Super snacks for a perfect picnic

Super snacks for a perfect picnic

The sense of release is almost tangible, you can feel it in the air.  People are starting to get their mojo back now they are able to see their family and friends, albeit under restrictions but hey, something different is absolutely great compared to nothing at all.  The effect that has now been felt due to the longevity of the restrictions seems to have a much needed shift in the population’s sense of value.  Shall we dare to say, that for many of us, it has been an over-due re-evaluation of a sense of what actually matters and a realization of what has been taken for granted when perhaps we should all have been a bit more grounded when it comes to seeing true value.  Family, friends and mental well-being versus materialism – it’s a no brainer really. So as we start to see a little bit of the old life on the horizon maybe we need to keep everything in check a little and try to ensure a better balance.  All the mindfulness practices people embraced and the new found on-line yoga sessions, walks in the countryside, spending time chatting to family and friends rather than a quick text message – these need to be maintained as they are lovely practices that should be included in our new everyday lives. So the inevitable questions pop up about how to create a new balance and not just revert to the original version of life.


Some of us have been able to find some more free time since the introduction of remote working.  Obviously this form of working isn’t for everyone but it all depends on your view point.  If you are lucky enough to have a home work space that the door can be closed on at the end of the working day then you can begin your home life instantly. Some of us had to dedicate such a lot of time to commuting which truly represented a huge chunk of our lives – and not time spent really getting value for money on the enjoyment front. So if you are facing returning to more of a routine then mentally block book calender time to try to include your new well being hobbies. Prioritise family bonding time even if this means re-evaluating old schedules – your family will thank you for it. Filling family time with scheduled individual class activities can truly leave people feeling quite alone even within a technical unit. It’s no good getting to the end of the week and finding you’ve all completed individual activities but haven’t had the time to talk to each other. So dig deep and resist going back to the old times totally, cherry pick from the two versions of life routines and hopefully a third, more balanced version will emerge. It would be a victory to us all to think that despite this manipulating and controlling pandemic with all it’s associated inconsolable sorrow that a new bud of hope for a better future is about to flower. Those of us that have been lucky enough not to have lost a loved one have so, so much to be grateful for and in a way it  would be an appropriate epitaph to those passed if we all really try to improve on our societal awareness and re-connect with what’s truly important in life.  All the community support that pooled together throughout the pandemic that unified areas of the country, that left prejudices behind, was without doubt amazing.  For a short window of time corona virus has succeeded where politicians and community workers have failed for decades.  It would be such a shame for those new found connections to not remain.  Giving time, gladly, to someone in need costs nothing but is invaluable to those who dependent on it. If you have been able to find time to help within your community please think twice about cancelling your commitment totally now we have more of our own free time.  Those members of society who needed our help recently probably still need it now, only maybe on a reconfigured basis.


So where do we begin?  All the positivity for fitness, healthy eating and awareness techniques should be considered vital from now on and are not something we think of as a time filler when we weren’t allowed out. Carry on with all those things – after all  if, as a result of new found fitness and healthy eating you lost weight why on earth would you want to go back to your old ways? Be firm, practice mantras reaffirming positive wellbeing.  If you’ve discovered a new you whilst in lock down that’s a better version of the old you then stick with it, just spend a little time thinking how to tweak the old routines. The mental fall out from exposure to corona virus will be long felt so small positive routines all add up to better wellbeing.


Small dietary changes can help you along the way and below are a few suggestions you might wish to consider:-


For an energy boost try swapping beef for venison as it has more iron and less saturated fat than beef or swap a baguette for an open sandwich made of sourdough which is easier to digest.  Add a protein hit with houmous and carrot sticks.  Swapping your favourite chocolate pudding for raw cacao mousse that is crammed with fibre, anti-oxidents and healthy fats and raw cacao releases glucose slowly.  All this helps the body fight against heart disease, cancer and other diseases.  Foods that contain protein, fibre and fat all help to sustain slow release energy so nuts with fresh fruit and full-fat Greek yoghurt are a great option.


