5 picnic menus for al fresco dining

There is nothing more blissful than a well-prepared picnic eaten in the great outdoors. If you’re looking for picnic tips and ideas, you’ve come to the right place! Your next picnic has been made simple with our 5 menus: the classic one, the sandwich one, the veggie one, the fish-focused one, and the spicy one. Up the ante this year with some of these ideas: from homemade quiche to picnic loaves and individual cakes that are ideal for being taken on a walk.

Hot weather is on the cards this summer, so we’ve forgone chocolate-coated treats for sweets that can stand the heat! And we’ve got tips for how to keep everything cool, well-packed, and even on what picnic kit to invest in too. We’ve got some ingenious ideas lined up for you…

5 picnic menus for al fresco dining

Packing tips for picnic success

Whatever you’re making for your feast, pack it in a cool bag with the ice blocks at the top, as the cold travels down.

  • Scotch eggs, sausage rolls and empanadas
    Pack these baked goods in storage boxes or tins with baking paper at the bottom and between layers.
  • Salads
    Pack undressed salads in large airtight containers. Put any dressings, mayos and oils in separate jars/bottles to add when you serve. No leakage worries for you!
  • Drinks
    If you’re keen for picnic drinks to quench your thirst, check our our pick of the best here. If you’re making your own, make up a big plastic bottle of the diluted drink, but don’t fill it to the top. Freeze it, and the bottle will help keep other things cold, plus it will have melted by the time you’re ready to drink it.

The classic one

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of the traditional! Start things off with our sausage rolls, these are made with store-bought puff pastry to save you time, because it’s not worth sweating over. Serve with mustard or chutney for a winning start.

For the main event, a classic cheese and onion quiche or a bacon, egg and tomato tart will never let you down. They’re rich, filling, and perfect served at room temperature. Enjoy a simple mayo-dressed potato salad alongside, and this one has chopped egg and dill for a treat.

For sweets, our ultimate bakewell tart is that perfect sweet finisher, which takes only 30 minutes of preparation.


The sandwich one

For some, bread and butter is the meaning of life. We’re taking that mantra and making a picnic with it! We’ve got two options for you here, there’s our picnic loaf, with tomatoes, mozzarella and whipped spinach butter. Or try our camembert picnic sandwich which is a pairing of epic proportions for meat-eaters only: camembert, roasted grapes and ham. It is definitely going to get the taste buds going. Enjoy with olives, and a packet of finest crisps, or why not make your own vegetable crisps, if you’ve got the energy.

Finish with our moreish, always-fantastic plum and almond sponge cake which can be prepped ahead, and is even freezable too, meaning you could use slices of this as extra ice-packs for the drinks on the journey!

Sandwich menu

The vegetarian one

Dips are underrated. We LOVE this broad bean houmous for the most achievable, seasonal starter. Or, try a beetroot and mint dip. You could serve it with warm pita or flatbreads, or even crisps or crudités.

For the main course, these caramelised onion and cheese empanadas from Argentinian chef Fernando Trocca, are proper impressive. Enjoy with lemony pea and couscous salad which is so easy to transport.

For dessert, go proper classy with our drunken apricots with biscotti and cream. They’re easy to transport in jars, and are meant to be a bit messy, so they’re ideal for taking on your walk. Just don’t forget spoons!


The spicy one

So you want to heat things up? Okay… These sage, feta and chilli sausage rolls are totally divine, and get those tastebuds going after a long walk.

For main course, our new courgette and manouri cheese galette is perfect to transport, just slice into squares and pile up then wrap tightly in foil and pop in a plastic container. Serve with this radish and tomato salad for that all important crunchy-element.

Spice doesn’t mean only chilli, so end with our moreish, always-fantastic spiced pineapple muffins! Don’t they just look the part.


The fish forward one

Scotch eggs are the picnicker’s dream but not everybody likes sausagemeat. These smoked mackerel scotch eggs are so clever! Fish and boiled eggs are a classic combination in Scandinvaian cuisine, and it works so well here in a portable form.

For the main event, you can’t beat this budget-friendly sardine panzanella, made with tinned sardines and stale sourdough – it’s a make-ahead marvel that will travel really well. When you arrive at your picnic spot, all that tossing about inside its plastic container will have turned the bread into tomato-infused chunks of heaven.

Then why not finish with a refreshing blueberry and lemon loaf cake, which travels really well and gets better with time.

Fish forward

Our favourite picnic kit

  • Thermos
    For hot drinks, soups, and more, you can’t beat a good old-fashioned Thermos. And now, the brand have brought back a 70s retro-inspired design that demands being taken on your picnic. Just look at it!
  • Stojo collapsible keep cups
    What good is a thermos, without cups to drink from? These collapsible ones from Stojo are ideal. Available from Robert Dyas (£9.99).
  • Picnic blanket
    Every picnic needs a picnic blanket. Here’s a well-priced one with a water-resistant polyurethane underside to prevent dampness seeping through. It rolls up into a compact cylinder, with straps for easy carrying. Excellent. £20 or £25 (depending on picture chosen), johnlewis.com.
  • Drinks cooler
    These double bottle carriers are made from recycled plastic (thumbs up), complete with detachable shoulder strap and insulated to keep chilled bottles cool. Available from Glyndebourne (£19); look out for matching cooler tote bag, too, £21.
  • Picnic backpack
    A fits-it-all picnic backpack is a clever invention, and some of the best we’ve found for size and practicality are by ProCook.
  • Sharp knife
    A knife that folds up is the perfect picnic tool. Whether you need it to slice cake, cut up your picnic loaf, or simply to slice an apple, we love the no 12 from Opinel.

Check out all our make-ahead picnic recipes here.

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