Tuesday 20 March 2018

RECIPES: Brenda Costigan on Picnic Fare

We love to picnic says Brenda Costigan -- difficult though that passion may be in such an unpredictable climate. The best plan is to be prepared for anything when the sun shines


Ever the eternal optimists, Irish people do love a picnic. But remember, you don't just need good weather, a bit of forward planning is essential, too.

Because everything must be transported to the picnic spot, it is best to keep it simple: paper plates and plastic cutlery are light to carry, while chilled cooler-bags will help keep everything nice and fresh.

Definitely keep any foods that contain mayonnaise in a chilled cooler-bag. Thoroughly chill any drinks the night before, and wrap them in towels if cooler bags are not available. Pack plenty of water, especially for the younger people. Lots of fresh fruit such as apples, easy-peel oranges and grapes will also help keep thirst at bay.

Don't forget a bag for the rubbish. A packet of wipes to freshen the hands afterwards is a nice touch. And we always bring an umbrella or two, just in case.


This takes a little longer to prepare than popping a chicken into the oven to roast, but the resulting loaf is not only really tasty, but a dream to serve. It is ideal for picnics or eating al fresco.

In this method, a rasher-lined tin is filled with mixture of chicken, mushrooms and herbs and spices, and baked. Allow it to get cold before serving. The chicken carcass and the chicken skin can be made into stock for soup. Cover the bones and skin with cold water, add a roughly chopped onion, a carrot, a stick of celery, a few mixed herbs and plenty of salt and pepper, bring to the boil and then simmer for at least 45 minutes. As with most meat dishes to be served cold, the chicken loaf needs to be well seasoned. Serves 5-6.

You will need:

Back or streaky rashers, enough to line the sides and base of the tin

1 uncooked chicken, medium to large

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 onion, chopped

1-2 garlic cloves, chopped

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

15g (1/2oz) butter

150g (5oz) mushrooms, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon flour (optional)

1 large egg

1/2-1 teaspoon herbes de Provence or oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon hot paprika (optional)

2-3 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 190 C, 375 F, Gas 5.

A 1.5l (2pt) loaf tin is fine for either a medium or a large chicken. Line the tin with the back or streaky rashers, whichever you are using.

Cut the breasts off the uncooked chicken, and remove the skin. Cut the breasts into two or three thick slices and arrange them in the base of the rasher-lined tin. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cut all the remaining flesh off the chicken carcass. Mince or finely chop the uncooked flesh -- I do this in my food processor but, beware, do a small bit at a time and for only a few seconds at a time, otherwise the chicken flesh will quickly turn into mush. Put the finely chopped, or minced, uncooked chicken into a mixing bowl.

Fry the chopped onion and the chopped garlic in the olive oil, and, when they are soft and golden, lift them out with a perforated spoon and add to the meat in the bowl. Next, add the butter to the remaining oil in the pan and fry the finely chopped mushrooms -- a little more oil may be necessary -- seasoning them with some salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the cooked mushrooms to the onions and meat mixture. Add the chopped parsley, the flour, if you are using it, the egg, and the herbes de Provence or oregano, whichever you are using, and mix everything together. Next, add the ground nutmeg, the allspice, and the hot paprika, if you are using it, some more salt and freshly ground pepper, and mix everything together thoroughly.

If you wish to taste the mixture to check the seasoning, fry a teaspoonful in a pan to cook it, then taste.

Put the mixture into the tin and smooth it out. Top with a rasher or two if you have any left over, and place the bay leaves on top. Cover with foil, and place the tin on a baking tray in the oven. The baking tray will catch any juices that may bubble out of the tin, helping to keep your oven clean. After about 30 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4 and cook for a further 45-60 minutes, removing the tin foil for about the last half hour.

Remove the cooked chicken loaf from the oven, leave it to stand for about 15 minutes, then pour off the juices and turn it out onto a clean baking tray. Return it to a hot oven -- 200 C, 400 F, Gas 6 -- for about 10-15 minutes to lightly brown the rashers. Allow the loaf to get cold before serving.


This salad is easy to pack in a plastic container for a picnic. The combination of cherry tomatoes, spring onions and parsley and basil is fresh and colourful. Serves 5-6.

For the honey dressing, you will need:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon runny honey

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pinches of dried oregano

You will need:

225g (8oz) cherry tomatoes

3-4 spring onions

1 tablespoon fresh parsley or basil, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the honey dressing, put the olive oil, the lemon juice, the runny honey, some salt and freshly ground pepper and the oregano into a jar, put the lid on, and shake well to mix everything together.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Thinly slice the spring onions. Put the halved cherry tomatoes and the thinly sliced spring onions into a bowl and then mix in the chopped fresh parsley or basil, whichever you are using, and some salt and freshly ground pepper. When you are ready to serve the salad, add just enough dressing to moisten it, and serve immediately.


A tasty combination. Serves 4.

You will need:

700g (1lb 8oz) new potatoes

6 streaky rashers

Creamy French dressing, see below

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

10-15 black or green olives

4 spring onions, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon or parsley, chopped

Steam or boil the new potatoes until they are just tender. Grill the streaky rashers until they are nice and crispy, then chop them roughly. Peel or halve the cooked potatoes, depending on their size, and put them into a bowl. While they are still hot, add some of the French dressing and season with some salt and pepper. Once the potatoes have cooled, add the chopped rashers, the black or green olives, whichever you are using, the finely chopped spring onions, and the chopped tarragon or parsley, whichever you are using. Add more dressing to taste and serve.


This dressing is delicious and easy to make. Serves 4.

You will need:

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 small garlic clove, crushed, optional

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Few pinches of herbes de Provence or oregano

2 tablespoons fresh cream

Put the olive oil, the wine vinegar, the crushed garlic, if you are using it, some salt and freshly ground pepper, the sugar, the herbes de Provence or oregano, whichever you are using, and the fresh cream into a jar. Put the lid back on the jar and shake it well to mix everything together.


This all-in-one sponge cake has fresh raspberries, which give it a lovely zing. Serve this sponge cake with raspberry yogurt, which is easier to transport than fresh cream. A perfect picnic dessert.

You will need:

175g (6oz) butter -- soft, at room temperature, not hard from the fridge

175g (6oz) caster sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 small teaspoon vanilla essence

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

25g (1oz) ground almonds

1/2 level teaspoon baking powder

150-175g (5-6oz) fresh raspberries

25g (1oz) flaked almonds

Grease a 9in sandwich tin and dust with flour. Preheat the oven to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4. Put the butter into a mixing bowl and beat to ensure it is soft and spread out. Then add in the caster sugar, the eggs, the vanilla essence, the self-raising flour, the ground almonds and the baking powder. Using a mixer, beat everything together until the ingredients are well mixed. Don't beat more than necessary as it toughens the mixture.

Stir the raspberries through and turn the mixture into the prepared tin. Scatter the flaked almonds over the top. Bake until golden brown and cooked through -- 35-40 minutes. Partly cool in the tin on a wire tray, then turn out to finish cooling.

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