Or, The Packing-It-Myself Picnic.

It was hot on Sunday – I mean, really hot, with a high of 30 degrees. We had no plans and a lazy day at the park seemed ideal. After a bit of hemming and hawing, the plan was then to hop a bus to Gunnersbury Park – if you’ve never been there, it looks a lot bigger in real life than it does on a map. There’s plenty of room to spread out and it’s not as chock-a-block as the more central royal parks.

Sunday Picnic

A quick trip to the shops resulted in purchases of roasted chicken legs, a ball of mozzarella, a basil plant, a bag of tortilla chips and some bread. From our cupboards and fridge, I pulled out some tomatoes, a bit of cheddar, the rest of the sweet pickles, a bottle of salsa and some German cocktail-sized frankfurters (labelled party wieners!). Incisions were cut into the frankfurters to make crabs and octopi (I was feeling silly) before being simmered. The mozzarella and tomatoes were chopped up and tossed together with lots of basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. I admire those who put a lot more effort into picnics; I tried that once…but it’s too much work when you’re feeling lazy!

Everything was packed up in tupperware and placed in a canvas shopper along with a carton of juice. Other picnic essentials included lots of paper napkins, plastic cutlery, disposable glasses, a folding knife, and a paper plate or two. Oh, and a frisbee which proved to be too light to fly properly, a big thick Sunday paper (the Observer, with its Woman magazine makes for excellent trashy reading), a novel, and blankets, of course.

An enjoyable 5 hours indeed! Well, except for what seemed like the constant bombardment of wasps. And other unknown creatures. Anyway, needless to say, we gobbled up everything and then fell into a post-gluttonous stupor.

Need a recipe? The salad only takes about 2 minutes and is better suited to a picnic on a hot day than a mayonnaise based one.

Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
serves 2 as part of a picnic

3 large tomatoes
1 ball mozzarella
a small handful of basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper

Roughly chop the tomatoes and mozzarella. Rip the basil leaves up, add to the chopped up goodies and mix together. Drizzle with lots of olive oil, a scattering of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper and mix again. Lots of tomato juices will come out so it’s important that you either pack this in a watertight container or make sure that your container doesn’t overturn. Serve with lots of bread for dipping into the oil and juices.

This is also terrific when mixed with hot pasta – fusilli or penne is good here but I’ve also had it mixed into spaghetti.