What Are You Bringing To The Picnic?

“Everything tastes better outdoors” in a saying that resonates with us Brits. The great British picnic is emblematic of so much we are known for as a nation – our optimism at the first signs of a sunny day and stoic dismissal of signs of grey clouds or impending rain; the make do and mend mentality that has us cobble together something out of nothing and make a celebration from it too; the community spirit and innate generosity has us over-cater every buffet or bake sale; the pride we take in iconic British foods, exemplified by a love of sausage rolls so great that when faced with the rise of plant based eating, high street hero Greggs simply kept calm and carried on, introducing a Vegan Sausage Roll that became an instant classic. Nobody does picnics better than the British.
Catering picnics was once a large part of what we did at Social Pantry, but now that we have shifted our focus to events catering, we’re dishing out our favourite tips and tricks for pulling off the perfect picnic and forecasting the picnic trends for 2022 (even if we can’t so reliably predict the weather!)

Let’s talk sandwiches

Nobody likes a soggy sandwich

Whilst pre-making sandwiches might feel like a time-old picnic tradition and a ritual that simply has to be done, there are a number of advantages to packing your sandwich fillings separately and constructing them fresh at the time of eating.

Many traditional sandwich fillings such as egg mayonnaise, coronation chicken, tuna sweetcorn can be made at least a day in advance and stored in the fridge, helping you to get ahead on picnic prep. However putting the sandwiches together at this point would be a big mistake, resulting in the bread go soggy from absorbing moist fillings, or go stale and dry as a consequence of refrigeration. Other fillings such as deli meats, cheeses and salads will also deteriorate if they’re left to mingle for too long.

Constructing the perfect sandwich is serious business and everyone has their own preference as to whether butter and mayo belong in the same sandwich, which side to spread the pickle, whether lettuce goes on top of underneath the tomato and so on. Best avoid anyone awkwardly picking their sandwich apart to remove an unappreciated bit of cucumber by letting them do it themselves when lunch time rolls around.

Illustration by Bella Foster for NY Mag

Go packaging free 

Individually wrapping sandwiches in cling film uses unnecessary single use plastic, whereas the ingredients needed to make sandwiches at the scene can be transported in their original packaging, or packaging-free in reusable containers.

Keep your bread in the bag it came in (or store in your own cloth bread bag); store sandwich fillings in reusable containers; pack salad ingredients loose along with a lightweight chopping board and small knife with a safety guard, or pre-slice and layer in reusable containers for easy sandwich construction.

Condiments can be decanted into smaller containers if needed, but many jars are easy enough to slip in your picnic hamper anyway, and can double up to adorn other items you might be serving as part of the picnic spread (hello pork pies with chutney!). It’s also easier to prioritise which ingredients should be kept cool beside an ice pack, versus which will benefit from coming up to temperature in the time before lunch. It really is a winning situation all round!

Sandwich filling inspo

Photo credits: Mr Porter

Sons + Daughters is a gourmet sandwich shop in Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross, and is one of the establishments responsible for the sandwich’s culinary renaissance – driving London’s obsession with highly instagrammable, giant, two-hander sandwiches brimming with exciting and unusual fillings – and the recipe for their legendary  Miso Egg Mayo and Truffle Crisp Sandwich is available for you to try yourself at home here. The miso mayo is super easy to make with just 3 ingredients and transforms your classic egg salad into something elevated and exciting – plus it’s a great quick condiment hack to have up your sleeve whenever you need to spruce up a meal. We’re also a big fan of the inclusion of crisps in sandwiches, delivering lip-smacking salty flavours, satisfyingly crunchy textures and heaps of nostalgia in one (except we’re not sure we were eating truffle crisps growing up!). Crisps in sandwiches are once again a thing, and speaking of crisps…

Crisps and dips like you’ve never seen them before

…We’ve always been a nation of crisp lovers, however in recent years, crisp consumption has taken on a distinctly foodie flair, with an explosion of gourmet crisp brands.

Trendy tatos

Torres Truffle Potato Crisps (those featured in Sons + Daughter’s egg mayo sandwich recipe above) have developed something of a cult following. Made in Catalunya, with Spanish potatoes and real black summer truffle, they’re widely considered the apotheosis of crisp perfection. Torres range also includes Caviar flavoured crisps, Iberico Ham flavour, and most recently, Fried Egg flavoured crisps. Uncannily precise and boldly inventive flavours make these a favourite for a reason

However, rivalling for top spot as the trendiest crisp brand around is Superbon Crisps. Like Torres, these crisps are made with Spanish potatoes in the La Chueca district of Madrid and are available in a range of flavours, from the dependable ‘Sel’ (posh ready salted) to the enigmatic Seaweed or Pimento flavours. What really sets Superbon apart is its unmissable packaging. Not only do these crisps taste great, but they also look the part as a fun and flamboyant addition to any picnic spread.

