Picnic with Herbs

With warm, sunny days it is a perfect time to plan a picnic for friends and family that makes the most of all the herbs that are in abundance right now.

Here’s a challenge. Using the herbs in your garden, see how you can feature a different herb or combination of herbs in each dish or drink on the picnic menu. You will be amazed at the variety of subtle, different flavours.

Drinks

Lemonade is a classic picnic drink and only two sprigs of rosemary are needed for this Rosemary lemonade.

One and a half cups water

One and a half cups sugar

One and a half cups lemon juice

Grated rind of one lemon

Two sprigs of rosemary

Ice cubes

Cold water or club soda

Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Boil the liquid three minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, lemon rind and rosemary. Refrigerate at least one hour or until very cold. Strain the mixture into a storage container.

Fill a glass about a third full with the lemon syrup, add water or club soda and ice, stir and drink.

Snacks

While the more active members of the family are kicking a ball around, those lounging on blankets under the trees can enjoy some snacks with their drinks:

Herb dips and spreads are delicious with savoury biscuits, vegetable crudités and Italian breads.

 The basis of a herb dip is plain cottage or cream cheese. Herbs such as chives, spring onions, basil, lemon thyme, and tarragon can be finely snipped or chopped and added.

Depending on taste you can season with salt and black pepper, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a dollop of mayonnaise and even a dash of chilli. Make the dip in advance so that the flavours have time to develop.

Main course

Sandwiches are classic picnic fare. A must for any sandwich filling that includes tomatoes is basil. Peppery rocket is excellent for egg, meaty, cheese or vegetable fillings (tomatoes, brinjals,) and so are any of the mustardy Oriental vegetable leaves such as Pak choi, Tatsoi, Mizuna and mustard leaves.

Salads – chicken salad, potato salad and mixed salad are all good picnic nosh. To give these stalwarts a nice twist, make herb mayonnaise for the chicken or potato salad and herb vinaigrette for the mixed salad.

Easy do-it-yourself mayonnaise

1 1/2 Cups Canola or olive oil (You can blend the two together)
2 Egg yolks
1/8 tsp. Powdered mustard
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. Lemon juice

Blend eggs, salt and mustard using a blender or a whisk until they start feeling thick. Drizzle a quarter of the oil very slowly while whisking to keep the mixture from separating. Once about a quarter of the oil has been added, increase the blending speed. When all the oil has been blended into the eggs, add lemon juice to taste.

To this basic mix you can add tarragon and a tablespoon of French mustard for the chicken salad, or a mix of chopped parsley (1 tsp), chives (1 tsp), marjoram (half teaspoon), and one minced garlic clove.
Keep some chopped parsley in a small Tupperware container for sprinkling as a garnish.

Dessert

Fruit is always a refreshing finale and chopped garden mint is a perfect accompaniment. You can use almost any combination of fruit. This mixed melon salad combines cubes of a spanspek, green melon and a watermelon, squeeze over the juice of an orange, sweeten with a little caster sugar if necessary and mix in the chopped mint.

Buzz off mozzies – don’t forget to take along the leaves of the mozzie buster pelargonium to keep insects away. Just rub the leaves over your arms and legs.

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