FLAVOUR OF THE FOB'I'NIGH'I'
This is a traditional summer drink which may soon have to change its name if the French Champagne Growers’ Association win their action in the london courts.
5 fresh heads of elderflower 1 lb sugar
a gallon of water
Dissolve the sugar in the water - over a low heat will speed it up. lioughly pull the flower heads away from the stems and add these to the syrup, now off the heat. Add the luice of both lemons and then quarter or slice the skins and add these as well. leave for 24 hours. Strain - don’t worry about the odd elderllower escaping, it adds charm - chill and serve, diluted or not, to taste.
Elderflower champagne is perfect for taking on picnics as, being unalcoholic, even the driver can enjoy it without holding back.
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Provoked by a new book on picnics, Catherine Fellows packs an alternative Scottish basket.
Lucky Mary and Debbie Smith spent the whole of last summer lugging hampers behind husband and father Godfrey. He was writing a book on the ‘English season’ at the time. and whether it was on the lawns at Glyndeboume. the boater-strewn river banks at Henley or in among the Range Rovers in the carparks at Ascot and Twickenham. they did him proud. As champagne corks were popping all around them. they not only produced everything from folding chairs and tablecloth clips to toothpicks. moist wipes and a ﬁrst aid kit. they offered home-made game tenine with vine leaves. crab tartlets with calvados. ramekins stuffed with egg. cream and black roe. beef in ﬁlo pastry. new potatoes and sumptuous salads. not to mention syllabub. hazelnut biscuits and strawberries dipped in chocolate. in fact. as they peered pityingly into neighbouring coolbags at standard assortments focused on M&S lobster salad. they decided it was only right to share their gift. Hence ‘Perfect Picnics‘. just published by Pavilion. a set of ten suitably stylish menus. and the ultimate practical guide to outdoor feasting. which is. after all. ‘such a quintessentially English thing'.
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Scotland also produces perfect picnic food, not least of which are smoked salmon,
game ple, the wonderful
farmhouse cheeses, oatcakes, and soft fruit.
Well. their version may be. but what about thermoses of coffee and fruit cake on the slopes of Ben More? or barbecues on the beaches around North Berwick? We may need to pack blankets and midge repellent in our picnic baskets in Scotland, and assemble them with lightning speed because we don‘t want to miss a moment’s sunshine. but we are a stone's throw from picnic spots so sublime as to make the Smiths‘ venues seem as inviting as the M25.
Scotland also produces perfect picnic food. not least of which are smoked salmon. game pie. the wonderful farmhouse cheeses. oatcakes. and soft fruit. And the Smiths would be hard pushed to turn their noses up at some of the ready made wonders that Delicatessens like Valvona and Croiia
in Edinburgh. or Peckhams in Glasgow have to offer. At Peckhams you can ﬁnd everything from whole chicken and ham pies and individual ﬁlled ﬁlo pastries and quiches to guacamole and chilli dips for salad bits and cn'sps. chocolate cakes. Greek honey and nut pastries and root and ginger beer.
But the Smiths are right. there is something special — and much appreciated — about the odd home- made picnic dish. and they do have some good ideas. in Scotland. a thermos of hot soup is one. though i would prefer mulligatawny or tomato to their creamy parmentier which could seem insipid out of doors. Chicken quarters (much better than the drumsticks they suggest. which tend to be stringy) marinated in tangy barbecue sauce (corn oil. brown sugar. tomato puree. tabasco. soy sauce. lemon juice) and grilled are delicious ﬁnger food. as are sausages baked in runny honey and mixed fresh herbs.
In my opinion. picnic food is best ﬁnger or fork friendly (knives need chairs need tables need the kitchen sink). with distinctive ﬂavours. good colours and textures, and a good variety of things to nibble at. it is much better and less hassle to have whole washed crisp little gem lettuces. new carrots
with their stalks on for holding. sticks of celery. a bunch of spring onions and a punnet of cherry tomatoes with separate pots of dressing or dips. than to produce some elaborate soggy assemblage. if you do want a dressed salad. there are some good recipes in this book using ﬁrmer ingredients. for example. broad beans with radishcs.
At Peckhams you can find everything from whole chicken and ham pies and individual filled filo pastries and quiches to guacamole and chilli dips for salad hits and crisps.
watercress. crispy bacon and pine nuts or green. kidney and haricot beans with celery. onion. sweetcom. capers, fresh parsley and tarragon dressed with olive oil. yoghurt, garlic. mustard and lemon juice. These can be scooped up with bread ifyou think even forks spoil the fun.
I can’t imagine wanting to grapple with the sloppy caramelised oranges or rhubarb fool the Smiths suggest. let alone trying to keep strawberry ice
78 The List 2—15 July i993