Why have a Picnic?
You’ve been invited to Glyndebourne; Speech Day looms; the Stewards’ Enclosure at Henley beckons; riverside on the Itchen is looking particularly picturesque; the kitchen table’s broken and you hate washing up. Who needs an excuse for a spot of relaxed outdoor dining. Once the sun’s out and the grass is dry, we become a nation of picnickers.
What Shall I Take?
Spanakopita - "A very, very good spinach and feta pie"
"You'll need a very large mixing bowl for this. Wash the spinach well. If using larger leaves, my yiayia says it needs to be washed at least three times to remove the dirt. Trim away any large stalks. Trim and finely slice the spring onions and the leek. Rinse them in a colander to get rid of any dirt. Toss the spinach with the sliced veg (if your colander isn't large enough, do this in two stages). Sprinkle over the sea salt (or half of it if you are doing this in stages) and toss it in. Leave in the sink. After 15 minutes, use your hands to really scrunch the leaves, onions and leeks together, squeezing out the moisture. Be sure to really get stuck in and use your hands here, a spoon won't achieve the same thing. Once you have scrunched all the leaves, transfer them to your large mixing bowl, and repeat with the remaining ingredients if you are doing it in batches.
Preheat your oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. When the spinach is ready, whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Crumble the feta and fresh anari or ricotta (draining away any excess liquid from the ricotta) into the bowl. Add the rocket, ground white pepper and finely grate in a generous amount of nutmeg. Finely chop the dill, stalks and all, and mix it in.
Drizzle a little olive oil into a 25cm x 30cm roasting tray and, using a pastry brush, evenly coat the tray. Lay out enough filo to cover the base and drape over the sides, then drizzle with olive oil and brush it all over. Repeat until you have used half the filo; it should be around 3-4 (this will depend on the brand you use) layers thick. Spoon the spinach filling into the tray, spreading it out evenly, then top with the remaining filo so it is also around 4 layers thick, brushing each layer with olive oil as you go. Scrunch the overhanging filo around the edge of the pie and brush with olive oil. Gently score the top of the pie into 8-12 pieces, being careful not to cut all the way through. Place the tray in the oven, and bake for around 45 minutes, until golden all over, then remove and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving."
Milopita - "classic apple pie"
"Preheat your oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Peel the apples, cut into quarter wedges, remove the core and then slice widthways as finely as you can, small 1/2cm slices at the most.
Separate the eggs. In a large clean bowl whisk the egg whites till stiff peaks form (using an electric hand whisk if you have one). Very gently stir in just over half the sugar and the sliced apples.
Place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (if you don't have a food processor you can do all this by hand or even using ground almonds). Add the egg yolks, brandy, oil, remaining sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder and sea salt. Pulse until it all just comes together - it will look like a nutty pastry. If it needs a little more liquid, spoon in the liquid from the bottom of the apple bowl.
Grease a 25cm x 30cm tin or tray. Press just over half the pastry mixture onto the base of the tray - using the back of a tablespoon to help you prise it to the edges. Pour the apple and meringue mixture over the top. Then take small balls of the remaining pastry, flatten them out in your hand as thinly as you can, and drape them over the top of the apples. Don't worry if there are gaps between the pieces of pastry - that is OK. Place in the oven and bake for around 40 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Leave to cool in the tin, and serve as and when needed."