Perfect hand-held fare: a picnic-friendly cheese-and-olive-laced potato pie, and crunchy chicken wings with a bold, tropical ketchup
What makes picnic food picnic food? It’s got to be portable, obviously, so there’s no point making a lovely-looking composed salad that’s going to end up upside down after a traipse across the park. Something that can be eaten by hand is another must (cutlery at a picnic is just showing off). And that’s just two reasons pies work so well at picnics: the pastry provides a ready-made case, filled in today’s instance with the olives and cheese we now don’t need to take on the picnic, while pies are just made to be eaten by hand. Paper napkins are another must, as are the finger-licking chicken wings that necessitate them.
Chicken wings with banana ketchup (pictured above)
This brilliant ketchup is a great way of using up over-ripe bananas that’s not banana bread. It keeps well in the fridge for three months and goes well with all sorts: ribs, burgers, grilled cheese. The baking powder is a neat trick (for those who don’t know it already) to get your wings crisp. You’ll need a glass jar with a lid that’s big enough to hold 600g sauce.
Prep 25 min
Marinate 3 hr+
Cook 45 min
For the banana ketchup
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced (180g)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
3 large red chillies, roughly chopped (60g)
20g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
90g tomato paste
1½ tsp ground allspice
5 large overripe bananas (about 650g), peeled, flesh mashed with a fork
150ml rice-wine vinegar
90g dark brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
For the wings
2 limes, one juiced, to get 2 tbsp, the other cut into quarters, to serve
1 tbsp maple syrup
7 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (25g)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp water
2 tbsp olive oil
200g banana ketchup (see above)
1.5 kg chicken wings, tips cut off
For the spring onion salad
50g spring onions, trimmed and sliced thinly at an angle
1 lime, juiced, to get 2 tbsp
½ tbsp olive oil
First make the ketchup. In a large saucepan, heat the oil on a medium-high heat, then saute the onions, garlic, chilli and ginger, stirring often, for 15 minutes, until the onions are soft and lightly golden. Add the tomato paste and allspice, cook for two minutes, then add the mashed banana, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and fish sauce, and cook for another 15 minutes, until bubbling. Take off the heat, blitz in a food processor until smooth, then pour into a large sterilised glass jar and seal. Leave to cool at room temperature for at least an hour before using.
In a large bowl, mix the lime juice, maple syrup, garlic, baking powder, chilli, water, oil, ketchup and a teaspoon and a half of salt (if the ketchup seems too thick, thin it out with a tablespoon or two of water first). Add the wings to the bowl, toss to coat, then cover and put in the fridge to marinate for at least three hours and up to overnight.
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Cover a large baking tray with foil and place a large baking rack on top. Arrange the wings on the rack and brush with the marinade left in the bowl. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn up the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9 and bake for 10 minutes more. Using tongs, flip the wings over, brush with the last of the marinade and cook for another 10 minutes, until crisp all over and with dark edges.
Mix all the salad ingredients in a small bowl with a quarter-teaspoon of salt, then scatter half the salad over the surface of a large plate. Arrange the wings on top, then scatter with the rest of the salad and any dressing. Serve with the lime wedges for squeezing and a bowl of some of the remaining ketchup for dipping.
Cheesy potato and herb slab pie
This is rich and creamy, but, crucially, not so gooey that it can’t be cut into portable slabs. Hello, picnic! The pie is large – enough to feed 12 – so groups of six can either have double portions over the course of an afternoon, or save the excess in the fridge, where it’ll keep well for up to two days. Just be sure to bring it back to room temperature before eating.
Prep 35 min
Cook 1 hr 20 min
Rest 1 hr 30 min
640g ready-rolled all-butter puff pastry rectangle (ie, 2 standard packs)
200g gruyère, finely grated
200g feta, roughly crumbled
75g pitted green olives, roughly chopped
12 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced (100g)
30g parsley, finely chopped
15g mint leaves, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
4 large king edward potatoes, peeled, washed and very thinly sliced (use a mandoline, ideally; 540g)
4 eggs, plus 1 extra yolk
200g double cream
100g creme fraiche
1½ tbsp sesame seeds
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 and place a baking tray inside.
Cut a piece of greaseproof paper to line a greased 32cm x 22cm x 3cm swiss roll tin – you want it to cover the base and two long sides of the tin (not the short sides), and to rise about 4cm up and over the long sides.
Roll one of the sheets of puff pastry into a 28cm x 36cm rectangle. Lift it on to the prepared tin, pushing it into the corners and up the sides, then put in the fridge while you make the filling.
Put both the cheeses, olives, spring onions and herbs in a large bowl, add three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a few good grinds of black pepper, then add the potatoes and mix everything together, separating the potato slices as much as possible so everything gets evenly distributed.
Pack the potato mixture into the pastry-lined tin, pushing it right into the corners and pressing down on the filling as you do so, to ensure that it’s tightly packed. At first, it will seem as if there’s too much filling, but it will cook down while it’s baking.
In a medium jug, whisk three of the eggs (reserve the last egg for the egg wash), the egg yolk, double cream and creme fraiche, then pour evenly over the filling.
Unroll the second sheet of puff pastry and lay it on top of the potatoes, tucking it in between the potatoes and the sides of the pastry base. Lightly whisk the final egg and brush all over the top of the pastry. Lift and gently pull the pastry sides up and over the top sheet, and press down gently to seal. Brush the edges with egg wash, sprinkle over the sesame seeds, then cut six 5cm scores along the length of the top of the pie.
Put the pie on top of the hot tray in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the pie around, turn down the heat to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 and bake for another 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven, put the tin on a rack and leave to cool for about an hour. Uusing the paper overhang, carefully lift and slide the pie out on to the rack to finish cooling to room temperature, for about an hour and a half more. Cut into 20 squares and serve (or pack up into portable containers).