Seaside picnics are one of summer's great joys. Whether you're down on the beach, sheltering among the dunes or perched on jagged rocks, sea air is one of the best appetite stimulants of all.
In areas that allow it, you can cook over a bonfire. Failing that, you may have to use a designated firepit or barbecue, or even bring your camp stove. And most of the recipes below can be prepared in advance, at home.
Those of you who enjoy whittling green sticks into skewers can make damper bread, a traditional Australian bush bread that is either baked in a cast-iron lidded camp pot buried in the embers, or on sticks over the fire. I use a basic mixture (made up on the morning of the picnic) of 450g self-raising flour, 1 tsp each of salt and sugar, and 8 to 10 tbsp of water, milk or beer, which gives a softish, not too sticky dough. Once at the picnic venue, pieces of the dough are wrapped around green sticks or coiled around like a rope to form "twisters". These will take 10 to 15 minutes to cook over the fire, turning all the time. Once ready, dampers can be smothered in butter, syrup or jam, or filled with a campfire sausage.
WRAPPED BAGUETTES WITH ROASTED PEPPERS
1 large baguette (or 2 small ones), cut in half, sliced lengthwise
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
450g jar of roasted peppers, drained
40g Parmesan shavings
handful of rocket
Open the baguette out and drizzle one side with oil. Top with the peppers, then the Parmesan and then some rocket. Season, press together and wrap the central piece (where your hands go round) in greaseproof paper and then tie firmly with string.
SMOKED CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD
Smoked chicken breast is available from Rannoch Smokery (www.rannochsmokery.co.uk for local stockists). You can also use regular chicken breasts, chargrilled until just tender.
2 thick slices bread (brown or white), crusts removed, cubed
extra virgin olive oil
1 large free-range egg
1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4-5 anchovy fillets, snipped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large (300g) smoked chicken breast (or 2 regular-sized, cooked as above)
large pieces of Cos lettuce, washed
25g fresh Parmesan, shaved or coarsely grated
Fry the bread in a little olive oil until crispy then drain on kitchen paper.
Place the egg in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil for one minute. Plunge into cold water to stop the cooking. Once cool, crack into a food processor and add the next five ingredients. Whizz the mixture and then add enough oil to make a pourable dressing - about 3 tbsp. Season to taste.
Cut the chicken breast into slices on the diagonal. Place the lettuce in a large wide bowl and top with the chicken and croutons. Scatter the Parmesan over the top and then drizzle over the dressing just before serving.
MALTESER CHOCOLATE TIFFIN
This is based on a recipe from the Blacksmith's Coffee Shop, Belsay, north of Newcastle. Use the best chocolate you can get (minimum 60% cocoa solids for dark; minimum 30% for milk).
100g quality dark chocolate
300g quality milk chocolate
3 tbsp golden syrup
275g digestive biscuits, crushed
Melt the dark chocolate, 100g of milk chocolate, the butter and syrup together and then stir in the digestives. Gently stir in the Maltesers and tip into a lined Swiss-roll tin (23 x 33 cm), levelling out.
Melt the remaining 200g of milk chocolate and pour over, smoothing the surface carefully. Once cold, cut into pieces.