4 Picnic Pleasers Perfect for Autumn

Looking for simple recipes for an outdoor meal or to keep you fuelled when you’re on a road trip with your family?  Try these picnic pleasers that are perfect for autumn.

In Perfect Parties, Janet Kohler, a trained cordon bleu chef who runs her own cookery school from home in Durban, presents a dazzling array of inspirational party ideas, complemented by delicious recipes.

READ MORE: How to Host a Memorable Party During a Pandemic

1. Joan’s refreshing summer salad

Serves 6

There’s an interesting story to this recipe, originating with my late Aunt Joan, who was very proud of it. While on a diet, she wondered what she could concoct from the “legitimate” ingredients in her kitchen and came up with the following refreshingly different salad.

Ingredients
  • 1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • an English cucumber, peeled and finely chopped (de–seed if you intend to keep the salad for more than a couple of hours)
  • 1 red pepper (or ½ red and ½ yellow, ideally for colour), deseeded and finely diced
  • 2 medium apples (Golden Delicious or firm red apples), diced
  • 15–30ml fresh lemon juice (for squeezing over apple to prevent discolouration)
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped (optional)
  • 30ml mayonnaise*
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

* If you’re watching your calories, substitute normal mayonnaise with a reduced-fat version.

Method
  • Simply mix all the ingredients together.
  • Store in the fridge until required.

2. Crunchy oat and chocolate biscuits

Makes ± 18

This is an adaptation of an old recipe from Bredasdorp in the Southern Cape. My family always asks me to make a batch for padkos whenever we set off for a picnic or holiday.

Ingredients for the oat biscuits
  • 230g butter (preferably unsalted) or margarine
  • 100g granulated white sugar
  • 120g desiccated coconut
  • 40g rolled oats
  • 210g cake flour pinch of salt
  • 15ml cocoa powder
  • 8ml baking powder
Method
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  • Melt the butter, add the sugar, and stir to combine.
  • Stir in the coconut and oats, then sift in the flour, salt, cocoa powder and baking powder. Combine well and knead a little.
  • Press mixture into a 22cm greased or greaseproof paper-lined square tin; use the back of a spoon (or potato masher) to level the mixture.
  • Bake for 20–30 minutes then remove from the oven. Pour over the chocolate topping while the biscuit base is still warm.
Ingredients for the chocolate topping
  • ± 45ml milk
  • 15ml butter (salted or unsalted)
  • 260g icing sugar, sifted
  • 30ml cocoa powder
  • 5ml vanilla extract
Method
  • Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring, then remove from the heat.
  • Pour the hot topping over the baked biscuit crust, tilting the pan so that the chocolate coats the surface.*
    While the crust is still warm, cut the biscuit into squares, but leave them to cool and set completely before removing from the pan.

*If the mixture is too thick to pour, add a bit more milk. You can substitute chocolate ganache for this topping.

3. Rustic Italian antipasti picnic loaf

Serves 4–6

A favourite on the picnic pleasers’ list, this meal is very popular in Europe. It has huge visual appeal when you cut out a slice. Best of all, it can be made several hours ahead of the picnic or even the night before.

Ingredients
  • 1 round artisan loaf of bread, about 23cm in diameter
  • ± 20ml basil pesto or ± 60g cream cheese
  • baby spinach leaves to line the base of the loaf (optional)
  • ± 250g buffalo mozzarella, sliced into rounds
  • a choice of Italian cold meats e.g. salami, Parma ham, mortadella, coppa
  • your personal selection of roasted vegetables e.g. roasted red and yellow bell peppers, roasted beetroot, grilled aubergine and preserved artichoke hearts (drained)
  • ripe tomatoes or baby rosa tomatoes, sliced
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • seasoning to taste
  • balsamic glaze (optional)
Method
  • Cut out a lid from the top of the bread (reserve this for later). Scoop out some of the centre of the loaf (use for making croutons or breadcrumbs). Don’t scoop out too much, or the loaf will fall apart.
  • Spread some basil pesto or cream cheese over the bottom of the hollowed-out loaf.
  • Layer the various ingredients, starting with those that are firmer and have less moisture (such as the spinach or cheese) to prevent the base from becoming too soft or soggy. Season each layer.
  • Top the final layer with pesto or a little balsamic glaze.
  • Replace the lid and wrap the loaf firmly with clingfilm. You can use a can or two to weigh it down slightly. Serve it 4–6 hours later, cutting into thick slices.

4. My stand-by quiche recipe

Serves 8

This faithful recipe is versatile, freezes beautifully and tastes as if it’s just been baked when reheated. This definitely rates up there with the picnic pleasers. The recipe can be made into individual quiches (simply place the pastry into non-stick muffin trays, chill in the fridge, then fill and bake).

Ingredients for the cheese pastry
  • 155g cake flour
  • 90g cold butter, cut into smallish cubes
  • 60g Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 30–45ml cold water
Method
  • Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  • Process the flour and butter in a food processor for about 15 seconds, until crumbly. Alternatively, use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour.
  • Next, add the cheese and water. Process in short bursts until the mixture comes together. Add a little extra water if necessary.
  • Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and gather into a ball. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Roll out the dough to fit a 22cm diameter pastry case and place in the fridge to rest for 10–20 minutes before baking.
  • Line with paper and fill with baking beans. Bake the pastry case blind for about 10 minutes until the edges are just starting to colour.
  • Lastly, remove the paper and baking beans and bake for a further 10 minutes until the base is firm and dried out slightly.
Ingredients for basic quiche custard
  • 3 eggs
  • 250ml cream (or half milk, half cream)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 15ml chopped fresh mixed herbs (e.g. rosemary, parsley, thyme)
  • ± 75g grated cheese (e.g. mature Cheddar)
  • paprika for sprinkling
Method
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  • Whisk the eggs and milk or cream lightly together, add seasoning and herbs, then pour over the filling of your choice.
  • Sprinkle over some grated cheese and a little paprika, then bake for approximately 40 minutes.

filling variations

  • Roasted Mediterranean vegetables drizzled with olive oil (bake for about 45 minutes until just tender)
  • Roasted sweet potato and butternut with feta
  • Freshly grated courgettes
  • Roasted butternut, Gorgonzola (or any other blue cheese) and cherry tomatoes
  • Roasted vegetables with red onion marmalade
  • Mushroom and bacon: fry 200g chopped bacon or pancetta in a little olive oil, and sauté a punnet of sliced mushrooms with 1–2 cloves garlic. Combine, then add to the basic quiche custard in the recipe.

About the book

Perfect Parties (Random House Struik) is available at all good bookstores for R325.

Find other picnic pleasers and food on the move recipes here.