For a healthy heart swap coconut oil for olive oil as coconut oil contains 6 times the amount of saturated fat than olive oil and is, therefore, linked to raised cholesterol levels.  Swap juice for an apple as actually eating an apple lowers cholesterol, so helping to protect your heart as too much cholesterol causes arteries to block up.  Consider swapping crisps for popcorn.  Homemade popcorn counts as a wholegrain and as such, has health benefits.  Snacking on dried fruit contains high levels of antioxidents, helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease.  It is a delicious, portable snack but quite calorific so watch your portion sizes.


To aid digestion try swapping write rice for brown as it is full of insoluable fibre which helps to push food through your gut.  Slightly green bananas are a great source of resistant starch and the fibre prevents a blood-sugar spike, keeping you fuller for longer.  Finally swap cow’s yoghurt for coconut yoghurt which is a great idea for lactose intolerant folk and as it’s a good source of fibre it helps keep things moving.


Stay hydrated as dehydration leaves you feeling sluggish and lethargic and thirst can often be mistaken for hunger.  Drinking lots of water can help you to feel full too.


When planning a meal for entertaining don’t be afraid to serve simple dishes.  This not only saves time but also saves money. Cook it well and it will taste delicious.  Bump up meals by serving large, multi-coloured salads along side and then fruit salads or cheese for afters.  Any simple dish can look really special with the use of nice serving dishes or wooden boards for display and try to tie the courses together with a common theme, eg, baked camembert with anti pasti and speciality breads, followed by smoked salmon tagliatelle with a large salad and meringue with passionfruit coulis and fresh raspberries and whipped vanilla cream.  Use plenty of fresh herbs for flavour and for eye appeal – this will also allow you to not use salt as there will be plenty of delicious flavours.


Recipe for Smoked Salmon Tagliatelle – (serves 4 – Mary Berry Aga Cookbook)


225g fresh tagliatelle cooked as per the instructions on the packet

Large knob of butter

150 ml double cream

100g smoked salmon cut into fine strips

Juice ½ lemon

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tblsp chopped fresh dill and also parsley.


Cook and drain pasta reserving 1tbsp cooking water.  Melt butter in a non-stick pan and add pasta with ½ the cream, salmon, lemon juice and black pepper. Heat gently until warmed through.  Add the remaining cream and ½ the herbs.  Toss thoroughly and tip into a large warmed serving dish.  Scatter remaining herbs over.  Serve with large green salad or alternatively fresh asparagus when in season.


Recipe for Salt Beef with Mustard Sauce (serves 6-8 Mary Berry Aga Cookbook)


1.3 Kg  Salted Silverside or brisket (you may need to pre-order this salted from your butcher)

450g little whole carrots – peeled

450g whole peeled shallots


Mustard sauce :-

25g butter

25g flour

150ml milk

4 teaspoons white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons mustard powder

2 teaspoons castor sugar

Salt and pepper


Sit the beef in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 2-21/2 hours until tender.  Add the carrots and shallots and simmer for another 30 mins until the veg are tender.

To make the mustard sauce, melt the butter.  Add the flour and whisk to combine.  Gradually add the milk and 150ml of the beef cooking liquor.  Bring to the boil, stirring continually.  Add the vinegar, mustard, sugar and seasoning and combine thoroughly.

Carve thin slices and serve with the mustard sauce and vegetables when hot or cold without the sauce.

To serve cold –

Take slices of fresh continental breads and spread with cream cheese.  Add thin layers of beef on top and slices of pickled gherkin.  Dress with a little mustard sauce. 

This would make a really tasty lunch to have in your garden with a few friends round and you might follow it up with some delicious English strawberries – washed down with a glass of summer pimms.


Always cast an eye over the style of the table setting.  A small vase with fresh flowers graces any table as do tea lights in coloured glass  holders.  Napkins – mixed so not all the place settings look the same.  A large jug of water at both ends of the table flavoured with lemon peel or cucumber strips is both refreshing and healthy but it also stretches out the alcohol, helping to keep the cost of the booze down.  Allow your guests to savour your cooking – be proud of it and relax – as a relaxed host makes a good host and your guests will really enjoy their experience.  Try to serve the best ingredients you can afford and always keep a note of who sat round your table and what you served them - that way next time you can offer alternative fare.  Most of all – just enjoy yourself – you deserve to after all your hard work.