I was once invited to a picnic in Regent’s Park by a group of friends I had not seen since leaving University three years previously.
I pictured the scene: a large wicker hamper creaked open to reveal a spread so decadent that Chuck Bass himself would be impressed. Crusty baguettes stuffed with the finest matured cheddar, brie and smoked ham from the continent. Tender, peppery, meaty pork pies and ubiquitous Scotch eggs, all just a precursor to bowls of fresh summer soft fruits, double cream and of course enough sparkling wine to bring down a polo pony (Imagine Manet’s ‘Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe’ with a few more clothes).
But the reality and fantasy of a picnic can be very different.
What I encountered, however, was a ten-pack of Hula Hoops (with all of my favourite salt and vinegar packets eaten by the time I arrived), a couple of Wagon Wheels (slightly mishapen, as someone had squashed them in the bottom of their rucksack) and a lot of warm Australian lager.
Now when I hear there’s a picnic coming up, I start preparations early. I want to be able to roll up in the park with a bag so full of yum that people remember that picnic for the food, not for the sudden thunderstorm which made everyone sprint under the bus shelter halfway through lunch.
And I want to cook something which I will love to eat.
Pulled beef (and its porkie cousin) are very much in fashion, with supper clubs and street food stalls serving it up – each with their own little twists and touches. It’s certainly moved from being a steakhouse menu-filler to a more mainstream dish, however you might be surprised at how easy it is to make wonderful, moist, tangy and spicy pulled beef sandwiches of your own. In fact, all you need is time (and a slow cooker!)
As with the majority of my recipes, I try to be very precise about what I used for my own particular version. When a recipe says 'salt and pepper to taste', I’ve seen people add from a pinch to a fistful. I need a starting point so it does not taste like the Dead Sea version of a dish. So yeah, use these amounts as a guide, and scale up or down depending on your needs.