By Sam Platt, Head of the Vegetarian Society Cookery School
You don’t need the great outdoors to enjoy a picnic – with a bit of thought you can enjoy all the best parts of eating al fresco in the comfort of your own home. If you have room to lay a blanket on the floor or on your bed, then you have room for a picnic! Much of the fun of picnics is getting away from your usual meal routine. It’s a perfect way to make a meal special and take time out to enjoy great food.
The key to a good picnic is presentation. Start with setting the scene. Here are some ideas to create an indoor picnic area. If you don’t have any of the suggested things, have a look around and improvise!
Lay it down to mark out the area of your picnic. Give yourself as much room as you can.
Pillows, cushions, folded up blankets or duvets, or couch cushions
Use these to make your seating more comfortable. Stack, pile or prop them up. If you have spare blankets, drape them over the cushions to bring the area together visually.
Small crate or sturdy box
An up-turned crate or box covered with tea towels makes a great makeshift picnic table.
Picnic basket or box
Pack up your picnic in a basket or box. Use napkins, a blanket or tea towel to line the box first to add a rustic look.
You can add to the picnic feel by popping houseplants around the edges of your dining area.
Set up music and have some card games handy to make a leisurely afternoon of it.
Next, let’s think about the food. Choose easy-to-eat foods that make you think of summer. Present them in a fun way and you’re there! For a small picnic (one to three diners) choose at least two foods from these sections. If your picnic is for four people or more add one more choice for every two to three extra people.
Nibbles Crudities, crisps, roasted nuts and seeds and dips all make great appetisers while you’re setting up the rest of the food. Try this recipe for a super-easy and nutritious dip. If you have left over pitta bread or tortilla wraps you can quickly turn these into accompaniments for your dips by cutting them into slices, lightly tossing in oil, then baking on a medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes until crisp. Once cooled, you can season them with salt and pepper to make them extra tasty.
Stick to sandwiches, salads and pastries. If, like me, you have a cupboard full of empty jam jars, use these to serve individual portions of salad in. Layer them up for a striking rainbow effect. Wrap your sandwiches in reusable wraps or greaseproof paper for a packed lunch feel. You’ll find lots of sandwich ideas in our recipe collection.
You don’t need to go all out for a sweet treat. A small tin or tub for each diner filled with fruit salad or biscuits is perfect. If you’ve more time, traybakes and loaf cakes are great to share. This brownie is vegan, free from refined sugar, and tastes truly indulgent.
You’ll find lots more inspiration in our recipe collection. Get creative with your food and picnic area. With a bit of time and attention, you can enjoy a touch of summer indoors.