Savouries in the sun

With the hope of a flaming June, how about some €˜al fresco™ dishes? Peter Walters, Keele University’s Executive Chef, creates the perfect picnic

Barbecues are fine but let’s not rule out a picnic. It can be as simple as a humble sandwich and scotch egg with a pork pie or quiche, but why not do it in style with a few luxury items?

Someone asked me the other day, “What’s the best picnic you’ve ever had?” Well, it was a balmy evening at Tatton Park in Cheshire, James Taylor was playing his entire back catalogue as the sun went down and we ate smoked salmon, smoked chicken and other delicatessen fayre. We chomped on all kinds of savouries, polished off with a few bottles of fizz.

So, with the hope of a flaming June how about some ‘al fresco’ dishes to savour in the sun?

Sausage and Caraway Pies     
For 6 persons

  • 500g sausages, such as Lincolnshire or Cumberland
  • 130g packet cubed pancetta
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 375g packet ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 1 egg yolk
  1. Skin the sausages or squeeze them into a bowl, throwing away the skins. Add the pancetta,
    sun-dried tomatoes, caraway seeds, pepper and mustard then mix together well – there should be enough salt in the sausages and pancetta so you shouldn’t need to add any.
  2. Open out the pastry and cut into 6 even-sized rectangles. Divide the sausage mixture between the pastry then fold over each rectangle to enclose the filling. Using your fingers, press firmly around the edges to seal and crimp them. Mix together the egg yolk and a pinch of salt then brush over the parcels. Transfer to a baking sheet and, if you have time, chill for half an hour or so to rest and aid the rising process.
  3. Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes until golden and risen. Cool a little and serve warm, or cool completely, wrap in waxed paper, and pack into your picnic basket.

Vegetable, Rice and Feta Tart 
For 6 persons

  • 300g spinach, washed
  • 3 eggs
  • 300g courgettes, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 100g arborio rice
  • 100g feta, crumbled

For the pastry

  • 300g plain flour, plus extra to dust
  • 1 tsp olive oil, plus extra to grease
  1. Put the flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl then stir in 150ml cold water and the oil to make a smooth dough. Cover with a damp cloth and rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place the spinach in a large saucepan over a gentle heat with the water. Cook for a few minutes until wilted. Tip into a colander, cool, then squeeze out any excess liquid and chop roughly.
  2. Beat 2 eggs in a large bowl. Add the courgettes, onion, rice, feta and spinach. Season and mix well. Heat the oven to 180°C. Cut the pastry in half and roll each half out on a floured surface to a thickness of about 5mm. Use one piece to line an oiled, 20cm x 30cm shallow Swiss roll tin. Spoon in the filling and spread evenly. Cover with the remaining pastry, trim the edges and press together to seal.
  3. Beat the remaining egg and brush over the pastry. Bake for 40 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the filling is piping hot. Cool in the tin slightly then transfer to a chopping board. Cut into 6 or 12 squares and pack into an airtight container lined with baking paper.


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