Summertime memories seem to be made of a wicker basket packed to the rim with lunchtime treats. Those endless days of summer with picnics in the countryside seem to be perfection personified. A never ending stream of wasps that didn’t spoil simple delights as a ham rolls or an egg and cress sandwich all washed down with warm Robinsons orange Barley water (we didn’t have coke in those days – it was an American import and not good enough for a British picnic). Perhaps the true culinary delight of the summer hamper in those days was the beach picnic where the same ham rolls and egg and cress sandwiches all managed to achieve an unexpected extra crunch from sandy, little fingers. Ah, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.
Sadly the picnic really did fall out of favour as it was replaced by the omnipresent burger and chips (yuk) being sold from greasy kiosks (double yuk) wherever people gather for fun.
Picnic Concerts A Go Go
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in picnic hampers. Organisations such as English Heritage have been successfully organising Picnic Concerts for a number of years now. There can be nothing more quintessentially British than an open air concert in the grounds of a stately home such as Kenwood House in London or Audley End in Essex.
Picnic hampers of every shape and size accompany revellers hoping for a warm and dry summer evening in which to enjoy food and drink against a backdrop of some fantastic entertainment. Just imagine the Latino thrill of the Gypsy Kings whilst you munch on your Gypsy Cremes. Yes Gypsy Kings with the Gypsy Cremes – I was there, and it poured. Still, nothing that another glass of Pimms didn’t put right.
These events cater (literally) for the picnic aficionado with celebrity chef brands vying to supply concert goers with the latest twist on seasonal foods such as asparagus and strawberry. It’s so good that you don’t have to pack your basket you just turn up and collect it.
Diamond Jubilee Hampers
If anybody doubted the resurgence of the picnic hamper then events at Buckingham Palace very recently, show how serious the nation has become about its picnic hampers. 12,000 hungry revellers turned up at the gates of the palace eager to be fed wonderful picnic food before the Diamond Jubilee concert. A joint venture between the chefs of Buckingham Palace, celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal and Waitrose Supermarket saw months spent coming up with recipes suitable for the occasion. The food had to be British, summery, fit to serve to The Queen and of course, capable of being packed into an individual hamper.
Each picnic, presented in an individual hamper consisted of a tasty British menu that consisted of:
- Chilled British Country Garden Soup – plum tomatoes with red peppers and cucumber and a mint oil infusion (lush)
- Lapsang Souchong tea smoked salmon with British crème fraîche and chives
- Coronation chicken – included as a nod to the original version created for the Queen’s coronation
- Sandringham Strawberry Crumble crunch (yes, all the strawbs came from Sandringham)
- Lemon and Caraway Madeira cake (how BRITISH is that. What? You’ve never tasted caraway seeds in a cake?)
- Chocolate Indulgence cake (how MODERN is that)
- English cheeseboard – West Country Cheddar, creamy Red Leicester and oat biscuits with chutney (what a way to round-off lunch)
All that washed down with a glass of champers and perhaps the best of all, a blue plastic rain coat (you really can’t call them ponchos in Buckingham Palace can you), and picnics, hampers and great summer food are back for good.
You can find some fantastic Hampers that are absolutely perfect for wonderful afternoons spent relaxing in the sun (or avoiding the rain) and celebrating the great British summer.