Looking for a way to keep the kids busy this summer holiday? Get outside and enjoy the sunshine with three picnic-ready recipes perfect for little hands, from food and family blogger Emily Leary (A Mummy Too)
“There’s something about eating outdoors with loved ones in golden weather that is simple, pure joy. I love the anticipation of making and packing delicious treats to enjoy at our favourite spot.”
Recipe developer, food fanatic and mum to two young children, Emily Leary is always looking for fun ways to keep her family entertained. Her recipe for the ultimate activity this summer? Packing up a picnic and enjoying the great outdoors. “My children are hugely inquisitive with wild imaginations, so if they have space to explore and create, they’re generally very happy,” Emily says.
“I’ve been cooking with my children since they were babies. These days they’re real pros in the kitchen and often I play sous chef to their head chef. Over the summer, we try to build in a good range of activities to suit their various interests, so some days you’ll find us at the jungle gym and others we’ll be exploring a new city or a museum.
“For me, picnics are about finding somewhere peaceful to enjoy delicious food with the people you care about, which is what inspired these three takes on super-easy picnic food the whole family can enjoy.
“My bite-sized take on a Danish pastry uses rough puff instead of a yeast-based dough, which makes it super buttery and very easy for kids to get involved with. Mixing in the dough and rolling it out is always messy fun, and all the cutting and folding can be done with a child-friendly butter knife.
“The shooter’s sandwiches I’ve suggested are filled with Mediterranean vegetables for a healthy boost. If your kids are like mine, they’ll also find any recipe instruction that allows them to squash their lunch under a heavy book tons of fun – it’s that last step that makes them fantastically suited to a picnic: individually wrapped and ready to pack!
“Nothing says summer to me like a cool fruit tart. While my mini strawberry versions taste as phenomenal as they look, they’re surprisingly easy to make. Kids will love delving their hands into the pastry bowl, dolloping the custard and sneaking strawberries. Sure, the kitchen will probably end up covered in flour, but that’s half the fun.”
“I love the double hit of flavours and textures when using apricot jam and tinned apricots, but you can use whatever tinned fruit and jam combination is your favourite.”
Prep time: 25 mins Cook time: 15 mins | Serves: 8-16
Ingredients For the rough puff
125g plain flour
125g salted butter, room temperature
60ml very cold water
For the filling
5 tbsp apricot jam
1 can apricot halves
1 egg, beaten
For the icing
6 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp juice from the apricot can
For successful rough puff, make sure the butter never goes soft. Cold hands and a cool work surface help – my preference is a marble board. Add the flour to the board and make a well in the middle.
Add cubes of butter to the well and crumble into the flour. You want to still see pieces of butter; you don’t want breadcrumbs.
Add 2/3 of the water and gently combine. Add the remaining water if needed so the dough comes together, but is still dry. Wrap in cling film and cool in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Clean and dry your work surface then dust with flour. Unwrap the dough and roll into a straight rectangle three times as long as it is wide, then fold 1/3 of the length over, then fold another 1/3 over so you have a square. Wrap in cling film again and chill for 20 minutes, then repeat twice more.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan, gas mark 7). Cut the dough into 16 equal squares, then roll each square out to create thin squares of around 6 x 6cm. Store covered in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble.
Take each pastry square and cut from each corner towards the centre, leaving a 2cm untouched area in the middle. Spoon a little apricot jam into the centre, then fold alternating points into the middle.
Place on a non-stick baking sheet, brush with egg wash and add a drained apricot half on top of each pastry. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool. Mix the icing sugar and apricot juice into icing, drizzle over the pastries and leave to set.
“When the kids help make these, they each get an individual roll rather than a full loaf. They have fun scooping out the soft insides of the rolls, and tweaking the filling to their preferences.”
Warm one tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over a low-medium heat. Destalk the mushrooms and place upside down in the pan for approximately eight minutes, flip and fry for a further eight minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside to cool.
Warm a further one tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and add the peppers and garlic. Fry gently, stirring occasionally for approximately 15 minutes until
softened. Set aside to cool.
Cut the top 1cm off each of the crusty rolls and pull out the soft insides, leaving about 1cm all the way round. (Save the bread you remove in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. It’ll come in handy next time you need breadcrumbs.)
Spread the houmous on the bottom inside of the bread and on the inside of the lid.
In each roll, pile up the ingredients as follows: mushroom (upside down), then red pepper, then yellow pepper, then fresh spinach, then another mushroom (right side up).
Place the bread lid back on the rolls, wrap each in strong foil and place under a heavy book for 20 minutes.
Unwrap and slice in half to serve.
“If you are taking these tarts on a picnic, keep them as cool as you can – pop them in the freezer for 15 minutes before you set off so they’re perfect when served.”
Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 30 mins | Serves: 4-8
100g salted butter, cold and cubed
25g icing sugar
4 egg yolks (2 for the pastry, 2 for the custard)
4 10cm loose-bottom tart tins
25g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, seeds removed
2 tsp cornflour
5g ground arrowroot
100ml berry juice or diluted cordial
4 sprigs of mint
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan, gas mark 6). Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl and add the butter. With clean hands, rub the butter into the flour until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add two egg yolks and then mix together with a dinner knife until you can roll the mixture into a smooth ball. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough into four equal pieces. Roll each one into a disc a few cm wider than the tins. Lift the pastry into the tins, pressing gently into place. Leave the overhang in place. Put the tins on a baking tray,
then fill each tin with a little baking paper and a handful of baking beans or uncooked rice.
Bake for eight minutes. Remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for a further five minutes until pale golden. Check the bottoms are cooked through. Leave until cool completely, then trim the edges with a sharp knife and remove the pastry cases from the tins.
In a non-stick pan, whisk two yolks, caster sugar, vanilla and cornflour until smooth. Over a low heat, slowly add the cream, then milk, whisking continuously. Heat while whisking for 10 more minutes until thickened. Place in a clean bowl, cover and allow to cool.
In a saucepan, mix the arrowroot with a little of the juice to make a paste. Stir in the remaining juice and gradually bring to the boil. Keep stirring until the mixture is clear and thick. Transfer to a heatproof jug and set aside until cool.
Spoon the custard equally among the four pastry cases. Halve the strawberries and arrange in the cases. Brush the cooled glaze over the fruit. Chill until set. Finish with sprigs of mint.