PIMP YOUR PIC­NIC

Le­sego Se­menya, AKA Les Da Chef, dishes out the se­crets to the per­fect hol­i­day pic­nic

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W ith all the wet weather we’ve been hav­ing th­ese days, after months and months of drought, ev­ery­thing looks fresh and green again. The lovely thing about Joburg is that the heat doesn’t get too un­bear­able, mak­ing it ideal for pic­nics and out­door din­ing. I’m a huge fan of out­door cook­ing and out­door cui­sine. For some rea­son, peo­ple seem to get flus­tered when it’s time to pack food for a pic­nic. (To my brother: grab­bing pack­ets of crisps, dips and juices does not a pic­nic make!) So I’ve de­cided to put to­gether a quick guide to an awe­some pic­nic.

1 Check the weather and the lo­ca­tion

As ob­vi­ous as this sounds, you’d be sur­prised at how few peo­ple check the weather re­port or lo­ca­tion be­fore the pic­nic. Some parks don’t al­low you to bring glass bot­tles on to the site. Other places don’t al­low al­co­hol or cooler boxes. An­other key thing to check is whether the park or area you’ll be hav­ing your pic­nic at al­lows you to braai. Some­times there are small, per­sonal braai stands avail­able. They’re tiny, but use­ful enough for two peo­ple. What’s even cooler about them is that you can braai sit­ting down. Even if you don’t grill any meat, hav­ing a braai al­lows you to warm your food on an open flame. You can even add a unique touch, such as melt­ing marsh­mal­lows at the end of your meal, which you can en­joy with a yummy choco­late dip.

2 What starch?

The old-school, soggy let­tuce-and-ham sand­wich is a no-no. Rather pack ro­tis, crepes, fo­cac­cia, taco shells or even pita bread. The key with th­ese is that you’ll need to pack some dips, spreads and other cool fill­ings. Pack some cold meats, hum­mus, cur­ried mince, liver spreads and cheeses sep­a­rately. This en­sures your starches stay crisp and it also gives you the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to show off your culi­nary skills by mix­ing and match­ing var­i­ous in­gre­di­ents.

3 Don’t for­get the veg

One thing that is of­ten ne­glected on pic­nics is the veg­gies. If you de­cide to pack a small braai, like I rec­om­mended above, then boil some sweet­corn at home, rub it down with but­ter and sprin­kle it with some pa­prika and herbs, and pack it along for the ride. Once your braai is hot, heat the sweet corn. Sim­ple. An­other more old-school idea is sim­ply pack­ing baby veg­gies. The nice thing with baby vegeta­bles is that you don’t have to cook them, just pack an awe­some dip (or make your own sauce, like sweet chilli or wasabi may­on­naise). As­para­gus wrapped in salmon is an­other win­ner, as are ar­ti­chokes driz­zled with honey, bal­samic vine­gar and peri-peri grilled on the braai. Gua­camole loaded with sweet­corn, red onions and sweet pep­pers is also a lovely and sim­ple ad­di­tion to any pic­nic. 4 Make it easy Though you want to cre­ate mem­o­ries and show off a bit, it doesn’t mean you have to be fancy. Skew­ers, bread sticks and cold pas­tries are per­fect for pic­nics. Wrap moz­zarella balls in some baby spinach and cooked ba­con and push on to skew­ers. You can have them cold or heated on the braai. Mini quiches are also a clas­sic ad­di­tion – be a bit dif­fer­ent by ad­ding dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents, such as bil­tong, pep­padews and chopped chilli.

5 Pro­teins

It’s all about easy eat­ing and food that is fuss-free. Chicken wings, sushi, smoked salmon, mar­i­nated sticky prawns, chunky bil­tong, chicken liv­ers... Re­mem­ber all the starches I men­tioned be­fore? This is where they come in handy. You can have the pita bread filled with liv­ers, or crepes with prawns, or salmon on your fo­cac­cia.

6 Dessert? Yes, please

This is the fun part. Grab some large Amer­i­can-style choc-chip cook­ies, a pack of marsh­mal­lows and some choco­late. You’ll need your braai for this part. If you don’t want to take one along, in­vest in a blow­torch. You’ll use the blow­torch to melt the marsh­mal­lows and choco­late. Spread the soft and gooey melted good­ness on to each cookie. You can also melt the choco­late in a metal cup or foil con­tainer on the braai. Make your­self some fruit skew­ers and dip them into the choco­late sauce. Clas­sics like le­mon-poppy loaf and ba­nana bread are also per­fect for pic­nics. Pack a can of whipped cream and some fresh cher­ries or berries, and you’re set.

7 Sal­ads?

Bulky sal­ads are out of fash­ion. Join the world of fash­ion­able hipsters and pack sal­ads into jam jars. A chick­pea, cous­cous and feta salad with rocket and basil leaves driz­zled with olive oil and sea salt works per­fectly in jam jars. Sun-dried to­mato, basil pesto and moz­zarella are an­other combo. Why jam jars? They are eas­ier to carry and when you’ve had enough salad you can sim­ply close the jar and save it for din­ner at home.

Se­menya is a chef and en­tre­pre­neur. Check out more recipes on his blog at les­dachef.word­press.com.

For his pro­fes­sional ser­vices visit les­dachef.com

PHOTO: ISTOCK

AL FRESCO The sum­mer weather is per­fect for out­side din­ing

PHOTO: LE­SEGO SE­MENYA

NEW-SCHOOL SALAD Bulky sal­ads are out of fash­ion. The new ‘in’ in­volves jars and in­ter­est­ing in­gre­di­ents

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