Saturday 1 October 2016

Top recipes to fill your picnic basket from Indy Power

Indy Power brings you the healthy picnic recipes that ensure summer never tasted so good!

Published 03/07/2016 | 02:30

Indy Power's summer picnic is packed with goodness. Photo: Naomi Gaffey.
Indy Power's summer picnic is packed with goodness. Photo: Naomi Gaffey.
Baba Ghanoush
Red Hummus
Chia Crackers
Lemonade
Hazelnut crunch

Picnics are one of the best summer activities for families, friends, couples and anyone who needs an injection of fresh air in their lives. Since we don't often get the opportunity to eat outside in Ireland I try to do it as often as I can during the warmer months - even if it means wrapping everything up at the last minute just as the clouds clear.

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Like most people, my childhood memories of picnics were mostly made up of crisps and dips, pasta salads and sugary treats and it's funny how much they still seem like an essential part of any picnic menu. But just because you're eating away from your kitchen doesn't mean that your meal has to suffer nutritionally. Pretty much anything can be packed up and taken with you - so rather than reverting back to traditional picnic junk food, load up on nutritious food that's easy to make and tastes great cold.

One of the main times in life that people find it hard to eat well is when they're out of the house - choosing a healthy option at a restaurant can be tricky - but with a picnic it's all under your control. You can make it so much more interesting than a ham sandwich and much more nutritious too.

Picnics are actually a really easy way to load up on loads of fruit and vegetables: bring summer fruit to snack on, bulk up salads and sandwiches with loads of greens and chop up lots of extra vegetables to have with your dips.

To turn your picnic into a proper feast, bring loads of different food options with you. I love roasting nuts to munch on and making a few different salads to pick at. Skewers are also a great no-cutlery option for al fresco eating. Simply skewer and grill your favourite chicken, fish or veg beforehand and wrap them up in foil or a lunchbox for the perfect mess-free main course.

Of course, making healthy choices doesn't mean that you have to miss out on picnic staples and treats that bring back memories of long, sunny summers of days gone by - my picnics still tick all those boxes but I've come up with much healthier homemade versions that taste even better and are great for you, too.

Today, I'm sharing a few of my favourites with you to help fill your basket with healthy goodness.

My Hazelnut and Chia Cranberry Crackers are a real game-changer, I make them all the time and they are perfect with the Red Pepper Hummus and Baba Ghanoush. My Sundried Tomato and Feta Quinoa Salad is easily portable and the Hazelnut Crunch Bars are a chocolatey post-picnic treat that will appeal to all of the family. Don't forget to bring loads of water and swap fizzy drinks for something zesty and refreshing like my Ginger and Mint Lemonade. Enjoy!

Baba ghanoush

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Gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan- and paleo-friendly

Ingredients

1 large aubergine

3 tbsp tahini

2 cloves garlic, minced

Juice of ½ lemon

½ tsp ground cumin

Coarse salt

1 tbsp olive oil

Method

Cut the aubergines in half and drizzle a little olive oil all over. Place in a roasting tray skin side up and roast for 20 minutes at 200˚C. Then flip and roast for another 15-20 minutes until very soft.

When it's cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the flesh into your food processor. Add in the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, cumin and a good pinch of salt and blend until combined.

Transfer to your serving bowl and drizzle on a little olive oil.

Hazelnut & Cranberry Chia Crackers

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Once you crack these (pun intended!) you'll be hooked. The key is to roll them super thin. Do them in two batches if your tray isn't large enough. The mixture itself takes seconds to prepare and after the first time you'll be a pro at the rolling. I make them all the time and the combination of toasted hazelnuts and chewy, slightly sweet cranberries is just perfection.

Makes 15

Gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan- and paleo-friendly

Ingredients:

35g hazelnuts

75g ground chia seeds

95g whole chia seeds

35g other seeds (sesame, sunflower etc)

35g dried cranberries

Pinch of coarse salt

250ml water

Method

Preheat the oven to 160˚C.

Roughly chop your hazelnuts and add them to the bowl with the ground and whole chia seeds, other seeds and dried cranberries.

Sprinkle in a pinch of coarse salt and mix everything together. Pour in the water and mix really well, then leave it to sit for about five minutes to allow the chia to swell, stir once in the middle.

Lay out a large sheet of greaseproof paper. Spread the mixture out on the paper and then place another sheet on top. Use a rolling pin to roll it into a very thin layer, as big as your tray will allow. If you don't roll them thin enough, they will not crisp so roll them even more thinly than you think is necessary. Then peel off the top sheet of paper. Lift the other sheet onto a large baking tray.

