I used to think picnics were the place good foods went to die. Without fail leaking all over the bag they came in, before attempting a run for freedom down the hill/beach/grassy knoll only to be taken out by a colony of virulent ants.
BUT I would like to advise an amendment. They can be glorious. The food just needs to be robust, the picnic blanket large and the attitude positive. Here I have done exactly that with the kind of salads that are made for travel and are comfortable with more ambient (often bloody hot) temperatures.
Potato salad with bacon miso mayonnaise
I love this salty and deeply flavoured dressing. You can leave the bacon in a chunkier texture if you like, but I prefer the dressing smooth, and add texture via the bacon-y addition of crisp pancetta instead. For a chunky dressing, pulse in the blender for about a quarter of the time.
Bacon miso mayo
- 3 rashers bacon (about 140g)
- 1½ heaped tbsp white miso
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 egg yolk
- 350ml rice bran oil
- 1kg salad potatoes (such as desiree or dutch cream)
- 100g pancetta, thinly sliced
- ½ cup chopped coriander leaves
- To make the miso mayonnaise fry the bacon in a frypan over medium heat until crisp and golden. Allow to cool before chopping finely. Set aside.
- Put the miso and vinegar in a bowl and whisk briefly to just combine. Gently add the egg yolk. Begin to whisk again, and gradually pour in the oil, whisking continuously until ribbons begin to appear and the mixture emulsifies and begins to thicken. (Alternatively, you can use a stick blender. Add the miso and vinegar, gently pour in the egg yolk, add the oil then place stick blender over yolk. Begin to blitz, slowly bringing the blender stick upwards towards you, until thick and creamy.)
- Add the cooled, chopped bacon to the mayonnaise and use a stick blender to blitz, if like me, you prefer a smoother consistency. Alternatively, you can stir through the bacon bits. Place in the fridge until ready to use.
- Boil potatoes in a large saucepan of salted water until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and allow to cool completely.
- If potatoes are on the larger size, cut into halves, then add to a large bowl with the coriander and bacon miso mayo. Very gently toss to combine.
- Add the pancetta slices to a frypan placed over medium heat. Cook for 45 seconds to 1 minute per side or until crisp. Break into pieces and crumble over the potato salad mixture just before serving.
A springy spin on pasta salad. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Charred zucchini, risoni and herb salad with parmesan and pea dressing
The charred gnarly bits are what make this salad sing. Don't be afraid to get (a lot of) colour on your zucchinis, it contrasts delightfully with the light and bright pea and parmesan dressing. You could also try this with Israeli cous cous, which would work just as well as the short pasta.
- 1½ cups risoni pasta
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 zucchini (about 650g), trimmed, cut in half lengthways
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- juice of ½ lemon
- ¼ cup basil leaves, coarsely torn
- ¼ cup firmly packed flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup firmly packed mint leaves, chopped
- ¾ cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
Parmesan and pea dressing
- 150g frozen peas, defrosted under hot water
- 50g parmesan, chopped
- 125g yoghurt
- ½ cup tightly packed basil leaves
- ½ cup tightly packed mint leaves
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the risoni and cook according to packet instructions. Strain, then stir through one tablespoon of the olive oil to prevent the pasta grains from sticking. Allow to cool completely before adding to a large bowl.
- Add all the dressing ingredients to a blender and blitz to a pesto-like consistency. Season and set aside.
- Place a large frypan over medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and when hot, add the zucchini halves and garlic. Cook, shaking the pan often, and turning until cooked through and nicely charred – you want to see some dark colour on them. Squeeze over the lemon juice and cook for another 30-45 seconds.
- Remove from the heat and cut each zucchini half into largeish bite-sized pieces. Add to the bowl of risoni along with the herbs and toasted hazelnuts. Spoon over some of the dressing. Toss gently and add more dressing if required – you don't want to drown the salad in dressing, just enough to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Place in the fridge until ready to serve.
Spice up your slaw with a hint of harissa. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Quick green slaw with harissa dressing and pepitas
This simple slaw, all green and bright, is taken up a notch with the addition of a tart harissa dressing and the crunch of pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Harissa is incredibly variable in heat between brands so add slowly, taste often and adjust to your preference.
- ¾ cup natural yoghurt
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- juice and zest of ½ lemon
- 1 tbsp rose harissa paste (or harissa paste), or to taste
- 1½ cups coriander leaves, chopped
- ½ cup mint leaves, chopped
- ½ cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- 1 bunch cavolo nero (flat leaf kale), stems removed, finely sliced (about 1½ cups finely sliced kale)
- ¼ red cabbage, very finely shredded
- ½ cup pepitas
- ¼ cup pistachio kernels, finely chopped
- Add the dressing ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine. Taste and adjust harissa and seasoning to taste. Set aside.
- Add all the slaw ingredients, except the pepitas and pistachios, to a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the dressing, a few spoonfuls at a time, tossing regularly until the slaw is evenly coated but not drowning in the dressing. Sprinkle over the pepitas and crushed pistachios when ready to serve.