We all love good food but sometimes lack of time – or culinary expertise – can make things difficult. Try some easy recipes this summer for your enjoyment as well as the rest of the family.
Many people find pastry difficult to make, but these days there are plenty of good ready-made options in the shops. All you have to do is whisk up some eggs, add some cream, salt and pepper and a selection of ingredients of your choice for a fresh-tasting quiche – perfect picnic food. Try summer vegetables (blanch them first), or the classic egg and bacon quiche Lorraine, or a version with smoked mackerel, dill and red or green peppers for crunch.
Ready-cooked chicken is another great ingredient for an easy meal. Make an imaginative salad – just pair the chicken with whatever ingredients you have in the cupboard or your fridge, remembering to try to make it colourful with a range of textures. Toasted almonds, sliced mango and grilled red peppers (again, these come in jars to make life easy!) are lovely additions. Or mix the chicken with some mayonnaise to which you’ve added a little curry paste - then pile it on to leaves for an impromptu Coronation Chicken.
There are masses of gorgeous ingredients available for you to compose your own mezze plate. Try any combination of assorted olives, grilled peppers and sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, or grilled halloumi, blanched summer vegetables such as broad beans, peas or asparagus, tossed in olive oil with added lemon zest, dollops of ready-made hummus, tzatziki and guacamole. Serve these platters with toasted pitta bread, cut into strips, or, if you prefer, use flatbread or focaccia.
Desserts, too, can benefit from the easy option! Mascarpone is wonderful with some vanilla sugar stirred into it (to make vanilla sugar, blitz a few vanilla pods in the food processor then add them to a jar of caster sugar. When you want to use it, sieve the sugar to remove the bits; alternatively, just bury a vanilla pod or two in a jar of sugar). Serve this vanilla mascarpone with grilled pineapple, a platter of summer fruit, baked bananas or a freshly baked sponge cake.
If you’re planning a picnic, think outside the hamper when it comes to sandwiches. Dream up some unusual easy recipe combinations: chicken in mayonnaise, flavoured with curry paste and sultanas added; Parma ham and blue cheese; soft garlic cheese such as Boursin with grilled sausages; chopped Peppadew with hummus for veggies; roast beef with a mustardy mayo and watercress; grated cheese mixed with mayo and finely chopped celery. The sky’s the limit!