The Perfect Picnic

LETTICE FRANKLIN’s recipes for a scrumptiously cheap picnic.

cava frickin gazpacho mint mole pea picnic Sainsbury's sausage roll Wikipedia wind in the willows

In a search for inspiration, possibly fuelled by a hidden desire to return to last week’s life of academic rigour that now seems so remote, I googled picnics. Wikipedia comes up with some real gems; did you know, for instance, that the word ‘pique-nique’ was first used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine? This proves (yes, proves, come on, Wikipedia is a super reliable academic source and every how-not-to-fail talk in Freshers Week got it so wrong) something that I’ve suspected for a while: that the only real necessity on a picnic is cheap Sainsbury’s cava.

Wikipedia also states emphatically that ‘whether picnic is actually based on the piquer which means ‘pick’ or ‘peck’ with the rhyming ‘nique’ meaning ‘thing of little importance’ is doubted’. Plus, The Oxford English Dictionary (yes, that’s right, the OED; on the way up) doesn’t verify this. And rightly so; what one pecks at a picnic is of the utmost importance.


Picnics are small moments in one's life when one lives a fantasy. We have all read the Cambridge prospectus and observed groups of happy students, always made up of many ethnic minorities and even more ginger people, lying happily by the Cam, perhaps reading a little John Maynard Keynes to each other just for kicks, enjoying an early evening picnic. The Wind in the Willows opens with Mole falling head over heels in love with Rat’s life, falling into ecstasies of “O my! O my! O my!”, his wonder entirely provoked by on the idea of picnicking by a river. Invite the mole to the Backs pronto.


To provoke your friends to similar levels of joy and to truly live that prospectus dream, your menu has got to be just right. Easy-effortless preparation is essential; in the absence of work, doing one’s laundry, watching all the episodes of Junior Apprentice in one day and plucking one’s eyebrows become incredibly urgent, leaving little time for cooking. Food also needs to be totally portable, easy to eat, preferably not requiring a knife and fork, cheap cheap cheap, and, most importantly, delicious.


Sausage Rolls

Sausage rolls are the ideal picnic food. They have an aura of timeless Englishness; one can picture Henry VIII tucking into a jumbo number for a mid-morning snack. They are also INCREDIBLY easy to make; really you can just wrap a sheet of ready-rolled pastry around a sausage and bingo, deliciousness a-go-go.

Serves 6
Flour, to dust
1 375g packet of shortcrust pastry
3 sausages, cut in half – get fancy varieties to add even more herby excitement
2 teaspoons of dried sage
Sesame seeds
1 beaten egg


1. Preheat oven to 220°C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
2. Put a large sheet of baking paper on the work surface and dust with flour. Unroll pastry and cut into 6 rectangles, each the length of a sausage and three times its width, and dust with flour.
3. Place a halved sausage on top of each strip. Fold the pastry around the sausage, brushing the edges with water if they don’t stick to each other.
4. Repeat until you have 6 rolls. Then chop all in three to create bite-size sausage rolls. 
5. Brush the rolls with egg yolk then sprinkle with sesame seeds and dried sage.
6. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden.


Chilled Soup

To elevate your picnic from the Henry VIII-friendly, Jamie Oliver pukka pukka, to something a bit more refined and Nigel Slater–esque, add chilled soup to the menu. Gazpacho is the classic version of this but for a sophisticated alternative go for a verdant pea and mint concoction. Pack in a flask and serve in foam cups.

6 – 8 cups of chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarians)
6 cups of frozen peas
Small bunch of mint
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 medium onions, diced
Juice from half a lemon
Olive oil


1. Cook the onions and garlic in a large saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for 8-10 minutes until the onions are translucent and browning.
2. Cover the vegetables with chicken stock and bring back to boil.
3. Add the frozen peas and stir and again, bring to the boil.
4. Cook for 10 minutes on low heat until the peas begin to go mushy.
5. Add the mint leaves, the lemon juice.
6. Puree in a blender or one of those incredibly cool handheld blenders, or, realistically, with a potato masher.
7. Chill in the fridge.
8. Add a blob of crème fraiche and watch it turn the whole soup tie-dye.



Finish the picnic off with an Eton Mess. Hell, you can even be really cringe worthy and call it a Cambridge Mess, or make it even more cringe worthy and make some hilarious plaudit about getting messy in Cambridge, or alternatively, and actually, thinking about it, definitely advisably, stick to discussing what a perfectly unbeatable pudding this is. I really recommend stocking up on the mind-blowingly good strawberries sold by a local farm from a special stall at the Sunday market.

3 punnets of strawberries, with the green bits removed
8 plain meringues
200g whipping cream
200g thick Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
Elderflower cordial or for a ‘messy’ mess (sorry, sorry, kill me now) some super-fun kirsch or berry liqueur


1. Cut strawberries into halves or thick slices.
2. Place 2 punnets of strawberries in bowl, sprinkle with 2 tbsp of liqueur and dust with icing sugar.
3. Crush remaining punnet into a puree, adding more liqueur.
4. Whip the cream with a whisk, fold in the yoghurt.
5. Crush the meringues into bite-sized pieces.
6. Fold cream, meringue and strawberries into each other. Place portions in jam jars for ultimate portability and drizzle with puree.

Head down to the Cam, recline in the rain, down the cava, tuck into these things of great importance, and, “O my! O my! O my!”, live the fricking dream.