PIMP YOUR PICNIC
Lesego Semenya, AKA Les Da Chef, dishes out the secrets to the perfect holiday picnic
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.
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.
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
AL FRESCO The summer weather is perfect for outside dining
NEW-SCHOOL SALAD Bulky salads are out of fashion. The new ‘in’ involves jars and interesting ingredients