If You Go Down To The Woods Today…
There’s something very special about unpacking a hamper overflowing with neatly wrapped food and chilly drinks. It may be slightly damp, a little uncomfortable and the kids probably won’t sit down for long – but there’s a certain charm about spreading a blanket on a woodland floor or perching on a fallen log with a flask in one hand and a bag of goodies in the other.
Chilled-out summer eats!
Just say the word ‘picnic’ and see everyone’s face light up with anticipation at the thought of tucking-in to mountains of tasty food spread out on a pretty rug. But don’t suffer from picnic envy as the people next to you reveal a great looking, tasty smelling feast with an added pop of a cork… it needn’t be hard work to create something wonderful as long as you keep it simple!
The best picnic sandwiches are those created on the spot: so think of something new and exciting for you and your little ones to enjoy rather than spending ages buttering anemic bread, filling with boring fillings and wrapping too tightly in suffocating cling film. Remember, even the simplest of food will taste so much more glamorous when eaten outdoors.
For a Farmer’s Picnic simply break open a crusty French stick and pack with crumbled Cheddar cheese, torn hunks of ham and a dollop of Dijon mustard. End with crisp golden delicious apples and strawberry tarts.
If you pass a local farmers market or have a favourite local delicatessen stock up for a Deli Picnic: grab some pots of hummus, roasted peppers, olives, ciabatta and perhaps a few rich custard pastries or scones and lashings of strawberry jam for dessert.
For the most luxurious option, try a picnic that makes itself: there’s no magic involved, just a phone call, and hey presto, a sumptuous feast from Carluccio’s! (www.carluccios.com) Fresh, delicious and plentiful picnic hampers created to order – all that is good about Italian food in a stylish cool-bag! There’s even a kiddies’ box complete with a yummy dark chocolate teddy cake. Prices start at £45 for two adults including a bottle of wine! £10 for a child’s box.
Lighten the load
When it comes to accessories, a swish picnic bag is essential. Ignore the hefty wicker hampers with leather straps, filled with all sorts of unnecessary clobber. Instead, go for something gorgeous, but practical like the Camouflage Co Duffle Carrier – English Rose(£10.00 and free delivery) from www.quirkybags.co.uk. It’s light, spacious and brilliant for food and other essentials!
Or, for the kids how about the trendy little Munchler Insulated Lunchbox (£9.75 with free delivery) from www.quirkybags.co.uk. They unzip to become a placemat (great for cleaning too!) and then zip back into their animal shapes: dog, rabbit, tiger and panda design.
A hip and trendy blanket can turn a picnic into an event and make yours the envy of the picnic site! Opt for a gorgeous, soft rug with waterproof backing rather than a scratchy, tartan number that soaks up the dew. The Funky Picnic Blanket (£14.95), from www.handpickedcollection.com, is perfectly practical and looks chic swinging from the back of any buggy!
Nothing wrecks al fresco fun like pesky wasps, so take along a fly swat just in case you’re plagued. The Posh Slapper Fly Swat (£9.95) from www.handpickedcollection.com is certainly as stylish as it gets! And, just to be practical, throw in insect repellent, anti-bacterial gel, sunscreen and hats too. Plus, of course, some wet wipes for the inevitable chocolate moustache!
If you are lucky enough to have an extra pair of helping hands to carry stuff, grab a ball, a few light toys, a bottle of bubbles and a Teddy Bear book to share with everyone after lunch. Get your toddlers to choose what they might like to bring, but ask them to carry it!
Toddlers’ Picnic Heaven
Keep it simple!
Traffic lights – Green, orange and red fruit and veg thread onto cocktail sticks make traffic lights! Try cherry tomato, orange pepper and cucumber or strawberries, melon and grapes. Tasty!
Meat feast – Ham cubes, chorizo, cooked chicken pieces. Easy to eat and full of protein!
Old favourites – mini sausages, picnic eggs, olives, bread sticks – kids and grown-ups love them.
Try something new – how about vegetable crisps, such as carrot or parsnip, rather than potato crisps?
Drinks – Running and playing during a picnic can leave toddlers thirsty; try freezing bottles of water or juice boxes the night before so they’re refreshingly cold and just defrosted by lunch time!
Recipe: Pesto Pasta for Picnics
Toss hot cooked penne with green basil pesto. Add a handful of cherry tomatoes cut in half and a buffalo mozzarella torn into bite size pieces. Slice sugar snap peas on the bias (so they’re the same shape as the penne!) and throw these in too. Get the kids to help you prepare it and then serve in pretty bowls! Little ones can use fingers and grown-ups can add some grated parmesan and black pepper. Delicious!
But, picnics aren’t just about the food; it’s about the friends and family you take along too and, of course, the setting. Here are five top London locations to spread your rug!
The Bandstand at the Horniman Museum
100 London Rd, SE23 3PQ
The Horniman Museum’s gardens are beautiful and there’s a gorgeous Summer House should it be raining. Inside the museum is a traditional natural history museum, a brilliant aquarium, a hands-on natural world exhibit and a music room with plenty of instruments to try out! There are often free craft activities for children that are exceptionally well presented.
Beside the koi carp pond at Kyoto Gardens, Holland Park
Holland Park, W8
For a truly Zen picnic Kyoto Gardens is ideal with the trickling sounds of the waterfall and the graceful Japanese plants and flowers nodding in the beautifully maintained flower beds.
93 Guilford Street, WC1N 1DN
This is a unique seven acre playground and park for the children of London. There is literally something for every age from a huge sandpit, paddling pool, adventure play ground plus toddler play frames and pre-schooler activity frames. A really safe play area that’s always full of happy faces.
Free – adults admitted only if accompanied by a child
On top of the world at Primrose Hill
Primrose Hill, NW3 3NA
The superb view over Regent’s Park and the city is well worth the climb to the top of Primrose Hill.
The area has become increasingly popular with the young, trendy and famous, so keep your eyes peeled for celebrity sightings!
The Dry Moat under the medieval bridge at Eltham Palace
Greenwich, SE9 5QE
A stunning royal palace that was originally Henry VIII’s boyhood home, the pretty gardens and lawns are a perfect place to picnic.
Adults £8.30; Children £4.20
But, remember that having a picnic should be fun! Whether it’s at your local park, or somewhere more adventurous, a picnic is simply a great chance for you, your little ones and friends or family to get together to share some food, enjoy yourselves and get out in the fresh air. So, prepare simple but lovely things and it will be a hit! Then, once you’ve fed the brood, lie back on your rug and relax! Just don’t forget Teddy!