Food, Recipes

Parmesan-crumbed lamb chops

The best picnic food ever – if they last that long.

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 These Parmesan-crumbed lamb chops are pretty darn awesome, hot or cold.

The recipe is from Pipi: the cookbook and once you try it you won’t want to do them any other way. Adding cheese is a stroke of genius, keeping the deeply savoury, golden, crunchy crumbs firmly stuck to the chop.

6 slices fresh bread

3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

1/2 cup flour

Pinch of salt

2 eggs, beaten

2 lamb racks, cut up into 16 wee chops

2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Whiz the bread and Parmesan together in a food processor until they are tiny crumbs. Then fill one bowl with the flour seasoned with the salt, a second with the beaten egg and a third with the crumbs.

First dust the chops with the flour, then dip them in the egg, and then put them in the bowl with the crumb mixture, turning them until they are completely coated. If you want to make absolutely sure you have a lot of crumb on the chops, you can repeat the egg and breadcrumb steps.

Lay the chops on a plate lined with greaseproof paper and put them in the fridge for at least half an hour to help set the crumbs.

Now you’re ready to cook the chops. Place a large frying pan on a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Brown the chops on each side. You will have to do this in batches, using the remaining oil. Then transfer the chops to a roasting dish or baking tray, and put them in the oven for 10-15 minutes to cook through.

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Food, Recipes

Bacon and egg pie

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: picnics are all about food you can pick up and eat with your fingers. And that, ladies and jellybeans, means pies. Well, not always, but you’d be mad not to. Unless you’re gluten intolerant, in which case there’s nothing for you here. LOOK AWAY NOW.

If, however, buttery crispy flaky golden deliciousness holds no fears for you, check this out.

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Pie-tastic.

The recipe is from Annabel Langbein’s Free Range Cook, in which she says her hubby proposed after she fed him this very pie. I’m not sure it’d make me drop to one knee, but it was indeed good. It even got the thumbs up from four-year-old Alice, despite her suspicion at the “green bits”.

This does all the things you want picnic food to do: it tastes good; you can ditch the plates and cutlery; and it travels well – so it still looks damned impressive when it’s been carried about a wildlife sanctuary for three hours in the bottom of your bag.

Even better, you don’t need even have to make the pastry; a packet of the frozen stuff is just fine. This gladdens my heart because I’m a crappy pastry maker. My hands are too warm. But that’s all right. Because it means they’re great for bread. And lessens the necessity for extra layers in winter, or having to carry a hot baked potato around in my pocket all day.

Bacon and Egg Pie

3 sheets (450g) ready-rolled savoury shortcrust pastry
250g streaky bacon, cut into 2cm pieces
2 medium potatoes, peeled, cooked and thinly sliced
3 tbsp soft herbs (eg parsley, basil, chives or spring onion tops), chopped
14 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp salt
ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200C. Place a flat baking tray in the oven to heat – the pie will sit on this, and the heat will help it to crisp.

Cut a piece of baking paper to fit a 40 x 30cm baking dish or roasting pan. It should cover the base and reach about 3-4cm up the sides.

Remove the baking paper from the baking dish or roasting pan and lay it flat on your bench. Dust it with a little flour and lay 2 pastry sheets on top. Join the pastry sheets by pressing them together firmly with a small overlap. Roll out the pastry to thinly cover the paper. Lift the paper with the pastry and lay into the baking dish or roasting pan, covering the base and 3-4cm up the sides.

Sprinkle the bacon over the pastry. Top with the slices of potato and sprinkle with the herbs. Break 8 whole eggs over the top.

In a mixing bowl, lightly whisk the remaining 6 eggs with the milk, salt and pepper. Pour this evenly over the whole eggs.

Roll out the remaining sheet of pastry very thinly and cut it into narrow strips. Arrange the strips in a lattice pattern on top of the pie, trimming off any excess.

Place the prepared pie on top of the heated baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes until the pastry is starting to puff and turn golden. Reduce the heat to 180C and bake until the pastry is golden and cooked through on the base (this should take a further 35-40 minutes).

*If you like the look of this, visit the Annabel Langbein website for all sorts of yumminess, recipes and video treats.

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Food, Recipes

Eating with your fingers

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When Mole inspected the contents of Rat’s ‘fat, wicker luncheon basket’, he found inside it “coldchickencoldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkins
saladfrenchrollscresssandwichespottedmeatgingerbeer
lemonade sodawater…”

He was an instant convert. As was everyone who ever read, or had read to them, Kenneth Grahame’s classic, The Wind in the Willows. Which is as it should be. Because if there’s one thing in life as much fun as messing about in boats, it’s picnicking.

I think it’s got something to do with being allowed to eat with one’s fingers. Whatever. Food always tastes better out of doors.

KG wasn’t the only writer who made the most of the power of picnics to seduce readers. Characters in Enid Blyton books were at it all the time. Take the Famous Five.

They were always on the scrounge from kindly farmers’ wives who would effortlessly conjure giant slabs of sticky gingerbread, fruitcakes, loaves of fresh white bread and slices of home-cured ham, hardboiled eggs and pork pies. And of course, lashings of ginger beer.The hedgerows segmenting the storybook land over which out intrepid heroes rambled provided juicy blackberries, and Julian was always pulling a battered tin frying pan from his rucksack in which to sizzle a few sausages for supper. They certainly didn’t starve.

Mind you, nor did we at the races the weekend before last – an annual outing to the Wellington Cup to gamble and guzzle fizzy wine. And where the horses always run a distant second to The Picnic.

We usually have about 30 to feed. And while there have been years in the past when I’ve spent the day napping under a tree, tuckered out after pulling all-nighters in the kitchen, I’ve got a better handle on this catering lark now. After all, the cook has to enjoy the day too.

So this year I didn’t cook anything at all, just shopped smarter. What’s more, I don’t think anyone even noticed. After all, we had lovely crusty bread and good cheeses, all manner of dippy, spready things out of little tubs from the supermarket, piles of avocados, crunchy vege sticks, smoked mussels, salami and cold roast chicken, watermelon, apricots and strawberries – and chocolates for good measure.

Like I said, nobody starved.

And it was all so easy. Picnics don’t have to be that lavish though. Just snatching a few minutes in the middle of the day to stroll to a park and eat your lunchtime sarnies there instead of at your desk will put you in a picnicky enough frame of mind to forget the rigours of work for a blissful hour.

Pan Bagna is the perfect picnic sandwich: filled with strongly-flavoured Mediterranean-style ingredients and fragrant with fresh herbs, it’s a sort of salad Nicoise in a bun. Doused in olive oil and tied up with string the night before, it’ll slice well without falling apart.
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one baguette, anchovies, black olives, tuna, eggs, roasted red pepper, tomatoes, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil

Stone the olives, drain the anchovies and tuna, hardboil the eggs and slice the pepper and tomatoes.

Cut the bread in half through the middle, layer all the ingredients artfully on the bottom half, pack on lots of fresh basil, and drench the lot in olive oil.

Press the other half down on top and tie the sandwich tightly with string. Wrap in tinfoil and refrigerate overnight (anything from four to 24 hours is fine but the longer you leave it the easier it will be to slice).

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