My friends find it hard to believe that I was once banned from the kitchen by my own mother! Coming from a family of eight, my parents attempted to create work rotas for their six children. These included setting and clearing the table, washing or wiping up (washing every time for me … water and bubbles … what’s not to like?). It was there, acting as mini sous-chef that I began to love food and all that it entailed. I learnt quickly and cooked my first roast dinner (under Dad’s beady eye) aged 11. Curries were Dad’s speciality (due to his navy travels and our Indian neighbours who brought amazing spices back to Blighty, when the only alternative was a Vesta dried curry). Mum loved nothing more than baking … creating unbelievable things that were usually scoffed by eight hungry mouths before they’d had chance to cool.
There wasn’t a load of money for holidays, so we ended up in a caravan in Yarmouth one year and Clacton for a couple after that. Much of our time was spent “finding something to do”. In fact, the phrase, “Go out and play. I don’t want to see you before teatime”, rings happily in my ears to this day.
Most of the family picnics I remember involved the Anderson family. Mum and Mrs Anderson spent hours cooking and baking fabulous food that would travel in a Tupperware pot. They piled the folding decorating table, an ironed tablecloth (always … thank you Mum) all the portable scoff and drink and a many kids as they could get in the car. Automatic cars were de rigueur in our family, as they had no gear stick and bench seats in the front and back: all the better to cram more kids in.
We usually drove to places not too far from home, due to the discomfort of being so enclosed with siblings (and the squabbles that ensued). Picnics were undertaken in Bletchley and the surrounding villages. They involved said delicious food and drink, many cartwheels, races, ball games and foraging of any berries or fruit that was in season.
This is where my love of al fresco eating began and I’m still in awe of anyone that can pull off a picnic with beautifully chilled foods, entertainment and happy people as if it were the easiest thing in the world.
In my attempt to create the perfect portable feast I made some savoury lollipops: Mediterranean crispy chicken, spicy paneer pops and vegan tofu to satisfy my various friends and family.
I entered these recipes into a competition run by Bako North Western (a bakery wholesale group) and won. They published two of the recipes this month. You can see the page here.
Try out the recipes, for they are delicious and easy to transport. Let me now how you get on and send your gluten free picnic ideas. We’ll publish the best, along with a link to your blog if you have one.
Until next time