When the days are long and the sun is shining, eating outdoors just feels like the right thing to do. If you're looking to take your picnics beyond the usual sandwiches and pasta salads, British food writer Annie Bell has over 100 recipes for simple yet elegant dishes that are made for eating outside, plus tons of helpful tips for packing a better picnic.
• Who wrote it: Annie Bell
• Who published it: Kyle Books
• Number of recipes: Around 100
• Recipes for right now: Cherry Tomato and Parmesan Galettes, Charbroiled Broccoli and Sesame Salad, Gorgeously Buttery Very French Chicken, Eggplant Veggie Roast with Goat Cheese and Tomatoes, Sun-Baked Bananas, Black Forest Fridge Cake, Tiramisu in a Jar
• Other highlights: Annie Bell obviously loves picnics and her enthusiasm for fine meals eaten outdoors with friends and family is infectious. Her recipes are classic and approachable, but go beyond the usual picnic slaws and potato salads, creating meals that take advantage of the romance of eating outside while also working within its limitations.
For those who are feeling a little more ambitious, she has a whole chapter devoted to serving a not-quite-traditional British Sunday roast picnic, with tips for wrapping the food so it stays hot on the trip from kitchen to outdoor blanket. And if you want to keep the picnics going throughout the year, you'll want to check out the chapter "Hot Food on Location," which starts with a recipe for Real Oatmeal with Whiskey (yes, please).
In addition to her straightforward, slightly glamorous recipes, I like Bell's writing style, which is informative but also witty and fun. Here is what she has to say about packing cheese for a picnic:
Wearing my practical hat, then, I should advise you to stick to hard cheeses: a mature Gouda, cheddar, or Cantal (its French counterpart); and hard sheep or goat cheeses, such as Spanish Manchego, but this is to forgo the delight of living dangerously and unwrapping a badly behaved Époisses, a cheese that is probably best eaten outdoors.
It's enough to make me want to pack a hamper of badly behaved Époisses and picnic dangerously this summer.
• Who would enjoy this book? Cooks who enjoy the romance of eating outdoors and are looking for a little inspiration.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: The Picnic Cookbook by Annie Bell
• Visit the author's website: Annie Bell
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(Images: Anjali Prasertong)