For National Picnic Week, we thought we'd share our favourite time to have a picnic... While on a Treasure Trail, of course!
For us, if the weather is good enough for a Trail, it's good for a picnic, no matter the time of year. Granted, come winter, you'll be wrapped in the picnic blanket, not on it, but perching on a bench with a good flask of soup and a slice of cake is the perfect way to refuel during a quest. But it's not winter right now - it's just turned summer. Sitting outdoors (in the shade, of course) with a picnic while soaking up your surroundings is the perfect way to rest weary legs and re-energise your minds during your mission.
Not sure what to pack for the perfect Trailing picnic to keep you and your young explorers energised for your whole expedition? Whether you're looking for something quick and easy for last-minute adventures or have time to plan ahead and want to get all hands on deck for a pre-Trail cooking activity, we've got you covered. Take a look at these suggestions for mains, snacks and dessert, as well as some top tips from pro Trail picnickers...
Let's start with the mains - the heart of the picnic. Without a good hearty main, it's just a snack stop! Opportunities are almost endless with main dishes - so long as they're transportable and can be eaten cold, you're sorted.
Quick and easy
Nothing says 'British picnic' like a good, reliable sandwich. They're quick to make, easy to carry around, and the ultimate finger food.
But, even quick and easy sandwiches can be the star of the show if you kick things up a notch. Swap the usual ham and mild cheddar fillings for more decadent ones, like bacon, brie, salamis and freshly roasted meats, or even grilled veggies and avocadoes. Pull out the pickles, chutneys and antipasti, swap your slices of white loaf for sourdough, rye, ciabatta - whatever takes your fancy - and assemble some salad options to top it all off. If you can fit it in some bread and it doesn't need to be kept oven hot or really cold, you're onto a winning picnic sandwich.
If you're stuck for ideas, check out this list of global sandwiches for inspiration. Or, you could compete to see who can come up with the wackiest (but still edible) combination. Aaron, Chief Mischief-Maker here at Treasure Trails, is partial to peanut butter, marmite and cucumber sandwiches! Although the rest of the team at TTHQ has yet to brave a bite...
Of course, there's always the option of making your sandwiches for dessert too. You never know when an emergency marmalade sandwich will come in handy, and classic fillings of jam, chocolate spread, or even lemon curd can be a tasty treat for the end of your picnic. If you're feeling adventurous, you could even take on the Japanese Sando, with pieces of fruit and lashings of whipped cream sandwiched between two slices of sweet bread. These are probably better for a picnic in your garden or local park, though - you wouldn't want to carry them in your picnic bag on a hot day!
All hands on deck
If you want to spread the excitement of your Trail adventure across a couple of days, getting the kids involved with cooking their Trailing feast will warm them up for your upcoming quest. Pizzas, pies, tarts and quiches are often the easiest substitute for sandwiches as they can be easily transported and don't need to be warmed up. There are many brilliant recipes out there, but none quite match this Veggie Rainbow Picnic Pie! Not only does it look amazing, but it's also a perfect way to sneak in plenty of veggies, many of which could easily be substituted for whatever you've got in the fridge.
There are plenty of other vegetable tarts and quiches to try out too, but our favourites have to be a tasty tomato galette - which is a crowd-pleaser at any time of year - and these cute picnic quiches that are already pre-portioned for your convenience.
It's always a good idea to have a couple of snacks on hand that complement the rest of your feast - a picnic isn't a picnic without them!
Quick and easy
If you don't want to make too much ahead of time, cocktail sausages and cubed cheese work well with most mains, and there's a vast selection of picnic snacks in the supermarkets that cater to all dietary types. Crisps are always good, too, as picnic rules mean crisps in sandwiches are 100% acceptable!
If you haven't included a salad with your mains, this is the perfect opportunity to sneak in some five-a-day goodness. Keep it to salad bits that are easy to pick at with hands - cherry tomatoes and batons of cucumber, carrots, celery or bell pepper, for instance. While lettuce and red onion work well in sandwiches, they're not the most natural finger food (the same goes for potato salad or anything in a dressing).
All hands on deck
When you search for picnic snacks online, you'll find heaps of ideas, from the classic sausage rolls, pork pies and scotch eggs to increasingly popular Spanish omelettes, sushi and savoury tarts. While you can easily buy these in the supermarket - especially during summer - there are plenty of recipes to pick from if you're up for the challenge.
