by Marie Patane
I remember going on a lot of picnics when I was a kid. Almost every weekend Mum and Dad would pack us into the back of Dad’s big red Ford Bronco (with the picnic basket which was actually a plastic washing basket) and they would drive us to any number of locations around the small town where I grew up. Locations including but not limited to: Groper Creek, a series of murky waterways with a couple of mud flats surrounded by fish skeletons hanging from the trees; Inkerman Hill, a slightly raised embankment with nothing to see once you got to the top; the local beach, where we weren’t allowed to swim because we might die from a box jellyfish sting or a crocodile bite; and the side of the road, which was literally just anywhere Dad pulled over. The point is that it didn’t really matter about the location of our family picnics, we loved them because of what that washing basket contained … Picnic food! And it was hard to resist tucking into it before we’d reached our destination.
Here on the Central Coast we’re spoilt for locations – even your back yard is a good place to start!
Mum used to pack plastic forks and knives and paper plates for our outings but I prefer a picnic where you don’t need cutlery. I love being able to put all of the food out onto the rug so everyone can use their hands and just dig in with fingers. This kind of food is great for kids too because they can grab a bite and eat while they explore.
So what are you waiting for? Pull that picnic basket down from the cupboard in the garage, pack it with some easy and delicious finger food and head into the great outdoors for a picnic.
Oh, and if you don’t own a picnic basket … a washing basket will do.
Honey Mustard Chicken Legs
12 chicken legs.
6 cloves garlic, crushed
6 tbsp honey
2 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup fresh orange juice
Grated rind of an orange
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
A handful of fresh kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
Combine all marinade ingredients, pour over chicken and leave in the fridge overnight. Grill chicken on barbecue or bake in oven until cooked, basting with marinade as you go.
Bacon and Spinach Slice
This should have the consistency of a light bread.
1 cup self raising flour
1 cup chopped baby spinach leaves
½ cup chopped leek
1 cup grated tasty cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
Beat eggs in a big bowl and add all other ingredients. Mix well. Pour into a greased lamington tin and bake until springy to touch – about 25-30 minutes. Once it’s cooled, slice and enjoy!
Tuna and Pea Cakes
You can use tuna or salmon – canned is fine but fresh is even better!
4 large white potatoes, peeled and diced
¼ cup milk
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 cup peas
About 400g cooked tuna or salmon
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup cheddar cheese, grated
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup plain flour
1 cup cornflakes, crushed
1 cup breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil for frying
Boil the potatoes until soft. Drain, mash and add the milk (you’re kind of making mashed potato here). Set aside until cool.
To the potato mixture add the shallot, peas, tuna or salmon, egg, cheese and parsley. Mix really well.
Pick up a spoonful of mixture and shape into a patty. Place onto a tray lined with baking paper. Repeat with remaining mix. Refrigerate the patties overnight, or for at least a few hours.
Fill three shallow bowls with flour, beaten eggs and cornflake and breadcrumb coating respectively. Dip each patty in the flour, then the egg and then finally coat in the crumbs.
Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat and shallow fry the patties, in small batches, until golden and crispy on both sides. Drain patties on absorbent paper and serve warm or cooled.
Mac ‘n’ Cheese Muffins
Makes 12 big muffins or 24 small muffins.
500 g cooked pasta (little elbows, tubes, spirals)
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1 tsp mustard powder
2 cups grated tasty cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Olive oil spray
¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees. While you’re cooking the pasta, grease the muffin tin with olive oil spray and divide the breadcrumbs between cups. Shake and tilt pan to coat all sides of each cup well. Discard any excess. This stops the muffins from sticking to the pan.
For the sauce, melt the butter on low heat and add the flour stirring for a couple of minutes so there’s no lumps. Gradually add the milk whilst stirring continuously – you don’t want any lumps! Once the sauce has come to the boil and thickened, add mustard powder, salt, pepper and 1 and ½ cups of the cheese (the other ½ cup is for the top) and stir well. Take of the heat, throw in the cooked pasta and combine.
Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin cups. Top each one with the remaining tasty cheese and bake until golden and crisp on top, about 25–30 minutes.
Let cool before packing!
Candied Fruit Kebabs
A selection of fruits like strawberries, grapes, apples, blueberries and raspberries.
2 cups of caster sugar
1 cup of water
Line a large flat tray with baking paper.
Gently wash the fruit and carefully thread onto wooden skewers, toothpicks or little plastic forks.
To make the toffee, dissolve the sugar in water over a low heat. Increase the heat and boil for 8–10 minutes. Remove from heat.
To coat the fruit you have to work quickly or the toffee will harden!
Dip the fruit into the toffee, making sure you coat it well and place onto the lined tray. Make sure the pieces aren’t touching each or the candied fruits will stick together.
Put the fruit into the fridge for about an hour to harden.
NOTE: fruits like kiwi, pineapple and mango don’t work well as they contain too much moisture.