We’re still wild about Walkers

Old-school crisp brands – the kind you’d expect to find in a kid’s lunchbox – certainly have their place too – you might have noticed the trend for chefs incorporating crisps in eye-widening creative restaurant dishes.  We’ll always remember the time Tom Cenci, former head chef at Stoney Street, Borough Market, served a packet of Frazzles along with a ‘Texas crack dip’ – essentially a fancified cheese and onion dip – sending London food lovers into an Internet frenzy.

 

 

Last summer, Fin + Flounder – a top-quality East London fishmonger and seafood shack – served seabass and salmon tartare inside an opened-up bag of Torres crisps.

 

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As well as providing texture and flavour, the crisps also double up as an excellent implement for eating the salmon tartare without cutlery on the go. Genius.

Thinking outside the packet

To recreate these salty snack sensations for yourself, and a guaranteed conversation-starter, we recommend pairing your favourite crisps from your childhood, with something you came to love as an adult. For example, Smiths salt n vinegar flavour Chipsticks with Smoked Cod’s Roe (taramasalata). Quality Chop House sell an excellent one (so do many local fishmongers), or check out this recipe from Ed Smith a.k.a Rocket And Squash.

We love Max Halley’s recipe for Thermos Flask Ceviche, in which you chuck all your ingredients into a Thermos, and leave to marinade in the time it takes between prepping your picnic in the morning and laying out lunch. Whilst Max suggests spooning onto lettuce leaves, then shovelling into your mouth, you can recreate the Fin + Flounder with Pringles, which are the perfect shape and size for balancing a mound of ceviche. We highly recommend Max’s Picnic Book for further inspiration!

Max’s Picnic Book by Max Halley & Ben Benton

Sweet treats

Is there any greater delight than the moment someone whips out a couple of tubs of M&S extremely chocolatey mini rolls, flapjack squares, chocolate cornflake clusters or caramel crispy bites at a picnic? We think not. In terms of supermarket options, these iconic tubs are a top-tier treat – indulgent, nostalgic, perfectly-portioned for grazing throughout a long summer’s afternoon and offered in a format that is easy to share and easy to store. The tubs match the contents in terms of quality so are great for keeping and re-using too.

However, if you want to offer a homemade spin on these crowd-pleasing treats, we have some suggestions of recipes that meet the criteria of being super simple to make, easy to eat with your fingers, great for sharing, travel well and won’t immediately melt at the picnic, and most importantly, are truly delicious and will satisfy a sweet craving when it strikes…

Alexandra Dudley’s Pecan, Chocolate, Oatmeal Cookies

These thick and chewy  little cookies are a favourite with all ages. The chocolate is (mostly!) safely contained in the dough so you won’t end up with melted chocolate everywhere, and the oats make these a satisfying energy-sustaining treat for a long day of fun and games.

Photo credits: Alexandra Dudley

Nicola Lamb’s Apricot + Olive Oil Cake

This luscious olive oil cake comes together quickly and is a great all arounder – perfect as a tea time treat eaten by itself, or served as an elegantly understated pudding with a dollop of crème fraiche, and some berries. It lasts well and holds up to being chucked in a tin and taken to the park or beach, and won’t dry out as the olive oil provides ongoing moisture to the crumb. Ideal for hot days!

Photo credits: Nicola Lamb

Ruby Tandoh’s Rock Cakes Two Ways

Ruby Tandoh’s Apple Spice Rock Cakes and Lemon-glazed Gingerbread Rock Cakes offer an exciting twist on this old-school bake, which many of us first attempted as children in a home economics class or in summer holiday boredom. Rugged in appearance but with a surprisingly soft and tender texture, these buns are a hit with all ages. You can make more than the recipe suggests if you want them to be bite-sized treats, or enjoy them full-size in all their hefty glory!

Photo credits: Jill Mead

Drinks

Avoid purchasing multiple single-use plastic bottles or having to carry heavy water-filled containers to your picnic by downloading the Refill App to explore your nearest water refill options. Refill is a global campaign tackling the monumental issue caused by single-use water bottles by connecting people with places they can get free drink water refills on-the-go, via their app which lists over 30,000 taps!

