One of the summer's highlights is surely a day at the races. Is it the chance to dress up and live the high life at the Kentucky Derby, or perhaps the smell of the turf and the sight of the magnificent horses, muscles rippling under gleaming coats, pure, raw energy as they parade around the collecting ring at the Preakness? For some, it's the sight of the tiny jockeys in their vibrant colors and the smug looks on the owners' faces as they know that today is the day that their horse will win the big race at the Belmont Stakes?
If racing is not your thing, it might be people-watching, with your binoculars at the ready to spot those handsome men in their impeccable suits with gorgeous girls draped on their arms, just dripping with diamonds. Then occasionally the welcome sight of someone who got their outfit seriously wrong and the feeling of "Thank God at least I don't look like that" and "Did they seriously think that lime green went with fuchsia pink!" Only to discover in the next day's paper that according to the fashion gurus it now does!
So dust down your glad rags, put on your best hat, and pack up your picnic, for we are off to the races! I am sure that the odds are on for the sun to shine and it is a safe bet that even if you don't make any money, lunch will be delicious!
All of the following picnic recipes can be prepared ahead of time, and are robust enough to survive the bumpiest of journeys and will still look good on arrival. They have the added benefit of being able to be eaten with just a fork or spoon, leaving your other hand free to hold a large glass of chilled Champagne!
As your guests arrive, serve the following with chilled Champagne.
Cheese biscuits, asparagus spears with garlic and saffron mayonnaise, and mixed salted, roasted nuts.
All recipes serve 6
Smoked Salmon and Dill Roulades
A creamy smoked fish mouse, wrapped in smoked salmon and flavoured with dill.
10 ounces smoked trout fillets (skinless and boneless)4 ounces cream cheese2 teaspoons horseradish sauce1 lemon, grated rindGround black pepper5 fluid ounces heavy cream, whipped10 ounces smoked salmon thinly sliced1 cup chopped fresh dillButtered brown bread and lemon wedges to serve
Place the smoked trout fillets, cream cheese, and horseradish sauce in a food processor, process until smooth. Season to taste with the grated lemon rind and ground black pepper, then fold in the whipped cream. Wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. Lay the smoked salmon slices out, on the work surface, fill with a spoonful of the mousse and roll up to make roulades. Chill well for at least 30 minutes. Trim off the rough ends and dip each end of the roulades in the chopped dill.
Serve the roulades with thin slices of buttered brown bread and lemon wedges.
Rare Roast Beef With Indian-spiced Ratatouille
Despite its rather lengthy list of ingredients, this recipe is very easy to prepare and cook, plus it becomes even more delicious if it is made the day before!
5 tablespoons olive oil2 garlic cloves, crushed1 level teaspoon ground cumin1 level teaspoon ground coriander1 level teaspoon thyme leavespinch of paprikaSalt and ground black pepper2 1/2 pound beef tenderloin, tied1 onion, finely chopped1 zucchini, diced1 red pepper, diced1 eggplant, diced2 red chilis, deseeded and finely chopped1 (14 ounce) tin, chopped tomatoes1 teaspoon chopped Kaffir lime leaves4 curry leaves4 cardamom pods1 level teaspoon turmeric2 teaspoons superfine sugar1 cup each plain yogurt and mayonnaise1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Place 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small bowl with the crushed garlic, cumin, coriander, thyme, and paprika. Season well and rub over the beef. Place the beef in a roasting tin and cook at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes, then set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, place the remaining oil in a large skillet, add the onions and cook, stirring for 10 minutes or until soft. Then add the zucchini, peppers, eggplant, and chilies and cook, stirring for a further 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, Kaffir lime leaves, curry leaves, cardamom pods, turmeric, and sugar with 5 fluid ounces water, bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and the sauce reduced and thick. Check the seasoning and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, and herbs, season well.
To serve, thickly slice the beef and serve with the spiced ratatouille and sauce.
Hot Minted New Potatoes
I much prefer hot new potatoes to cold, but if you are not so keen, toss the cooked new potatoes in your favorite salad dressing and leave to cool.
1 1/2 pounds small new potatoesSalt and ground black pepper1/2 stick unsalted butter2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, drain and toss in the butter with the parsley and mint and season well.
Sugar Snaps, French Beans and Mange Tout With Orange and Hazelnut Dressing
This makes a wonderful alternative to a limp green salad as it is full of flavor and crunch.
1 orange1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped5 tablespoons olive oil1 garlic clove, crushedSalt and ground black pepper6 ounces each, French beans, sugar snaps and mange tout
In a small bowl, combine the grated orange rind and 2 tablespoons orange juice with the hazelnuts, oil, and garlic. Season, cover and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the French beans and cook for 3 minutes then add the sugar snaps and cook for another 2 minutes. Then finally the mange tout and cook for 1 minute. Quickly drain and plunge the vegetables into cold water to cool. Drain well, toss in the dressing and serve.
Bittersweet Chocolate and Raspberry Tart
This is a delicious pudding, the sort guests refuse on the grounds that it is bad for their waistlines and then return for second helpings!!
2 cups all-purpose flour1 3/4 sticks butter1/2 cup powdered sugar1 egg1 cup heavy cream7 ounces bittersweet chocolate2 tablespoons liquid glucose9 ounces raspberriesRaspberries and vanilla flavored cream to serve.
For the pastry, place the flour, 1 1/2 sticks butter, and sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture makes fine crumbs. Add the beaten egg and pulse until the mixture comes together in a soft dough. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and line a 9 1/2 inch loose-bottomed tart tin. Chill for 30 minutes then prick the pastry with a fork. Place the tart tin on a large cookie sheet and cook at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Then brush with a little beaten egg and return to the oven to cook for another 5 minutes, remove and set aside to cool. Meanwhile place the cream in a pot, bring to a boil, and remove from the heat. Add the chocolate, glucose, and remaining butter, whisk until smooth and set aside. Cover the base of the cooled tart case with a layer of halved raspberries. Pour over the chocolate sauce, to cover the raspberries then place in the fridge to set for 2 hours.
Serve thin slices of the tart with extra raspberries and vanilla cream.