Hiking tips

River Cottage chef Gill Meller’s tips for the perfect picnic

Gill Meller knows a lot about outdoor dining, so much so that he dedicated his latest book to Cooking and Eating Out.

And one of the most accessible ways to enjoy food outdoors is at a picnic, where you can pre-cook everything and haul it to your favorite spot.

“One of the fondest memories of eating I have is heading out on a very cold winter’s afternoon to the cliffs just east of where I live in Dorset – and d ‘having a thermos full of lentil soup with Alice, my wife,'” Meller recalled. .

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“Having this warm, comforting food in the form of a simple soup makes you feel safe – it’s like a reassuring blanket.”

If you really want to have a picnic — whatever the weather — here are Meller’s top tips…

Prepare well

Planning what you are going to cook will save you a last minute scrabble for a picnic. Meller suggests choosing “recipes that are pre-cooked indoors – conventional cooking, but with the goal of taking those wonderful things and delicious recipes to a whole new place – wherever you choose to enjoy them. , whether on the beach, in the woods, in the park or simply at the bottom of the garden”.

While Meller is all about preparation, that doesn’t mean you have to do something incredibly elaborate – “Even eating a cheese sandwich at the end of the pier in the rain” might be just what you want.

create an appetite

“I love this idea of ​​being able to whip up something fantastic to eat, go out and build an appetite by exercising – whether that’s swimming in the sea or climbing a hill – and then rewarding yourself with the food that you’ve prepared, he said.

“It’s just the most charming thing – I love this outdoor food and connection. You’re doing something that feels slightly unusual, in that you’ve done something, you’ve taken it with you and you eat it. It’s not how we tend to conventionally live, it’s special and becomes a treat.”

Adapt your food to the weather

The picnic chapter in Meller’s new book is divided into seasonal sections, because no one really wants to take lentil soup with them on the hottest day of the year.

“If you cook seasonally, you tend to cook with ingredients that match that time of year. So on a hot, sunny day, you’ll likely be preparing fresh vegetables, salads, fruits, and side dishes. light, clean and crispy. Whereas during the cooler autumn months you will have a different approach to the food you prepare for the picnic – and in fact, the food you eat every day.”

Outdoors: recipes for a wilder way to eat by Gill Meller is published by Quadrille. Photograph by Andrew Montgomery. Available now.