The Art of PicnickingJune 15th, 2020
It’s summer solstice this week, meaning longer days and more time for one of our favourite pursuits: picnicking. Not a quick egg sandwich, but a movable feast of delicacies – a sense of occasion, with a thrill that only comes from the unpredictability of British weather.
Picnics hold a special place in our culture, from The Wind in the Willows to The Famous Five’s lashings of ginger beer. And their history has some curious parallels to our estate…
Originating from the French ‘pique-nique’, first defined in 1692 – around the time Hadpsen House was built – as a meal where each person brought a dish to ‘pick’ at. Much like our house, they flourished in the Georgian era, with the English ‘picnic’ appearing in the early 1800s in Jane Austen’s Emma:
“It was to be done in a quiet, unpretending, elegant way, infinitely superior to the bustle and preparation.”
For the Georgians, picnics were fashionable pleasure parties, with pigeon pies, potted meats, garden pickles, exotic fruits and spiced sponges gracing their baskets. As sensibilities heightened in the Romantic era, picnics embodied communing with nature – captured in Edouard Manet’s scandalous The Luncheon on the Grass.
Be inspired by picnickers past with our tips for elevating your picnic, followed by a seasonal tart that makes an impressive centrepiece. There’s no need for standards to slip while feasting al fresco:
- Stow your feast in style – try a Japanese Furoshiki fabric wrap
- A whole hot smoked trout is a real treat – flake off the bone, serve with crusty bread
- Try making a traditional Cornish pasty with half sweet, half savoury filling
- Go French – grab a baguette, soft cheese and a small beer; pop a pen knife in your pocket
- Bring a bottle – make your own iced tea or elderflower champagne
- No true Somerset picnic is complete without a bottle of cyder!
Chard, Leek & Cheddar Tart
Makes one large 25cm tart
- 200g sliced leeks
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 3 x sprigs thyme, finely chopped
- 200g chard
- 50g cheddar, grated
- 500ml double cream
- 1 x whole egg
- 1 x egg yolk
- salt & pepper
- 500g flour
- 250g cold butter, cubed
- 5g salt
- 100ml cold water
1) To make the shortcrust: combine flour, salt and butter. Mix until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add water and bring dough together. Don’t over mix. Chill for 1 hour before using. Roll out to 3mm thick and line tart case. Chill for 30mins before baking.
2) Blind bake tart case for 20mins at 160°C, using baking beans. Remove baking beans and bake for a further 5-8mins.
3) For the filling, sweat the leeks in oil until soft. Add the chopped garlic and thyme, cook for a further 3mins. Season with salt and pepper.
4) Blanch the chard in boiling salted water for 2mins. Drain and once cooled, squeeze out any excess water. Chop roughly.
5) For the custard, whisk cream, egg and yolk together, season with salt and pepper.
6) To assemble the tart, place some grated cheddar in the bottom of the tart shell, top with the leeks, more cheddar, then the chard. Pour custard over to cover.
7) Bake at 150°C for 20-25mins until nice and golden and the custard is set.