Bake at 160˚C for about 30 minutes. Take the sheet of crackers out and use a spatula to carefully flip it over. Pop it back in the oven for another 30 minutes or until crisp. Leave to cool and crisp further on a wire rack and then snap or cut into crackers. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Ginger & Mint Lemonade

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Makes 1 litre

Ingredients

25g fresh ginger

10g fresh mint

2-3 tbsp of honey

Juice of 2 lemons

Juice of 2 limes

1 litre water, still or sparkling

Ice

Method

Peel your ginger and chop it into slices. Add it to your jug with the mint and honey. Pour boiling water over them, just enough to cover them. Leave to steep for an hour.

Juice the lemons and limes and add it to your jug. Fill up with 1 litre of water and some ice, stir well and serve.

Red pepper hummus

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Gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly

Ingredients

2 red peppers

4 tbsp olive oil

240g soaked chickpeas

2 tbsp tahini

2 cloves garlic

Juice of ½ lemon

Coarse salt and pepper

Method

Turn the oven to the grill setting at 250˚C. Chop the peppers into quarters and add them to a roasting tray skin side up. Drizzle on about a tablespoon of olive oil and a good pinch of coarse salt and pepper. Pop them under the grill for 10-15 minutes. Take them out and add the peppers to a bowl, cover with cling film and leave them to steam for about 10 minutes. Then carefully peel off the skins.

Drain the chickpeas and add them to your food processor with the roasted peppers, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and a good pinch of coarse salt and pepper. Blend on high until smooth. While blending, gradually pour in the oil.

Sun-dried tomato & feta quinoa salad

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This is my favourite way to have cold quinoa. My mum used to make this with pasta when I was little, and to me it tastes like summer in a bowl.

The trick is to use good sun-dried tomatoes that are in a really flavourful olive oil - using the oil in the sauce takes the dish to a whole new level. This is perfect for picnics or lunchboxes or for keeping in the fridge for snacks and tastes amazing with a barbecue.

Gluten-free

Serves 6

Ingredients

400g cooked quinoa

50g feta

4 spring onions

50g sun-dried tomatoes (in olive oil)

100g Greek yoghurt

Juice of ½ lemon

2 tbsp olive oil (from jar of sun-dried tomatoes)

Coarse salt and pepper

Method

Add the cold cooked quinoa to a large bowl. Cube or crumble the feta, slice the spring onions and roughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes, then add them all to the bowl.

In a small bowl combine the Greek yoghurt, lemon juice and two tablespoons of the olive oil the tomatoes were soaking in. Add a good pinch of coarse salt and pepper and whisk well.

Add the yoghurt sauce to the quinoa and mix well. Serve or store in the fridge for later.

Hazelnut crunch bars

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These are unbelievably delicious. Chocolate and hazelnut are the ultimate combination, and pairing them with a rich caramel centre makes them even more irresistible. These are the kind of thing I love giving to friends and family - sure to please and perfect for sharing!

Makes 12

Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan- and paleo-friendly

Ingredients

For the base: 225g hazelnuts

75g dates

2 tsp cacao powder

For the filling:

75g dates

130g almond butter

1 tbsp honey, date syrup or maple syrup

75g hazelnuts

For the top:

120g dark chocolate

Method

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. When it's hot, roast all of the hazelnuts for about 13 minutes. While they're roasting, pour boiling water over the dates and leave them to soak for about 10 minutes.

When the hazelnuts are done, add 225g of them to your food processor and blend on high until you have a coarse flour. Add in the cacao powder and blend to combine.

Drain the dates and add the amount for the base to the hazelnut flour. Blend until you have a chunky paste. Press the mixture into your baking tin and set it aside.

To make the middle layer, blend the remaining dates by themselves until as smooth as your food processor will allow. Then add in the almond butter and sweetener and blend to combine. You should get a thick fudgey mixture. Spread the mixture over the crust layer, it's easiest if you finish it off with your hands.

Roughly chop the remaining 75g of hazelnuts and sprinkle them evenly over the middle layer, then press them firmly into the middle layer (this will make it much easier to spread the chocolate over).

Melt the dark chocolate and pour it over the hazelnuts. Pop the whole thing in the fridge for about an hour to set, and then slice into squares.

Photography: Naomi Gaffey

Styling: Bairbre Power

Hair and make-up: Aimee Connolly, aimeeconnolly.com

Indy's top: Melissa Odabash, Seagreen, Monkstown Crescent and Ranelagh, seagreen.ie

Picnic baskets: TKMaxx, tkmaxx.ie

Picnic blanket: Clare P, Instagram @clarepdesign

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