I don’t know about you, but I probably ate as many childhood summer picnics sitting inside while it rained as sitting outside in the sunshine. Still, soon-to-be-soggy tomato sandwiches, tayto crisps, club orange and mikado biscuits were as much of a summer treat inside our holiday caravan as out. Eating in also meant you avoided the inevitable gobful of sand that accompanied a meal on the beach, which was a not unimportant consideration.
Fast forward an unspecified number of years and my picnics, when they happen, are more likely to consist of crusty bread, a nice block of cheese, ballymaloe relish and a more adult beverage. Throw in some potato salad, coleslaw and maybe a tossed salad or sorts and I’m more than happy. It’s simple food to which the warmth of the sun (when it’s there) always adds its own particular seasoning.
That’s not to say, however, that you can’t mix it up a little every now and then.
This month’s 5 star makeover asked us to do exactly that: take some classic picnic fare and give it a shiny new look. Armed with a stash of ingredients from my recent Lebanese travels, I thought that I would take the simple tossed salad of tomato, lettuce and onion on a journey to the Middle East. The result is a salad packed with Lebanese flavours. The preparation, though, is simple, which is a must for picnics in Ireland. Too much time spent getting ready and you might have to enjoy your picnic inside, again.
If it was your mission to design a new signature dish for Ireland, suitable for service in the finest restaurants, then just what would that dish be?
That’s the question being asked of chefs and cooks, professional and amateur alike, in a competition being run as part of the Só Sligo Food Festival. The festival, one of an increasing number of food-centric events to be found gracing the Irish calendar, will see that particular corner of the north west awash with edible possibilities from the 16th to the 20th of this month.
As to the question of the signature dish, well, I don’t suppose a bowl of coleslaw would cut it?
An Irish coleslaw: it's certainly got the national colours going for it
It was one of those moments when you try something new and you know what the joy of good food is.
So said resident sis after we had practically inhaled a lunch of mildly sweet and delicate gravad lax from Kinvara Smoked Salmon (proving that you don’t have to be famous to get quoted on this blog, but it does help if you’re related).
She’s in good company as far as her opinion of Kinvara’s smoked salmon goes. Nigel Slater and Jeffrey Steingarten are among the noteworthy food writers who have had kind words to say on that particular subject. Having worked my way through the samples very kindly sent to me, I can’t say that I would object to finding any of them on my plate (though the gravad lax remains a particular favourite).
Pressies from Kinvara Smoked Salmon