Picnics — a joy in theory, not always in practice. The romantic notion of eating delicious food from a picnic hamper is often overshadowed with the practicality of eating from your lap, the inclement weather and the potential of midges and other flesh-eating insects. Call me old fashioned but I prefer the comfort of my own garden, with real crockery and cutlery and access to the bathroom. You can set the table, bring out the glasses, pour a glass of wine without the stress of travel, sandy sandwiches and torrential rain.
Another advantage when it comes to using your own outside space is being able to serve dishes straight from the oven. A centrepiece bread or tart is always a good starting point. There’s nothing like a well-made quiche even though there’s a fair amount of work in baking the pastry blind and getting the filling just right. An equally lovely alternative is Flamiche. This bread/tart combination originates in the Picardy region of northern France. The base is a brioche dough that’s traditionally filled with a leek and cheese mixture. Brioche is an egg-based yeast dough enriched with butter. It’s not hard to make, especially if you have a mixer with a dough hook. The filling in the recipe here is soft, slowly cooked onions that then develop a golden hue and garlic enrobed in a creamy nutmeg redolent cheese custard. Onions and cheese, baked in rich buttery brioche, served hot and bubbling straight to the table. I’ll take that over a soggy sandwich any day. Serve with a dressed green salad to cut through this sheer culinary opulence.
As a cook I go through phases of being obsessed with certain flavours. Currently it’s gochujang, a fermented Korean chilli paste. It has a fragrant warmth and real umami flavour. You can source it from Asian supermarkets or on line. I use it as a marinade ingredient, to add to sauces and dressings and generally when I want to inject some va va voom into my cooking. Locally grown courgettes are now in full swing and gochujang adds some oomph to them. Whisk some of this Korean magic into maple syrup, lemon zest, soy and garlic to create a tasty marinade. Grill and use the excess marinade to baste. The end result is deliciously soft, smoky and zingy courgettes.
Cheese and onion Flamiche
What you’ll need
For the Brioche dough
225g strong bread flour
¾ tsp dried yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp castor sugar
85g soft butter
Mix the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a mixer with the dough hook.
Add the eggs and knead for 3 minutes. Beat in the butter a little at a time until the dough is glossy and all the butter is fully incorporated.
Cover with a tea towel and leave for 2 hours at room temperature.
For the filling
2 tbsp oil
2 onions, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg yolk
175g grated mature cheddar or a mixture of hard cheeses
125ml whipping cream
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
Handful chopped parsley
Fry the onions and garlic in the oil until soft and golden.
Cool and then place in a bowl and mix in the egg, yolk, cheese, cream, nutmeg and parsley.
Butter a round pie dish and set oven to 190C.
Flour a surface and roll the dough into a round that will hang over the dish.
Place the dough in the dish and place the filling in the middle. Gather up the edges and place in oven. When oven is hot add the flamiche and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden and firm.
Cool in tin for a few minutes before removing.
Grilled courgettes with gochujang and maple, flamed feta and coriander
What you’ll need
2 tsp gochujang (Korean fermented chilli paste)
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 tbsp soy sauce
200g feta cheese
50ml olive oil or local rapeseed oil (Broighter Gold Lemon works well here)
Handful chopped coriander
Cut the courgettes in half lengthwise. Score the flesh with a criss cross pattern. Mix the gochujang with a tablespoon and a half of the maple syrup, garlic, soy and the zest of the lemon and rub all over courgette cut side. Marinate for a few hours in the fridge. Heat the BBQ or grill pan and cook the courgettes until just cooking, brushing with the marinade as you grill.
Cut the feta into four and brush with remaining maple syrup.
Scorch with a blow torch or under a hot grill until golden and bubbling. Crumble over the courgettes.
Cut the lemon in half and cook on a hot grill to caramelize.
Mix with the oil and season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle over the whole thing and garnish with coriander.