When I was a child our frequent visits to the Big Smoke from the west of Ireland were punctuated with picnics on the Curragh.
We would literally just park at the side of the road, hop out and indulge in some warm lemonade, soggy sandwiches and if we were lucky, a cold sausage or two.
Thankfully things have changed and not only would it be inconceivable to pull up on the motorway and set up a picnic table, but the contents of our basket would actually be worth making the stop for.
So with the weather behaving itself for once, we have compiled some tips for the perfect Irish picnic.
Where to go
First up is where to go and with dual carriageways out of the question, we have chosen a few more picturesque spots all over Ireland:
· Torc Waterfall or MuckrossPark in Killarney, Co Kerry
Torc Waterfall, Killareney
· Kilfane Glen and Waterfall in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny
· FanoreBeach, BurrenNational Park or Cratloe Woods in Co Clare.
· CoolePark or GorteenBeach Roundstone in Co Galway.
· Glendalough in WicklowNational Park
· RathbegganLake in Dunshauglin, Co Meath.
· Ireland is blessed with wonderful forests, so to choose one in your location visit www.coillte.ie
· Our unspoilt coastline is also legendary – find your nearest spot on www.discoverireland.ie
We have been enjoying a longer spell of sunshine than usual this year, but we all know that the weather in Ireland can change in an instant, so it is essential to be prepared:
· A picnic doesn’t have to come packed in a basket with a tartan blanket on top, but it is always better to have a few niceties to make more of an occasion of it – so if you have sturdy crockery and glasses, take them with you and picnic in style.
· Those of a more genteel nature may like to pack a flask of tea for their summer picnic, but the rest of us are usually happy with a cold drink of some sort so if your beverages are likely to be sitting in the boot of the car for the duration of the drive, make sure to keep them in a cool box as there is nothing more deflating than popping the tab of a warm drink on a hot day.
· Sitting at a table may be the most civilised way of eating outdoors but not many of us have the luxury of a fold-away set so just throw a blanket or sleeping bag into the car with your food because your chosen destination may not have the most comfortable ground cover.
· As a nation we are experts at all-weather preparations. Along with the sunblock, parasol and insect repellent, we will undoubtedly be bringing raincoats, heavy jumpers and umbrellas – we know the score; there’s no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing.
· And of course, last but not least; don’t forget wipes and napkins – we don’t want the whole world knowing what we had for lunch. They also work really well for mopping up accidental spills from the front of our tshirts.
Foods to bring
Sandwiches are the staple of every picnic, but there is so much more out there which can elevate your outdoor snack to an al fresco feast. Here are a few ideas which won’t see you slaving in the kitchen before you head off:
· The very act of tearing off a piece of crusty bread and slicing a piece of creamy cheese to go on top is so much nicer than tucking into a cheese and pickle sandwich on brown – all you need is a knife.
· A whole roast chicken, barbequed sausages, chicken skewers or seasoned chicken breasts will taste delicious outdoors and can be kept warm in foil until you are ready to eat.
· Or if you haven’t time to cook, just grab a selection of cold meats – beef, turkey, prosciutto, chorizo or Serrano ham to name a few – they are easy to carry and always taste great.
· If you have time to prepare a thick Spanish omelette, complete with potato, mushrooms and ham – this can be sliced, kept in a Tupperware box and served with crusty bread.
· Pan-fry some asparagus in olive oil and sprinkle sea salt and black pepper on top for delicious picnic snack – the same can be done with small sweet peppers and if you want to be a little more indulgent, shave some parmesan cheese on top.
· Tubs of olives, tapenades and dips are great for munching on with crusty bread or tortillas and while a green salad isn’t the most practical picnic ingredient, coleslaw and potato salad are easy to eat and transport.
· Instead of your everyday fruits like apples and bananas why not pack juicy peaches or nectarines, grapes, figs or cherries for something a little different.
· We love our crisps in Ireland but instead of the family pack of cheese and onion; why not try some of the hand-cooked options in a variety of flavours?
· And we can’t forget about drinks – those who aren’t driving may like a crisp white wine such as Albarino or Pinot Grigio. Or alternatively try old-fashioned lemonade, sparkling grape and apple drinks and plenty of water for after the obligatory Frisbee or soccer match.
· And don’t forget your condiments – a dollop of mayonnaise, chutney, pickle or mustard, may be just the thing to finish off your perfect picnic.
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