Inspired by the movie “Paris Can Wait”, directed by Eleanor Coppola, in which a seven-hour drive to Paris turns into a two-day marathon food run (a personal dream come true!), there is a beautiful scene in which the car breaks down and Arnaud Viard simply gets out of the car and arranges a roadside picnic in a conveniently beautiful spot nearby. He removes a blanket, cheese, bread, strawberries and, of course wine (why have I not met this man yet?).
So, while my feet are itching to travel back to Europe and meet a charming French man who’ll do nothing but feed me, I think a picnic closer to home can do the trick. I believe a picnic should be fun and relaxed; and that means preparing for it should be even easier, especially if it’s with the intention of indulging in some romance. If you’re planning it in your own backyard, then bring out the nice glassware, plates and teakettle and cups; and if you’re packing for going away, use good Tupperware and disposable dishes.
The Picnic Date Menu
Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
Fresh Berries, Oranges and Grapes
Below is a basic guideline to help you ensure a fuss free date with your loved one, including a delicious recipe for old-fashioned chocolate cupcakes.
Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes
These old fashioned cupcakes are a breeze to make, with very little preparation or planning required. The cupcakes by itself are low on sweetness, as the sweet vanilla frosting balances it out.
Yields: 10 cupcakes | Prep Time: 10 mins | Cook Time: 25 mins
½ cup flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
¾ cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup milk
½ cup yoghurt
½ cup butter, soft
¾ cup icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp milk
Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare the muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the oil and sugar until combined.
Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat for at least 3-4 minutes.
Then add the yoghurt and whisk.
Fold in the dry ingredients, careful not to overmix and add two mini scoops into each cupcake liner, or until each case is filled 3/4th.
Bake the cupcakes for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let the cupcakes cool completely on a cooling rack.
While the cupcakes cool, start the frosting by whipping the butter and vanilla extract with an electric whisk.
Add the icing sugar bit by bit, until you get the consistency that you like. Add milk if required.
Once the cupcakes have cooled, spread the frosting on top and store in an airtight container.
The pasta salad is a good traveller as it is filling, feels fresh and travels well in an icebox. Ensure to keep the dressing simple, avoid garlic as garlic strengthens over time! And refrain from adding ingredients that release too much liquid like tomatoes. If you are married to the idea of tomatoes, then I suggest you remove the seeds to avoid a disaster.
Serves: 2 mason jars | Prep Time: 10 mins | Cook Time: 10 mins
½ cup dried pasta
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
½ cup peppers, chopped
sundried tomatoes, chopped
Place a large pot of water to boil. Once the water starts to boil, add some salt and olive oil. Drop the pasta in to cook according to the packet instructions (should be around 7-10 minutes).
Drain the pasta and set aside with some olive oil.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients. Then add the pasta and check for additional seasoning.
Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
The sandwich is the most versatile snack to take along on a picnic. There are no rules, except, go easy on the liquid preserves and any other filling that can impart water and make the sandwich go soggy – such as tomatoes, yoghurt based marinades or sauces. My personal favourites are mayonnaise and mustard in small quantities as they impart good flavour, and don’t interfere with the bread going limp. I prefer to use sliced cheese over grated simply because it’s quicker and holds shape.
For this picnic I made:
White bread sandwich with crunchy peanut butter and strawberry + raspberry jam
Croissants from Le Artisan Boulangerie
Always remember to pack whole fruits so that they don’t spoil. Pre-wash and dry completely before packing up. Berries, oranges, grapes and apples work best. Pick local seasonal fruits for the best taste and of course nutrition.
Cheese board is a necessity for any picnic, particularly after you’ve seen Paris Can Wait! Nothing too fancy, just one or two blocks of good cheese wrapped properly in butter or wax paper, some grapes, crackers or bread, and nuts.
If you’re having a picnic in your garden, I say go ahead and bring out that silver teakettle! But what’s more important is the alcohol. No romantic evening is complete without some good wine or bubbly! If you’re taking the picnic away from home, then be low maintenance and take paper cups with you.
Other Tips & Guidelines:
-Pack light! Use disposable items
-Pack food that cannot leak and make a mess
-Go easy on the pungent aromatics such as garlic
-Remember to pack paper napkins and wet tissues!
-Take a spare plastic bag to collect your rubbish in and take it home with you to throw away
-Icebox for drinks, fruits, salads
-Comfort essentials: a blanket, pillow, umbrella, sunglasses
-Entertainment essentials: books, magazines, battery operated music system, deck of cards, board games
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Photo Credits: The Kitchen Trail
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Floral Arrangements: Hello Sunshine
Guest post by: Kamini Patel, Kitchen Therapy
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