It won’t have escaped anyone’s attention that we are going through something of a mini heatwave here in Britain. How mini it is and how much of a heatwave remains to be seen, but the sudden volte face in climate to plunge the country into a Southern Mediterranean cauldron allows for the attention to be turned to a pastime generally not considered in these climes – al fresco dining.
We’re talking picnics – not the ones with cocktail sausages, paper plates and lashings of lemonade – but grown up ones. Al fresco dining to capture the essence of the outdoors, the seasons and the senses. The set up which frames the perfect view, which takes in the dipping sun, which harnesses the light breeze and makes us feel like we are on holiday. The picnic which tastes like we are somewhere else.
The food that makes up a picnic should be as evocative as the setting one creates, and gathering the ingredients to replicate a perfect slice of Italy is a labour of love in itself.
A selection of salumi, artisan cheeses and marinated vegetables to get the taste buds working overtime, accompanied by a cold, dry, zingy bottle of Prosecco to pull the different textures and taste sensations together. Salami with fennel, sweet and delicate Prosciutto Veneto Berico-Euganeo DOP, mortadella and San Daniele. A chunk of Pecorino and another of Parmigiano Reggiano along with some fresh buffalo mozzarella, olives, marinated artichokes and sun dried tomatoes.
A hearty Tuscan salad based on bread toasted into large croutons, tomatoes and garlic – also add onions, anchovies, capers, peppers and basil. The flavours are bold and unique but at the same time fresh and summery, delivering a veritable punch to this part of your perfectly prepared picnic.
Mixed Herb Frittata:
Egg-based dishes are always a light touch and deliver another level of texture to a well-rounded picnic. This frittata can be made the night before and kept well-chilled, allowing the flavours of the mixed herbs – use marjoram, thyme, basil and oregano – to infuse together and deliver a delightful savoury dish to accompany the feast.
No picnic would be complete without a beautiful selection of fresh summer fruit – refreshing watermelon, strawberries and cherries paired with freshly baked lemon pine nut biscotti and a large dollop of smooth vanilla ice cream. The perfect palate cleanser.
An al fresco dining moment is never complete without a bottle of something which characterises the countryside, the rolling hills, the meticulously crafted vines, the warming sun and the cooling breeze, the snaking valleys and the distant sea. Wedge a bottle or two of Pieropan’s Soave Classico into your stylish picnic basket. The liveliest and most youthful of the Pieropan stable of tantalising wines, its freshness and versatility comes from a blend of mostly Garganega with a slice of Trebbiano di Soave. The result a beautifully balanced, straw yellow wine with hints of green, racy acidity with good depth of fruit and length. A delicate nose of almond blossoms and marzipan to ensure your dining experience is a wholehearted success.