Photo credits: ReFill

Cool as cordial

Fruit cordial is the quintessential picnic soft drink, and with water refills taken care of, one bottle of cordial can yield over 20 drinks, making it an handy drinks option to bring to the picnic.

Making your own fruit cordial is easier than you think and a brilliant way to preserve seasonal ingredients – better still if they’re ones you foraged locally yourself. “The Modern Preserver: A mindful cookbook packed with seasonal appeal” by Kylee Newton is a fantastic book for learning about all things to do with preservation, and the cordial section includes recipes for flavours such as cucumber and mint, lemon verbena tea, rhubarb and vanilla, and watermelon and rose.

Photo credits: The Modern Preserver

Alternatively, there are a number of companies making seasonally-inspired bottled cordials, such as Yarty – a heritage drinks company offering flavours such as Rhubarb & Ginger or Elderflower and Googsegog (gooseberries) – and Belvoir Farm, who as well as making delicious drinks that retail in major supermarkets, also have impressive sustainability credentials.

The Newt in Somerset also offers nationwide delivery of foraged cordials inspired the orchards and hedgerows of the working estate, such as Orchard Apple Cordial or Hedgerow Rosehip Cordial.

Wine? Cocktails? Most certainly ‘can’ do…

Photo credits: Whitebox Drinks

If you want to shake things up with something alcoholic, Whitebox Drinks is a new canned cocktail company that has perfected classic cocktails such as the Pocket Negroni, made with a blend of Porter’s gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, which has quickly gained cult status. They have even created a limited edition product run of Pocket Negronis for Ukraine with all profits going to the DEC humanitarian appeal in support of Ukraine, so stock up now and make a positive charitable difference too.

Photo credits: Canned Wine Co

Another company shaking up the ready to drinks market, perfect for picnics, is Canned Wine Co. Founders Simon and Lisa were inspired to set up the company after attending a festival and finding that lots of very-average tasting wines were being poured from heavy glass bottles into single use plastic cups, resulting in unnecessary amounts of wastage (both wine and materials). They decided enough was enough and launched the company with the goal of making delicious, high-quality wines accessible to everyone in the most sustainable way possible, by working with brilliant winemakers to deliver their wine in infinitely recyclable, perfectly portioned 250ml cans.

Keeping things cool and feeling fresh…

Ice, ice, baby…

Photo credits: Ice Breaker Pop

Icebreaker Pop is a fun, easy to use, portable ice cube tray where you simply pull the straps to ‘pop’ out an ice cube easily without spillage or difficulty. The 100% water tight, thermo-effective closed container limits melting, even after several hours outside, and the Phtalate and PBA free formula is environmentally friendly and can be reused thousands of times. 

Yeti Thin Ice is a ground-breaking innovation designed to be nearly 50% slimmer than regular ice packs, saving space whilst delivering the same temperature regulating effects.

If you plan to bring a bottle of wine or champagne to the picnic – or expect your guests might – the Vacu Vin Rapid Wine and Champagne Cooler chills bottles in just 5 minutes.

Spray away

Neal’s Yard Remedies Natural Defence hand sanitiser spray is an all-natural formula with a purifying blend of essential oils that kills 99.9% of bacteria for hygienic hands on the go. They also make a Citronella Formula which is a refreshing sun spray that naturally repels instincts whilst also cooling and soothing skin.

When all is said and done…

There is a lot to be said about formulating the perfect picnic, and it can feel as though there’s lots to do too in terms of preparation and organization. However, the beauty of a picnic is that so long as the weather is at least passably sunny, and there is enough food to go around (be it lovingly homemade or a last-minute dash to the corner shop), you really can’t go far wrong.

At Social Pantry, we pride ourselves on delivering exceptional food and drink experiences, but that is our job (!) and we have over a decade of experience to boot. So if stepping onto the common with a picnic you’ve prepared yourself feels like a walk on the wild side, then hat’s off to you! Have a drink, a handful of crisps, and give yourself a pat on the back! We hope this guide provides you with bucket loads of inspiration whilst offering a super simple formula to picnic success, with plenty of convenient, no-prep, no-fuss options too!


For more tips and tricks on hosting the perfect get together, make sure you’re signed up to our newsletter The Gathering and following us on Instagram @social_pantry. To find out more about how Social Pantry could help arrange your next special event, please get in touch!

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