Saturday, August 12, 2006

Never knowingly under catered, me!

I consulted a few cookbooks in the usual pre preparation for a culinary extravaganza. I thought as I had a picnic to plan that David Herbert’s ‘Picnics’ book I’d recently purchased would be a great start. But even though I like the book I wasn’t inspired enough. Maybe this was because I’d already decided to make a creamy leek tart from Simon Hopkinson’s ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’ and a Parma ham, hard boiled egg and cheese bread from Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef. I’d already got some mini smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels from M&S so the smoked salmon spirals from ‘Picnics’ seemed smoked salmon overkill even for me.
Eventually I also settled upon a Camembert baked in a box with hot potatoes to dip into the liquid cheese centre, chicken drumsticks with pesto cream (inspired by Olive magazine Aug 06), dough balls dipped in garlic butter and the inevitable mâche and balsamic. And for dessert, I’d gone for a tarte au citron and some chocolate pots. All my plans got jotted down on a little visual reminder which I use to ensure that I haven't forgotten anything. Unfortunately what I have seemed to have forgotten is that I was preparing a picnic for three and not a small village. D made me see sense and we dropped the chicken and pesto cream and dough balls quite early on in the preparation.
It was fortunate as the bread recipe would have happily fed a family for a week but I’d hate to think of anyone going hungry so I continued creating a mountain of picnic food.
The bread was particularly pleasing as (sorry H, turn away now) it looked rather like a bread snake had consumed a load of hard-boiled eggs, which in some sense it had. It looked even better when cut into slices and tasted just wonderful. I would heartily recommend baking bread with Parma ham inside; it permeated the entire bread – very tasty indeed! The leek tart is an old favourite of mine but I very stupidly decided to grab a chilled uncooked pastry case as I was pushed for time. What a mistake! When I blind baked it, it shrank unbelievably until in one place there was no pastry side at all to contain any filling. D had the marvellous idea of an attempt to patch it up with the uncooked bread dough and this helped some but as the whole tart ended up as no big than a fat pancake there wasn’t enough room for the cheesy, creamy, tarragon and leek filling so it was rather a dense leek tart. It tasted okay but normally this tart is a triumph, I won’t be cutting that culinary corner again!
We assembled the red and white chequered tablecloth and napkins, the white strawberry encrusted china plates (I’m not crazy about paper/plastic plates or plastic cutlery!), the spikes to stick in the ground to hold the wine glasses (such a boon, I’d urge you to get some), the fabulous Cath Kitson stripy picnic chair, an assortment of cutlery, corkscrews, cake slice, bread knife etcetera and fortunately an umbrella. And of course not forgetting the lantern and its crook and citronella tea lights to burn in it.
Everything was delicious but being a typical English picnic it rained! And I admit, in the end there was a little too much food but I have a reputation to protect and I’m never knowingly under catered, me!

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