Summer Picnic Sensations with Ruth Pretty


Our good friend Ruth Pretty kindly supplied these words and pictures for our Slow Motion Issue #2.

We wanted to reproduce them here because we know that it's sometimes easier to use recipes on a digital device than a magazine. Enjoy!

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While summer seems to be conventionally labelled Picnic Season, the truth is that any day worth venturing out in can be accessorised with a delicious picnic lunch, enjoyable outdoors or in your vehicle, parked up with a glorious view of nature. Here are a few of my most popular picnic recipes.

DIET-BE-DAMNED BROWNIE

makes 40 squares

INGREDIENTS

  • 105g flour
  • 60g cocoa, preferably Dutched cocoa
  • 340g butter, cubed
  • 590g castor sugar
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence
  • 560g Whittaker’s dark chocolate, preferably 72%, nibs or tablet coarsely chopped
  • icing sugar, for presentation if you wish

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Lightly grease base and sides of a 33cm x 23cm sponge roll tin. Line base with baking paper.

Into a bowl sift flour and cocoa. Place butter in a saucepan over a low heat, add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cool slightly, add eggs and vanilla and stir until combined.

Add flour mixture and chocolate and combine. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until crusty on top and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted will come out slightly sticky.

Gently run a knife around the edge of tin to loosen brownie. Allow brownie to cool before turning out onto a cake rack. Remove baking paper.

Place on a firm flat board and trim edges {cook’s perks}. Cut brownie into 4cm squares.

Place brownies into an airtight container with greaseproof paper in between each layer. Store at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you are ready to indulge, allow brownie to come to room temperature if it has been frozen, and if you wish dust with icing sugar.

Warning: this is addictive.

HERBED CREAM CHEESE AND VEGETABLE SANDWICHES

makes 12 sandwiches

INGREDIENTS

  • 225g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons chopped French tarragon leaves
  • ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 50g (½) carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 60g (2 -3) radishes, coarsely grated
  • 100g (1/3) cucumber (leave skin on if it is tender), coarsely grated
  • 1 baguette, cut into 7mm thick slices (need 24 slices)

METHOD

To make Herbed Cream Cheese: In a medium bowl place cream cheese, parsley, thyme, tarragon and salt and pepper. Mash with a fork to combine.

Place carrot and radish separately onto paper towels, cover and press firmly to release moisture. For the cucumber, similar but wring it.

Lay out baguette slices on a chopping board and spread each slice with a heaped teaspoon of Herbed Cream Cheese. Top each baguette slice with a mound of mixed vegetables. Gently top with second slice of baguette. Do not press down on sandwiches.

If preparing ahead of time store in an airtight container in refrigerator, with greaseproof paper between each layer. Bring out of refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.


CHICKEN PISTACHIO PIES WITH SPRINGFIELD PEAR CHUTNEY


makes 3x 10cm raised pies, or 16x large muffin-sized pies

INGREDIENTS

  • egg wash (1 lightly beaten egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water)
  • 9 {or 16} fresh sage leaves, washed and stems removed
  • 500ml chicken stock liquid
  • reserved soaking liquid from cranberries in Chicken Pistachio Pie Filling
  • Springfield Pear Chutney, as condiment, available at Blackwell and Sons

CREAM CHEESE PASTRY

  • 285g flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 125g cream cheese, chopped into 5-6 pieces
  • 170g butter, diced
  • 2 tablespoons iced water
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar

PIE FILLING

  • 50ml chicken stock liquid, heated
  • 2 heaped tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 325g chicken tenderloins, tendon removed, diced
  • ½ small onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 175g ham, preferably in one piece off the bone, diced
  • ¼ cup pistachio nuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • ¾ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

MAKE PASTRY (MAKES 630g)

Place flour and baking powder in the bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade and pulse. Chop cream cheese into 5 or 6 pieces and add to flour. Process until coarsely chopped. Add butter and process until butter is the size of small peas.

Add water and vinegar and process until dough just begins to come together. Tip onto a lightly floured board. Gently mould together by hand. Work into a ball and flatten with the palm of your hand. Wrap in plastic wrap and rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.

MAKE PIE FILLING

To hot stock add cranberries and soak until cold. Into a heavy-based fry pan over a medium heat add oil and when hot add chicken. Gently toss around in oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until chicken is half cooked. Add onion and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes, or until onion is soft but not brown, and chicken is fully cooked. Transfer to a bowl and cool.

Drain cranberries and reserve liquid. Add ham, pistachios, cranberries, sage, orange zest, salt and pepper to chicken mixture and combine. Cool and fill pies.

MAKE PIES

Preheat oven to 190ºC. Lightly grease pie tins or muffin tins with baking spray. Lightly flour pastry bench and roll Cream Cheese Pastry to 2mm thickness.

Cut pastry in rounds to fit base and sides of chosen tins, adding in 2cm to diameter. Any pastry off-cuts stack and then roll out. Repeat for pie tops. Cut a 5mm hole in the centre of pie top.

Push bases into prepared tins leaving a 1cm overhang. Fill bases with Chicken Pistachio Pie Filling to about ¾ full.

Using a pastry brush, brush under-side edges of pastry lids with water and place on top of filled bases. Crimp edges together to form a neatly rolled edge.

Rest pies in refrigerator 20-30 minutes. Brush tops and rolled edge with egg wash. Arrange 3 {or 16} sage leaves on each pie and brush pie with egg wash. Bake in oven 30-40 minutes until pastry is golden brown and cooked. Cool.

Pour chicken stock and reserved cranberry liquid into a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer until stock has reduced by two-thirds. Cool.

Pour stock into a squeeze bottle and squeeze stock into each pie, through the hole in the lid, to the top of the pie. Refrigerate pies until stock has jellied. Serve with Springfield Pear Chutney (available at Blackwell and Sons).