The BBF guide to making the ultimate British picnic hamper
You bet there are sausage rolls involved
In classic British fashion, as soon as the sun comes out we’re seized by the desire to eat outdoors sitting on blankets.
If, sadly, the £275 Fortnum and Mason Ultimate Banquet picnic (featuring lobster, caviar, and champagne) is a bit out of budget, then have no fear.
This article will guide you through some of the best picnic ingredients available at a range of prices, from the extravagant touches to the supermarket steals.
What is a great British picnic without a tipple? The classic is champagne, and if you’re seeking to spend a lot of money here, you won’t struggle.
Consider the new Möet Ice Impérial Rosé (£59.99 a bottle), but make sure you bring plenty of ice as it’s designed to be served on the rocks.
For a special touch, consider a few bottles of The Bubble sparkling wine. These boast their status as the world’s smallest bottle of sparkling wine. At £12.99 for 125ml, they certainly aren’t cheap, but the cute Alice in Wonderland style bottles will definitely add a sense of occasion.
At the other end of the spectrum, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend Aldi’s award winning Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut by Philizot. At only £10.99 a bottle, this really is a bargain. Go on, buy the case.
If you’re the designated driver, consolation is here in the form of Belvoir’s elderflower and rose pressé, which will make you feel every bit as classy as champagne, if a little less flushed.
The savoury stuff
On to the food. Without this you’re just sitting in a field drinking champagne, which is all well and good if you’re Jennifer Lawrence, but that’s probably not the case.
On the pastry front, Marks and Spencer’s Bramley apple and pork sausage rolls are an excellent example of the breed and a pack of 9 will only set you back £2.50.
For the vegetarians among you, try Sainsbury’s Beetroot and Feta salad, (£2.00) with quinoa and apple, which balances sweetness with acidity remarkably well.
The sweet stuff
Sweets at a picnic should be delicate and preferably not too messy. This isn’t the time to whip out a gooey chocolate fudge cake, as it will leave everyone feeling rather sticky.
Macarons are a light and chic option. Ideally, try to source these from a local baker, but if you are not blessed with such an establishment then Lidl’s (£3.49 a box) are good for the price.
At £6 for 6 macarons, Whole Foods’ offerings are melt in the mouth delights. The lavender and honey flavour is worth a special mention, as is the milk chocolate with earl grey.
If macarons don’t take your fancy, Moser Roth truffles (£1.49 at Aldi) are a great option, although resist the Marc de Champagne flavour as they are rather better without. If cake is really what you fancy, go for individual cupcakes or brownies over a larger one, as it saves you the faff of cutting it up.
Locally, the Pet Lamb Patisserie in the Grainger market in Newcastle is great, with the red velvet brownies standing out as a particular favourite. More generally, Waitrose Seriously Dainty cupcakes (£3.00 for 8), featuring a light vanilla sponge topped with chocolate fondant, will be a crowd pleaser for almost any group.
This is where you can really distinguish yourself from more pedestrian picnickers: the always appreciated yet often neglected cheese board.
The days where one needed to find far-flung exotic cheeses to impress are long behind us, so you should aim instead to charm your guests with knowledge of local offerings. The British Cheese Board tells us there are over 700 named British cheeses being made in the UK, which is a glorious pub quiz answer in the making.
The downside of this is, of course, that there is no “one size fits all” cheese advice. Local to us in Durham I can recommend the Northumberland Cheese Company’s Nettle cheese. Elegant, fresh and unusual, it’s bound to cause a stir.
If you’re less local, try instead a cave-aged cheddar. Wookey Hole from Ford Farm is excellent and widely available, and there are other similar products to be found in your supermarket.
A soft cheese can be great for a picnic, as they respond well to the warmth of the sun (we’re optimists here at Britain’s Best Food).
On this front, Parlour Made’s Durham Camembert is a wonderfully rich option for those based in the North East, and it’s likely there will be something similar local to you. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with a good Brie.
To serve, The Fine Cheese Company has blessed us with their exceptional product, ‘Toast for Cheese’. These are fantastic little crisp breads, inlaid with fruit, nuts, and seeds to suit different cheeses. At £2.99 a box, they’ll add a lovely finishing touch.
Finally, if cheese without port seems wrong to you, but you aren’t committed enough to dipsomania to cart a full bottle around, then Fortnum and Mason do a 200ml bottle of Late Bottled Vintage port at £6.90 – so it won’t hurt your back or your wallet.
You can thank us later.