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Recipes: Posh picnic on a budget

Cuts cost and buy Cava instead of Champagne

Cut costs and buy Cava instead of Champagne

I experienced an extremely pleasant picnic recently. This wasn’t a ‘hang’ sandwich affair but a proper picnic on a river bank with lots of lovely food and company. It got me thinking about interesting picnic ideas and the best way to serve them up.

A good picnic should be on the fancy side and include a variety of cheeses, meats, olives, breads, antipasti and other nibbles. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You can marinade the olives yourself, buy pre-baked bread and serve warm and pick up a range of meats and cheeses from Aldi or Lidl.

We had a delicious homemade quiche at the picnic and having a specially prepared savory tart is a practical solution and more upscale that the humble sandwich.

A luxurious chilled dessert will go down well too – just leave it in the fridge until the last minute and pop it in a freezer bag or box.

I came across these recipes in the style section of The Sunday Times recently and they can be put together without breaking the bank. Don’t forget to bring a flask for the all important coffee at the end.

Lemon and fennel marinated olives by chef Ravinder Bhogal

Serves six as part of an antipasti


  • 500g pitted green olives
  • 75ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 60ml lemon juice
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely shaved, fronds finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp roasted fennel seeds
  • 1 large unwaxed lemon, chopped into 1cm chunks
  • 2 large red chili’s, pierced with a fork
  • 4 garlic cloves, bruised


Smash the olives with the underside of a heavy pan. This allows the flavours to really seep into the flesh. In a bowl mix together all the other ingredients. Toss well and leave to refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to four weeks.

Prosiutto, ricotta and artichoke tart with pine nuts

Serves six


  • 500g all-butter, shortcrust pastry
  • 1 knob of butter
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 5 eggs, plus one extra yolk
  • 500g ricotta
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped tarragon
  • 125g prosiutto ham, torn
  • 400g marinated artichoke hearts in olive oil, drained
  • 1 large handful of pine nuts


  1. Roll out the pastry to 5mm thick and gently press into a 24cm tart tin. The edges should stand slightly higher than the sides of the tin to prevent it from shrinking too much when baked. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat the oven to 180C. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork, line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans or lentils to stop the pastry from puffing up. Bake for 15 minutes and set aside to cool.
  3. Heat the butter in a pan and saute the onions and garlic until soft and golden.
  4. Meanwhile whisk the lemon zest, eggs and extra egg yolk in a large bowl until light and airy.
  5. Carefully fold in the ricotta and season well. Stir in the onions, garlic and tarragon. Lay the ham and artichoke hearts over the base of the tart. Pour the ricotta mixture and scatter the pine nuts on top. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until set and golden on top.

Strawberry, basil and lemon-curd trifle by Lucas Hollweg

Serves eight


  • 150g sugar
  • 150ml red wine
  • 500g strawberries
  • 4 heaped tbsp shredded basil leaves, plus a few small leaves for decoration
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 300g mascarpone
  • 1 tsp natural vanilla extract
  • 450ml double cream
  • 8 slices maderia cake, cut about 1cm thick
  • 2 tbsp lemon curd


  1. In a large bowl mix 50g of the sugar with the wine and stir until the sugar has desolved. Set aside a handful of strawberries for decoration. Roughly chop half the rest and squash with a fork. Finely slice the rest and add both lots to the wine mixture, together with the shredded basil. Leave to stand for about 30 minutes for the flavours to mingle.
  2. Whisk together the remaining 100g sugar with the egg yolks and mascarpone so you end up with a smooth custard, then quickly beat in the vanilla and 50ml of double cream.
  3. Sandwich the slices of cake together in pairs using the lemon curd and cut each sandwich into cubes. Pour the sweet wine juices from the strawberries into a bowl, and dip bits of the cake in on all sides so they turn pale red.
  4. You can either assemble the pudding in eight glasses or in one large trifle bowl. Put one tbsp of the mixture in the bottom of the eight glasses and keep the rest to one side or put one layer of custard in the trifle bowl.
  5. Place the cakes on top of the first layer of custard. Sprinkle with the remaining juices and leave to soak, pressing down gently with your fingers.
  6. Cover the cakes with half the soaked strawberry mixture, then with mascarpone custard, then another layer of strawberries, basil and any leftover juices. Lightly whip the remaining cream and place on top.
  7. Slice the strawberries and arrange them on top and scatter a couple of basil leaves. Put in the fridge for a couple of hours.


  1. They all sound delicious. One thing though, if you want champagne taste but not the price, dont buy cava, go for prosecco. Its dry like champagne but not as sickly sweet as cava can be.

  2. I forgot about Prosecco, the Italian equivalent. You can pick up some decent enough stuff in Lidl too. I haven’t experienced a sickly sweet Cava, I rather like the stuff and I don’t have a sweet tooth. Either way it’s nice to bring a bottle of either one along just for a sip – bung a few strawberries in – bliss.