Four things Julia Busuttil Nishimura gathers for picnics

When the spring sun starts to shine and the days get longer, I love cooking up a few simple meals and heading to my local park for a picnic with friends and family. It’s always a laid back affair and while it does require a bit of thought and preparation, once you’re there, it’s still worth it.

I like to keep things fairly simple by choosing foods that travel well and require minimal dishes and cutlery. Picnicking is such a simple pleasure and in Melbourne there is no shortage of wide green spaces for stretching your legs, sipping cold drinks and sharing food.

My local is Edinburgh Gardens in North Fitzroy. It has everything you want in a park – beautiful grass, lots of trees, and so many cute dogs. I’m making iced tea, cold beers, and maybe a bottle of something sparkling. A stack of melamine plates, real cutlery wrapped in linen (to use as napkins later) and a few cups, and you’re ready to have a picnic!

Smoked trout pâté

This smoked trout pâté is ready in just a few moments – make it even more sophisticated with salmon roe to really wow. To prepare, mix 400g hot smoked trout and 200g crème fraîche in a medium bowl. Stir in a handful of finely chopped dill and chives and add the juice and zest of half a lemon. Grate 1 teaspoon of horseradish and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a dish or container and top with salmon roe and additional chives. Serve the pâté with salted crisps or baguette slices.

Chicken cotoletta sandwich

Some kind of sandwich is also always popular. It can be as simple as a ham, cheese and mustard baguette or something a little more special. I usually like to take all the items with me and have them ready there so they’re freshly made. The picnics of my childhood were either mortadella sandwiches or leftover chicken cotolette stuffed inside crispy panini buns – both still feature regularly in my own picnics.

To make the cotolette, mash four small chicken breast fillets so that they are of a uniform thickness. Sprinkle the chicken with flour seasoned with salt and pepper, then place it in a bowl with two lightly beaten eggs. Finally, place the chicken on a baking sheet lined with panko breadcrumbs and coat well on both sides. Fry each cotoletta in vegetable oil until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Let drain on a wire rack and set aside.

Make a quick salad with ¼ of a shredded white cabbage; 1 red apple, cut into julienne; a handful of mint leaves and parsley; 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan; and 1 shallot, finely chopped. Dress with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of ½ lemon. Season to taste and set aside.

Cut four rolls in half and spread the base of each with mustard – I like strong English mustard, but Dijon works well too. Place a cotoletta on each base and garnish with a good amount of salad. Spread the top of the roll generously with mayonnaise – Kewpie works well – and place on top of the salad.

Panzanella salad with grilled peppers

A large salad to share is also a must. A panzanella style salad is my choice – it travels well and improves when seated. A perfect picnic choice!

For the salad, roughly cut or tear two thick slices of day-old sourdough bread into 3 cm pieces. Place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a little sea salt. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 ° C for 15 minutes or until the bread is lightly browned and dry. Transfer to a large bowl.

Cut three red peppers into large chunks, discarding the inner membrane, core and seeds. Place in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and season with sea salt. Heat a grill or pan over high heat and cook the pepper until blistering and begins to soften – it will take 8-10 minutes.

Add to the bowl with the bread, 150 g of cherry tomatoes cut in half and 100 g of peeled and dry roasted almonds. Season the salad with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons of sherry or red wine vinegar, and toss to combine. Let the salad sit for at least 30 minutes. Just before serving, add a large handful of basil leaves and season to taste. Top the salad with hard-boiled eggs (cooked for 6 minutes, until jammy, then cut in half) and eight anchovy fillets.

Melon salad with ginger and vanilla syrup

I also like to take fruit with me. Sometimes just a nice selection of seasonal fruits will do, and other times I like to put in a little more effort, like this melon salad. Any leftover syrup is also a great addition to cocktails – a win-win!

Start by making a simple sugar syrup. Combine 100g caster sugar and 100ml water in a small saucepan with a 3cm piece of thinly sliced ​​ginger and a vanilla bean split lengthwise in half. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until slightly thickened. Let cool.

At the park, pour the sugar syrup over a platter of raspberries, sliced ​​watermelon and rock melon. Sprinkle with grated mint and serve with thick plain yogurt or a labneh.

This is an excerpt from Large format sheet recipe book Home made, which offers 80 diverse recipes for home cooking, sourced from Melbourne’s best cooks, chefs and restaurants. Published by Plum, the book is available for $ 49.95 at

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