A sea­sonal pic­nic with cake and tarts

Eat­ing out­side is one of life’s great sim­ple plea­sures, but too of­ten proves a faff. Here are two tri­umphant recipes to prove pic­nics needn’t be ru­ined by un­re­li­able weather and squashed, soggy food

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Rosie Bir­kett is a food writer, stylist, and au­thor of A Lot On Her Plate (Hardie Grant). rosiebir­kett.com @rosiefoodie

Eat­ing out­side – pic­nick­ing in its loos­est pos­si­ble form – was a big part of my child­hood in the sum­mer. My sis­ter and I would fill our ruck­sacks with pack­ets of Twiglets, mini Twix bars, fridge leftovers and hur­riedly made sand­wiches (re­mem­ber the dreaded sand­wich spread?), for sus­te­nance on our out­door ad­ven­tures.

Find­ing the right spot – prefer­ably some­where se­cret – was more im­por­tant than the food. When I was about eight years old, we found a par­tic­u­larly mag­i­cal place – a sunken stream sur­rounded by mossy banks and trees. We chris­tened it The Grotto and re­turned to again and again. It was im­por­tant to have some­thing to eat once we got there, even if it was just a squashed peach or a sher­bet foun­tain.

And that’s the thing about pic­nics. They’re a bril­liant way to celebrate the sum­mer, and the joy of be­ing some­where out­side. To eat al fresco forces you to sit and savour. Not just your food, but your sur­round­ings.

As Brits, the de­sire to eat out­side as soon as the sun shines is hard-wired into our col­lec­tive con­scious­ness. Once we’ve slipped out of our jack­ets and eaten lunch on the grass, we’ve ticked the box on the first sign of sum­mer.

Much as I love a pic­nic, how­ever, I think they can of­ten be a dis­ap­point­ing faff. There’s noth­ing like Tup­per­ware and clammy weather to com­pro­mise food’s ap­peal. You have to be a lit­tle bit smart about what you make for a pic­nic – you don’t want to go to lengths to make beau­ti­ful food that’s go­ing to get messed up en route to the rug.

We in Bri­tain also know that the weather can’t be re­lied on; as . If it does start to rain, you want some­thing easily por­ta­ble that you can bun­dle un­der the near­est tree or smug­gle into a pub. Sim­ple is best – leftover roast chicken works well with a creamy cele­riac re­moulade or herby potato salad. Baked goods can be easily trans­ported, and do well at room tem­per­a­ture. Lit­tle tarts are per­fect pic­nic fod­der, and can be easily made ahead.

The cheese, hazel­nut and broc­coli tarts be­low are a cel­e­bra­tion of one of my favourite Bri­tish cheeses, the creamy and gen­tly sharp sheep’s milk cheese, Wig­more. Its high qual­ity means it’s not some­thing I can af­ford to buy a lot of, so these tarts make good use of a small amount. If you can’t get hold of Wig­more, use a mix of good farm­house brie and pecorino.

For some­thing sweet, I’ve put sea­sonal stone fruit to work in the cake be­low, which is a recipe I adapt ac­cord­ing to the sea­son. For sum­mer, I make it with per­fectly ripe cher­ries and flat peaches. I love how fra­grant basil com­pli­ments the sweet­ness of the stone fruit. I can’t think of a bet­ter way to celebrate the sum­mer out­doors.

Flat peach, cherry and basil cake

What’s bril­liant about this is how it re­lies on ripe, juicy fruit to keep it moist, but has a won­der­ful crunch from the flaked al­monds. You will need one 24cm-di­am­e­ter, loose-bot­tomed cake tin.

Makes 1 cake

To eat out­side forces you to sit and savour. Not just your food, but your sur­round­ings

Un­salted but­ter, for greas­ing 6 basil leaves 4 ripe flat peaches, halved and stoned 300g cher­ries, halved and stoned 30g flaked al­monds 100g plain flour 200g ground al­monds 2 tsp bak­ing pow­der A pinch of salt 4 eggs 100g golden caster sugar 100ml whole milk 1 tbsp ex­tra vir­gin olive oil 1 tsp vanilla essence

1 Pre­heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Thor­oughly but­ter your tin and place the basil on the bot­tom of the tin. Cover with the peach halves and cher­ries and scat­ter with the al­monds.

2 Com­bine the flour, ground al­monds, bak­ing pow­der and salt in a bowl. In another bowl whisk the eggs with the caster sugar un­til pale and fluffy. Add the milk, olive oil and vanilla

essence and whisk again, then fold in the flour and al­mond mix, keep­ing as much air in as pos­si­ble.

3 Pour the mix­ture on top of the fruit in the cake tin, let it set­tle for a minute and then bake for 35-40 min­utes, un­til the bat­ter is golden and the fruit squishy. Re­move and run a pal­ette knife around the edge to loosen the pud­ding. Leave to stand a few min­utes, then put a wire rack on top of the tin and flip it, re­mov­ing the tin to let it cool on the rack.

Wig­more, hazel­nut and broc­coli tarts Makes 6 For the pas­try

225g plain flour A pinch of salt 145g un­salted but­ter, chilled and cubed 3-4 tbsp ice-cold wa­ter 3 eggs, beaten 80ml dou­ble cream 80ml nat­u­ral yo­ghurt 30ml whole milk A good grat­ing of nut­meg 150g broc­coli 200g Wig­more cheese A hand­ful of toasted hazel­nuts

1 Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the but­ter and rub into the flour, leav­ing some sub­stan­tial flakes.

2 Make a well in the flour and add 2 tbsp cold wa­ter. Mix to a rough dough. Add ex­tra wa­ter if needed but don’t make it wet. Cover the bowl with cling­film and re­frig­er­ate for 20 mins.

3 Lightly flour a sur­face and turn out the dough, gen­tly knead­ing un­til smooth. Form a rec­tan­gle and roll the dough in one di­rec­tion, un­til about three times the width, cre­at­ing a mar­bled ef­fect with the but­ter streaks. Try and keep edges as even as you can.

4 Fold the top third down to the cen­tre, then the bot­tom third up over that. Turn the dough 90 de­grees, and roll out again to three times the length. Fold as be­fore, cover with cling­film and chill for at least half an hour.

5 Pre­heat the oven to 140C/275F/gas mark 1 and lightly grease six 10cm loose-bot­tomed tart tins. Re­move the pas­try from the fridge, roll it out on a lightly floured sur­face to 3mm and line each tin with it. Prick with a fork, cover the shells with pieces of bak­ing parch­ment and fill with bak­ing beans. Blind bake for 45 min­utes, un­til the pas­try is turn­ing golden. Re­move from the oven, re­move the beans and parch­ment, paint with 1 beaten egg and bake for a fur­ther 10 min­utes. Re­move from the oven. Leave to cool while you make the fill­ing. Turn the oven up to 160C/325F/gas mark 3.

6 Lightly whisk the eggs to­gether in a bowl and add the cream, yo­ghurt, milk, nut­meg, a pinch of salt and a grind of black pep­per. Cut the broc­coli into flo­rets, re­serv­ing the stem and trim­ming off the tough outer edges. Slice up the stem too.

7 Fill the tart cases with the broc­coli, cheese and hazel­nuts and pour over the cream mix, adding a few ex­tra cheese slices on top. Tuck these in around the broc­coli, leav­ing some of the cheese ex­posed. Bake in the oven for 25-30 min­utes, un­til set. Re­move from the oven and leave to cool and set­tle for at least an hour be­fore eat­ing.

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