Teddy bear's picnic
A picnic in the woods can evoke a thousand memories of childhood, says author Tori Finch, who literally wrote the book on outdoor feasts.
Gooey Triple Chocolate Brownies
Two words: chocolate heaven! Bake these brownies for 20 minutes for an über-gooey and rich delight, or leave in for another 3-5 minutes if you want them to be a little more crumbly.
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225g/8oz plain (70pc cocoa solids) chocolate, broken into pieces
225g/2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed
275g/1⅓ cups caster/granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract seeds from ½ vanilla pod/bean
135g/1 cup plus 1 tbsp plain/all-purpose flour
A pinch of sea salt
50g/1½ oz milk chocolate chunks
50g/1½ oz white chocolate chunks
A 23cm/9 inch square baking pan, greased
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3.
2. In a saucepan set over a low heat, gently melt the butter and dark chocolate together, ensuring it does not burn, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and vanilla seeds, then gently fold in the cooled chocolate and butter mixture. Sift the flour over the mixture, add a good pinch of sea salt and, again, fold together until well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and sprinkle over the milk and white chocolate chunks, pushing them down into the mixture.
4. Bake the brownie in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, until it has a crust on top but is still wobbly underneath. Run a palette knife around the edge, then leave the brownie to cool in the pan. Once at room temperature, turn out of the pan before cutting into squares.
Banoffee Plant Pots
I love making this dessert for the kids, who are sure to take utter delight in eating out of a flower pot! To add to the novelty, you can put little edible flowers on top or sugared flowers sticking out. You could even play a game by hiding the pots around the picnic area and get the kids to hunt them out, rather like an Easter egg hunt, but a flower pot hunt! You can also make them in glasses, if you prefer.
225g/8oz digestive biscuits/graham crackers
120g/1 stick unsalted butter
2 x 397g/14oz cans caramel condensed milk or dulce de leche
300ml/1¼ cups double/heavy cream
3 ripe bananas, finely sliced
175g/6oz chocolate (preferably plain), grated To decorate the pots:
A small handful of fresh mint sprigs
Edible flowers (such as violets or nasturtiums)
8 clean 8cm x 3 inch diameter, 7cm x 3 inch high terracotta plant pots or similar sized glasses
1. Break the biscuits/crackers into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to a fine crumb. Alternatively, put them in a plastic bag and pound them with a rolling pin.
2. Gently melt the butter in a large saucepan, taking off the heat as soon as it is liquid. Pour the crumbs into the saucepan and mix well with the melted butter.
3. Put a small slice of banana in the bottom of the plant pot to cover the drain hole, then spoon the buttery crumb mixture evenly between the pots. Using the back of a dessertspoon, press the mixture down firmly, then pop them in the fridge for about one hour.
4. Whip the double/heavy cream until it thickens into soft, pillowy peaks.
5. Divide the caramel condensed milk between the eight pots, stopping about 2 cm/1 inch below the top of the plant pot.
6. Over the caramel, layer a good helping of sliced banana and, lastly, spoon in a dollop of whipped cream to fill the pots right to the top.
7. This is the fun bit: use a knife to scrape the top of the cream away, so it is level with the rims of the pots, then cover the top of the pots liberally with grated chocolate, which resembles earth. Garnish the tops with sprigs of mint poked into the cream to look like leaves and a sprinkling of edible flowers.
Sausage & Squished Tomato Rolls
There is nothing quite like a good old sausage roll. Every children's party I have ever been to included sausage rolls. In fact, many an adult party, too. Though they can seem a little retro, they are making a comeback along with all those other 1970s dishes we thought were too uncool a few years ago. There are so many ways you can change a plain sausage and pastry roll. This recipe uses juicy squished tomatoes, but you could try a spread of wholegrain mustard or red onion marmalade, both of which are just as scrummy.
450g/1lb small tomatoes, on the vine
A pinch of sugar
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence (optional)
A glug of olive oil
400g/14oz good-quality pork sausages
400g/14oz ready-made all-butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Sea salt and ground black pepper
A large baking sheet, lined and greased
1. Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas 1.
2. Cut the tomatoes in half, top to bottom, and scoop out and discard the seeds. Lay the tomato cups, cut side up, in a large roasting pan. Season well with salt and pepper, sprinkle over the sugar and herbs, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for around 1½-2 hours. 3. Leave the tomatoes to cool, then blitz to a purée in a food processor.
4. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7.
5. Remove the skins from the sausages and put the meat in a mixing bowl. Season well with salt and pepper, knead with your hands and put to one side.
6. Divide the pastry into two equal portions and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out each portion to a rectangle measuring about 32 x 10cm/13 x 4 inches.
7. Divide the sausage meat into two equal portions and, also on the floured surface and with floured hands, roll each portion of the sausage meat into a long cylinder, about the same length as the pastry, with the flat of your palm.
8. Spread the squished tomato purée over the sheets of pastry leaving a 5cm/2-inch border around the edge. Lay a portion of rolled sausage meat along the long edge of each pastry sheet and gently roll up. When there is 2cm/1 inch or so left to roll, brush a stroke of beaten egg along the inside lip of the pastry before finishing rolling up and sealing the edges.
9. Cut each roll up into eight smaller rolls and lay them, seal-side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the rolls with the egg wash, pop in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes until puffed up and golden brown.
Extracted from A Perfect Day for a Picnic by Tori Finch, published by Ryland Peters & Small (€14).
Photography by Georgia Glynn Smith ©Ryland Peters & Small