Make ahead picnic recipes will make your outdoor eating easier if you've a large picnic to prepare or one with visitors you want to spend quality time with.
There are picnic menus which you can prepare just the day before, leaving you just a little final flourish or cooking to do on the day itself. Then there is the freezer.
When you have picnic food ideas ready and waiting in the freezer, any day can become an easy picnic day and a 'spontaneous' outdoor meal will be a little easier to throw together!
Many types of sandwiches can be frozen days, weeks, sometime even months before eating. Use soft butter and apply generously to help the sandwiches hold together.
Cream cheese mixtures freeze well – try mixing cream cheese with liver pate, chopped ham and chutney, walnuts and chopped dates, or smoked salmon and dill.
You could make and freeze tiny crustless sandwiches. Use thin bread and a filling that is not too squishy and try rolling them up to make them look more attractive.
Here are some more finger sandwich recipes, which can be frozen:
Some cooked meats, salmon and prawns can also be kept frozen in readiness for a picnic and then allowed to defrost completely in a fridge/cooler before eating with freshly prepared salads.
When preparing sausage turnover to freeze, remember to leave out the egg.
Other picnic food ideas to have ready in the freezer include
pates, savoury flans and tartlets, sausage rolls, pies, terrines and meat loaves.
Of course you can keep meat and fish in the freezer ready for barbecues but ensure you take it out, or defrost in a microwave, in good time. If you intend to cook at your picnic on a small grill or barbecue then make sure the meat or fish for your barbecue recipes is defrosted all the way through before you start grilling.
Remember that some things do not freeze well and these include hard boiled eggs, salad leaves, cucumber, tomatoes and mayo. If you want to freeze egg sandwiches, then use creamy scrambled egg and mix with smoked salmon, ham or bacon bits.
Picnic cakes can also be frozen successfully, as well as biscuits/cookies, cheesecakes and mousses.
Homemade soup will keep successfully in the fridge for a day and you could marry it with some ricotta cheese and zucchini bread for a tasty picnic lunch.
Think too about salads and side dishes which keep well, such as my favourite couscous salad. This keeps in the fridge really well for two or even three days. Note: Do not be tempted to substitute rice for the couscous because rice does not keep well.
My version of an Asian noodle salad is another substantial picnic recipe, which can be prepared and left in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
Try and avoid too many salad recipes which have to be prepared on the spot and think about make ahead picnic recipes instead. Tomatoes, cucumber and almost all green leaves need to be served fresh for example.
My ultimate picnic salad is a variation of Greek salad which keeps well - for hours though, not days! - and much of it can be prepared in advance.
Some beetroot recipes can also be classed as make ahead picnic recipes and the meat to accompany them can be cooked the day before and simply sliced on the day or even at the picnic itself.
A batch of scotch eggs can be cooked the day before a picnic and kept in the fridge until ready for take-off.
For something sweet, flapjacks can be stored in an air-tight tin for up to a week. Keep an eye on them though, or someone might gobble them up when you're not looking (not mentioning any names!)
A large platter of antipasta is easy to put together in advance and then assemble for a party. It can be served to a crowd with lots of fresh crusty bread.
A typical Italian antipasto platter is made up of slices of Italian salami, mortadella and Parma ham; chunks of tuna fish, wedges of tomatoes, slices of raw fennel, artichoke hearts in oil, firm radishes and olives. You could also add halved hard-boiled eggs and tiny boiled potatoes. Serve a vinaigrette dressing or mayonnaise to accompany.
If a French platter is more to your taste, then use French salami and sausage, pate de campagne, anchovy fillets, hard-boiled eggs, prawns and olives.
like this, coupled with some vegetable crudites and perhaps an aioli
dressing (garlic mayo) can make a complete meal, which, although not
exactly one of our make ahead picnic recipes as such, is very satisfying
and quick to put together on large boards, slate or flat plates.
If you know that an outdoor meal or two is likely in the next few weeks, get to work now with your make ahead picnic recipes. With the aid of your freezer, I'm sure the food will turn out to be as memorable as the occasion.