of a serving bowl. When everything is quite smooth and well mixed, spoon it into the serving bowl. You can put it into the fridge to firm up a bit if you like, but I prefer it a little softer. Drizzle over some good extra virgin olive oil, then take it to the table with the loaf of warm bread and a lemon half for squeezing over.
Asparagus: Turn the asparagus.
Crunch salad: Tip the watercress on to a platter. Finely slice 4 large pickled onions and sprinkle all around the watercress. Finely slice the pear into rounds, core and all, then slice the rounds into matchsticks and scatter over. Dress with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a good pinch of salt & pepper, and take to the table with a lemon half for squeezing over.
Asparagus: Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the spears and squeeze over the juice of ½ a lemon. Shake the pan, lightly season, then tip everything on to a serving plate. Take to the table with a wedge of Lancashire for shaving over.
Sausage rolls: If they are golden brown and cooked through, take them out of the oven. If not, leave in while you make your pudding.
Eton mess: Slice the strawberries and put them into a bowl with 1 heaped tablespoon of sugar. Grate over the orange zest, then squeeze in the juice from ½ the orange. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla paste or extract, then really mash and mix everything together with a fork. Add a good splash of Pimm’s/vodka and mix again. Dollop 2 tablespoons of yoghurt on a platter and spread out,
adding the strawberry mixture as you go. Crumble over half the meringue nests, mix again, then rip some mint leaves over and take to the table with the rest of the meringue nests – crumble these over just before you serve dessert.