We packed basket and blanket for a picnic in the park and your alfresco menus didn't disappoint
I'm a bit of a picnic fanatic - I find even a bag of crisps tastes better in the sun, but opening a packet of cheese and onion has nothing on the thrill of unpacking a basket of homemade joy. And though everything may taste better outdoors, some things travel better than others, so my main criterion this week was portability.
Cheesy cornbread scored high, as did a surprisingly robust nectarine and feta salad and some plucky Chilean empanadas - and I loved Rachel Kelly's rather elegant take on the humble sandwich (to say nothing of her drunken melon).
But it was a spicy Indian riff on the scotch egg that proved most popular on the rug - served with a cooling yoghurty raita, and an ice-cold beer, it's even better than crisps, I promise.
The winning recipe: Quail's egg bhajis
A quail's egg enveloped by curried onion batter, then breadcrumbed and deep-fried makes this more of a bhaji-Scotch egg hybrid. Picnic perfection.
Tim de Ferrars, France
6 quail's eggs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 handfuls of breadcrumbs, seasoned with salt and black pepper
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
Ice cubes, for chilling
For the batter
3 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced
4 tbsp gram (chickpea) flour
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp tandoori masala
2 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp asafoetida (optional)
Chilli powder, to taste
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp baking powder
Salt, to taste
1 Mix the batter ingredients and stand for 30 mins. Add a little cold water, if needed, to make a stiff batter.
2 Lower the eggs into boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and plunge them into a bowl of iced water. When cool, peel the eggs and chill for around 20 minutes.
3 Heat the oil in a wok or deep fryer to 175C/350F. Cook a spoonful of batter and taste for spicing and seasoning (mine always needs more salt).
4 Wet your hands and take about 1 tbsp batter, squash it flat and wrap it around an egg. When they're all done, dip them one by one in beaten egg, then breadcrumbs, then egg, then breadcrumbs again.
5 Lower the eggs carefully into the hot oil and deep fry until they are a deep golden colour, then chill in the fridge until you're ready for your picnic.
A doddle to make and share, this is the perfect accompaniment to soups and stews and easy to take on the road when wrapped in a kitchen cloth.
everydayvegUK, theeveryday vegetarianuk.wordpress.com, via GuardianWitness
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 chillies, thinly sliced
200g coarse cornmeal (polenta)
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking power
100ml whole milk
100g manchego cheese, or similar, grated
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and grease a shallow cake tin of about 20cm diameter.
2 Melt the butter in a pan and lightly fry the shallots. After about 10 minutes, add the thinly sliced chillies and cook for another couple of minutes.
3 Combine the cornmeal, flour and baking power in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs with the milk before slowly stirring in to the flour mix. Add the cooked shallot mix and sweetcorn, then make sure everything is combined well.
4 Transfer to the tin and bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese on top and cook for a further 10-15 minutes.
Smoked fish, herb butter and egg sandwiches
I love reading cookery writers from the 1920s and 30s, particularly because it gives you such an insight into an era in which household cooks were becoming more rare, even for the affluent. Lady Jekyll's "Luncheon for a Motor Excursion" from Kitchen Essays is a case in point; she paints a wonderful portrait of a picnic furnished with "the luncheon-basket from among the wedding presents of a richer age", and that essential thermos of mulled claret. This is my version of her stuffed rolls with salmon and egg.
MarmadukeScarlet via GuardianWitness
Makes 2 sandwiches
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp chives, chopped
1-2 tsp capers, chopped
4 slices of good-quality bread
125g hot smoked salmon or other hot smoked fish
2 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
1 Combine the butter with the chopped herbs, capers and a good grind of black pepper, then generously spread on the bread.
2 Flake the fish over 2 slices of bread and scatter with chopped egg. Top with the remaining buttered bread and cut into halves or quarters.
Empanadas are to South American culture what beers are to Europe: every country considers theirs the best and only version, and most definitely the original one. Chileans traditionally serve them on Independence Day - 18 September - but in my mind any day can be an empanada day. They are firmer and less flaky than Cornish pasties and don't break, making them the perfect picnic food. Enjoy with friends, family and - most importantly - a glass of Chilean red. You deserve it.
Ginger and Bread, gingerandbread.com, via GuardianWitness
Makes about 20
2 eggs, plus 1 beaten to glaze
1kg plain flour
½ glass of white wine
For the filling
A splash of oil, to cook
4 onions, very finely diced
750g beef topside or flank, cut into very small pieces (5mm or less)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
3 eggs, hardboiled, peeled and sliced
40 raisins, soaked in lukewarm water
20 black olives, washed and drained
1 First, make the filling. Heat a little oil in a wide casserole dish and cook the onions, covered, until soft and golden.
2 Meanwhile, heat more oil in a large frying pan and fry the meat until lightly browned. Add it to the onions along with the spices and leave to cool.
3 For the dough: melt the lard with 100ml water in a small pan and leave to cool slightly. Then, on a clean work surface, mix the eggs and the rest of the dough ingredients with the lard mixture. Add more water if necessary, and keep kneading until you have a firm dough that hardly tears when stretched. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
4 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Split the dough into 20 small balls. Flatten each ball to create a circle of roughly 20cm diameter. Cover one half with a portion of the meat, a slice of egg, 2 raisins and an olive, being careful not to overfill. Brush a little beaten egg around the edge and fold over, pressing the edges to seal. Brush the top with a little more of the beaten egg. Put on a lined baking tray. Repeat.
4 Bake on the bottom shelf for 20 minutes or until golden.
Nectarine and feta salad
The sweetness of the summer stone fruit is offset by the saltiness of the cheese and olives. When topped with fresh mint, this makes a salad as heavenly as such simple pleasures come. It's also easy to assemble on your picnic rug.
tynegal via GuardianWitness
Serves 4 as a side
3 firm nectarines
100g feta cheese, cubed
2 tbsp black olives, stoned
A handful of fresh mint leaves
2 tbsp sharp vinaigrette
1 Cut the nectarines into pieces while the skin is still on, then lay them into a plastic tub along with the feta and olives.
2 Tear the mint leaves into small pieces and sprinkle them over the rest of the ingredients, followed by the vinaigrette.
3 When you get to the place where you're having your picnic, gently toss the salad together to combine all the flavours.
In my misspent student youth, we would buy a large watermelon and "fill" it with vodka. Frankly, it can be a bit time-consuming and a faff when it comes to cutting it up. This version is much easier and you can use a variety of different melons. If you were feeling particularly fancy, you could scoop out melon balls or cut the melons into slices and then use a cookie cutter to cut out pretty shapes.
Rachel Kelly, London, marmadukescarlet.blogspot.com
Serves a crowd
240ml fresh pineapple juice
240ml fruit vodka
100ml triple sec (optional)
A splash of kirsch (optional)
1 small ripe watermelon
1 ripe cantaloupe melon
1 ripe honeydew or galia melon
1 Combine the pineapple juice with the vodka, triple sec and kirsch (if you're using it).
2 Cut the fruit into chunks or pretty shapes. Discard any seeds. Place the melon in a plastic container.
3 Pour the vodka cocktail over the melon pieces and set aside in the fridge for several hours to allow the fruit to absorb the liquid. It is also nice to freeze the cocktail-infused fruit before taking to the picnic, particularly if it is a really hot day. It doesn't matter if they defrost, but it is nice if they are served very cold.
These quail's egg bhajis are enveloped by curried onion batter, then breadcrumbed and deep-fried. Photography: Kim Lightbody for the Guardian.