27 June 2015

Made some picnic food, met some bloggers #LDNBloggersPicnic

Cast your minds back to the May Bank Holiday.

'There was a bank holiday? When?' 

In May.

'Oh right, that was ages ago. I can't even remember what I did.'

You went to the London Bloggers Picnic, ate too much food and drank too much prosecco.

No, but I can see why you're confused, because it tends to be a weekly occurence that I go out with some blogger friends and drink way too much. 

'Tell me about it Stud.'

So effectively that was my May Bank Holiday. It's no secret that SophieFrankie and I are close, some may say too close if you're read a couple of Frankie's blog posts about us, I'm looking at this post Frankie. So when Frankie said Aftab, this super sweet guy who blogs over at Fresh & Fearless, was hosting a London Bloggers Picnic and asked whether we were going. Picnic food, the promise of cheesecakes and everyone bringing a bottle of something something was enough to get our stomachs on board and we asked Frankie to appeal to Aftab and get us on the invite list.

Invite down. We were now on to the task of having to bring some food. As Sophie and I blog about a lot of recipes we didn't want to be shamed by other foodie bloggers if we turned up with shop bought stuff, so we set our sights on cooking a couple of easy favourites. Curly Whirly Brownies for Sophie and Meringue Kisses for me. The night before the picnic I panicked and thought what if everybody brings cake and there's no savoury food so I also threw together (more or less) Ottolenghi's Rice Salad from Plenty More. I love Ottolenghi's Plenty book series, which focuses entirely on vegetables, it's full of inspirational recipes for a meat free week.

Anyway there was no reason for me to panic because there was so much food at the picnic. All types, not just cake, albeit there was a lot of cake. Lots was shop bought, some particular pretty cupcakes from Peggy Porschen and cheesecakes from Moreish Cheesecake, but there were some homemade ones to. There were brownies, waffles stuffed with strawberries and the most gorgeous caramel cupcakes from SheepaSheepa also made some amazing gougères, cheesy puffs to those non Swiss readers. I have to admit, mostly because I've been shamed by other bloggers (ahem..Frankie!), that I may have stolen the gougères and eaten half the box before passing it on to anyone else. They were just too good! In fact, now I'm confessing I also positioned myself next to Alexandra purely because she'd bought an entire cheese board, nothing to do with the fact she works at Zomato, something which probably wasn't obvious at first but was by the time I'd eaten all the cheese.

As always there was a fair amount of alcohol going round, lots of prosecco and champagne, as well as a ginger beer cocktail bloody mary enthusiast Mary Lou produced made from Brontë Liqueur, the new posh Pimms consisting of blackberries and sloes. It was a good job there was so much food lying around otherwise we could have been some very drunk bloggers! In the spirit of honesty, there was already one drunk blogger and of course that was me. Which is why I'm posting this a month after the London Bloggers Picnic, in the hope that everyone will have forgiven me for any awkward conversations I might have struck up...

Moving along, it was an awesome day and a great way to meet some new bloggers I hadn't met before. Plus we all got some freebies, cheesecake, jams and tea from Bonne Maman, and I got a stonkingly good zomato voucher for Clockjack Chicken, think great chicken and sides! If anyone's hosting a picnic, go check out the links to the recipes in this post, I particularly recommend Sophie's brownies or Sheepa's gougères (don't share the gougères). I have included my recipes below for any interested parties. Now on to my next picnic!

Seriously Pink Meringue Kisses
(makes 50 kisses)

6 large egg whites
300g caster sugar
Pink gel food colouring

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 100°C. In a glass bowl, use an electric whisk to whisk the egg whites on a high setting till they form stiff peaks. Then add a spoonful of sugar at a time till it's all mixed in, then continue to whisk the mixture for 10 minutes or until when you rub a bit of mixture between your fingers it's silky and smooth, and not grainy. 

Step 2. Turn a disposable piping bag inside out and place it over a glass bottle so you can paint 5 vertical stripes of gel food colouring onto the bag. Then turn the piping bag back inside out, so the stripes are on the inside, and fill with meringue mixture. Cut the tip off and pipe little stripey meringue peaks onto a lined tray.

Step 3. Bake the meringues in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour with the door slightly ajar. To keep the door open, stick a wooden spoon between the oven door and the oven. This should hopefully make for crack free, dry but chewy meringues. When cool, you can lift them off the baking tray and they should come out with intact bottoms!

Ottolenghi's Rice Salad (more or less)
(enough for a small army, serves 10)

150g thai black rice
220g brown rice
100g quinoa
olive oil
60g almonds
60g pine nuts
60g pumpkin seeds
1 large onions
a bunch of parsley (as much as you want!)
100g rocket
80g cranberries
2 lemon, juice and zest
2 garlic cloves
Green salt (salt blended with dried rosemary, thyme and sage)
Salt and pepper

Step 1. In a bowl, marinate the cranberries with the juice of one lemon and set aside. Cook the rice and quinoa according to their instructions, black and brown rice usually take about 30 minutes and quinoa takes 15 minutes. Cook the black rice in a separate pan to the other rices, unless you want vibrant purple rice like me which everyone thinks has beetroot in. 

Step 2. Finely slice the onion and fry till crispy in a little olive oil and then set aside on some paper towels to soak up the excess. Once the rice is cooked, leave it to cool and place it all in a bowl with three tbsps olive oil, the chopped parsley, and the remaining lemon juice and zest. Grate in the garlic cloves, add the cranberries and rocket, season the rice to taste and give it all a big stir. 

Step 3. In a hot pan toast the nuts and seeds, seasoning them with some green salt. Once toasted you can either add the seeds and nuts, and crispy onions to the rice now if you plan to serve it straight away or store it in a separate tupperware container to get out when you arrive at your picnic (otherwise they'll be soggy seeds and no one wants that). 

Step 4. Meet friends, get out picnic food, drink too much and have lots of fun!

I hope everyone has a cracking weekend, let me know what you are up to. I'm heading to a picnic now, no lies, and taking some shortbread that I made for an upcoming guest post on Elle Blogs with me, look forward to that! If anyone has any picnic recipes, please drop a comment below so I can check them out!

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