If you've got time to spare and fancy something a bit different, these savoury flapjacks could go down a treat, and these chicken drumsticks are sure to be a hit - just pack some napkins for sticky fingers!
Of course, sweet-toothed explorers know that a picnic isn't complete without pudding! Luckily, transportable treats are super easy to find and make, so you'll be spoiled for choice.
Quick and easy
We should probably be good and start with fruit. If you pick the right fruit, it'll be super easy to transport and cope well, whatever the weather. Stick to peelable fruits - like bananas and oranges - or fruits with thicker skins - like apples and grapes. While berries are great finger foods, and watermelon can be perfect for cooling down on a hot day, they're not the best to have in your bag while chasing down crooks. Trust us - you'll be cleaning strawberry juice out of your picnic bag for days!
Okay, that's the healthy bit out of the way - time for treats! A good slice of cake is, arguably, the best way to wrap up your picnic. Whether it's cupcakes or slices of lemon drizzle, victoria sponge or chocolate fudge goodness, those last mouthfuls of your feast will have everyone grinning. If you're picking up ready-made desserts, you'll find mini brownies and flapjack bites in most shops, alongside selections of muffins, sponges and tarts. Just don't pick anything with too much frosting, as it'll all end up on your lunchbox lid!
All hands on deck
If you've got time to plan ahead and love baking, this coconut and jam traybake is super easy to make and store, while these classic lemon drizzle slices will get your mouths watering. Of course, we can't leave the chocolate lovers out, and these brookie bars (that's brownie AND cookie!) will certainly do the trick, plus the kids will have as much fun baking them as they will eating them!
Become a record-breaker
Here's a third option - skip picnic dessert altogether! Yes, you heard us right. Instead, opt for a post-Trail ice cream - our favourite of all the post-Trail treats. In fact, in a recent survey of 550 Trailers, 69% said they enjoyed some form of treat to mark the end of their Trail, and for 61% of those, ice cream was their treat of choice.
If you start your Trail super early and have your picnic for breakfast, you might beat our current 'Earliest Ice Cream' record holder, Allen Tsui, who first enjoyed his cone at 10:15am while on the Chester - Roaming around the Walls Trail, then beat his own record two months later by having one at 9:59am on the Bognor Regis Trail!
TT's top picnic tips
Now that we've got the food sorted, here are our top tips on taking a picnic with you on your Trail adventure:
- If you have one, use a backpack for transporting your feast around. While a pretty picnic basket looks tempting, you want to keep your hands free for crossing off suspects and empty locations.
- You don't need any fancy kit to have a picnic. If you do have a picnic blanket that can be easily stored in your backpack, it could be worth packing, but a bench will do the trick too! You don't want to be lugging around plates and cups, camping chairs or any fancy outdoor cooking equipment, though - you need to be able to blend into the crowd so enemy agents don't spot you.
- On hot days, freeze bottles of water ahead of your adventure to keep them cold for as long as possible when you're out and about. Just double-check that the bottle you're filling is allowed to be frozen.
- If possible, pack up your picnic in reusable pots. It'll be better for the environment, will be easier to stick in your bag and gives you somewhere to safely store leftovers or rubbish if you aren't close to a bin.
- If you do need to use tin foil, take at least one container with you - like a plastic tub or an old, sturdy coffee jar - for rubbish, just in case. You could take two and keep your used tin foil separate from your banana skins to recycle.
- Check your Trail booklet or the "Before you set off" tab on the Trail's website page ahead of time to see if a specific picnic stop has been mentioned. If not, check out this blog post on where to find the perfect picnic spot.
- Double-check for local wildlife and adjust your picnic setup accordingly. If you're pulling out a full picnic feast onto your blanket on a Cornish beach, for instance, the seagulls will be flocking to you and nabbing your tasty treats! Be sure to follow any warning signs.
- If you don't have time to gather picnic supplies, all is not lost – hit the local shops for ready-made sandwiches, salads and finger food to enjoy outdoors. There's often a brilliant selection of picnic items in supermarkets during summertime, or you may find an independent shop or restaurant that will make a picnic up for you!
- Make your picnic part of the adventure! Are you in a safe zone where enemy agents or rival treasure seekers won't find you? Can they spot any curious evidence from where you're sitting? Keep the kid's imagination alive, even when you've paused to refuel.
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