Summer is all about eating outdoors. Who doesn’t love to picnic, in a totally informal manner, with zero clearing to do after and just a scattering of crumbs left behind for the birds to clean up. My picnics are made up of a few simple yet vibrant foods which can be dipped into whilst admiring the great outdoors, sharing good conversation and enjoying every mouthful of food whilst feeling overly obliged to pop food into a lovers mouth and eat everything with my hands. The relaxed picnic feeling symbolises all that summer is about; being free, careless and coming together with others even more than usual at the peak of the year. Though I share a picnic with my little girl almost every day at the moment, on Sundays I make an effort to pack a box of finger- foods ready to take on an adventure with my little family, forget about all chores for the rest of the week and get excited about finding ‘that spot’ here we will open and share in delicious pre-packed fuss-free foods.
Picnic foods need to be quick to prepare or easy to make in advance. The last thing I want to be doing is stressing over a hot stove the morning before a relaxing day out! These seed-snaps can be make waaaaay in advance and kept in an airtight container, and the dips take a few minutes to whizz up and will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge. Easy. Peasy. A ripe avocado or some good quality cheese will top the snaps of perfectly and throw in some veggie-sticks and you have yourself lunch-to-go. Of course, you will need some sweet treats to pop in their too, of which I’ve added some ideas in the links below, but some seasonal fruit at this time of year would be crime not to include.
The crackers I have made here come from years of making raw crackers using sprouted seeds and lots of herbs and spices a dehydrating them. Here I have chosen to roast them in the oven. Yes, they will lose more of their nutritional value but really, how many of you have dehyrators compared to an oven and having tested them this way, I fell in love with the toasted-seed flavour which to me is even nicer than the raw-version. Feel free to dehydrate them if you prefer, using the same thickness of batter and drying overnight + a few hours on the other side. When cooked, these last for months in an airtight tin, so making a big batch is always a good idea so many a picnic can be had! (side note, I always carry a bag of these with me in my bag and car for snack-attacks/ toddler munchies). The other reason why I love that these are roasted in the oven is that whilst the oven is on, I roast up a batch of veggies which become the bases for three incredible dips. I have a habit making the most of my oven when it’s on (more on that in a future post!) so filling it up with quick and easy chopped veggies is a totally cool way to multi-task + save energy. Win win.
The great thing about these crackers is not only are they super healthy, but economical to make too. Sometimes healthy eating can mean buying expensive ingredients that you might only use occasionally, but these seed-snaps are made from the cheapest (and healthiest) of seeds which can be found at most supermarkets and health-food stores. Flax seeds are inexpensive and are the richest plant source of omega 3 fats, which are essential for a healthy brain, heart, joints and immune system. Buckwheat is also very affordable and has more protein than rice, wheat, millet or corn. I chose to use sunflower seeds too as they are one of the cheapest seeds and are an excellent source of vitamin E as well as protein and magnesium. Combined with seasonal vegetables and herbs, the crackers work out at pence each to make, much much less than pre-packed crackers and a heap more nutrition than plain rice or oat cakes!
So get your picnic-pants on and get outdoors! Here’s a list of links to some more perfect picnic recipes which often find their way into my picnic basket:
Elenore’s Nettle-tart with chick-pea and hazelnut crust. Gah!
Spicy-lentil summer rolls. Rice paper = awesome wrap material.
These rhubarb-apple-ginger muffins would be perfect in the picnic basket.
As the title suggests, this could be the Perfect picnic pie
A few notes on the recipes. You will need an upright-blender for the crackers and dips. You can use brown or golden linseeds for the crackers – I used brown ones but I’m thinking golden ones would look even nicer! You need to pre-soak the buckwheat and sunflower seeds for at least 4 hours before making the crackers, though I tend to soak them over night then leave them sitting in a seive until I’m ready to make them later in the day. Just make sure you rinse them really well. The cracker-mixture makes enough to fill 2 35cm square teflx sheets which I then lay onto large baking trays. If you don’t have any teflex sheets, use baking paper, lightly oiled. I roasted the veggies in the oven whilst it was on for the crackers (on the edge of a shelf) but you can roast them at any time if you have some spare room in your oven and store them in the fridge for up to 4 days ready for making the dips. Lastly, you could use almost any roasted veg for the dips, I used sweet potato, beetroot and courgette for the lovely contrasting colours and because they’re what I had, but I’m sure butternut squash, aubergine or carrots would be nice too.
Toasted seed snaps
2 cups flax seeds (linseeds)
1 cup buckwheat, pre-soaked and rinsed well
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, pre-soaked and rinsed well
2 medium tomatoes
10 dried tomatoes, pre soaked in 1/2 cup water
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1” ginger, peeled
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp dried mixed herbs/ 1 handful fresh herbs (parsley, basil, thyme etc)
1 tsp salt
1 pinch chili powder
Pre-heat your oven to 150 deg C. Place the linseeds in a dry blender or coffee grinder and grind until you have a course ‘flour’. Pour into a large bowl and add the drained buckwheat and sunflower seeds. Now place all the remaining ingredients into your blender, including the soak-water from the tomatoes + 1 3/4 cups water. Mix well until you have a thick batter. You should be able to stir it easily with a spoon ready to spread, but add more water if it seems too stiff.
Line your baking trays with teflex or baking paper and spoon half of the mixture onto the sheet. Using a spatula, spread the mixture out until it is no more than 2mm thick. If it is too thick, the crackers won’t dry out properly and you want to aim to get an even thickness all over. Once you have spread out all of the mixture onto your sheets, score the surface with a knife into the shapes of cracker you wish for, then place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until dry and the edges start to colour, but be careful to watch they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and using a wire rack, flip the crackers over so that the teflex or baking powder is on-top. Gently peel it off, (if the sheet doesn’t peel off easily, return it to the oven for a further few minutes until it comes off cleanly) then slide the crackers back onto the tray and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until they feel crisp. . If they look done but are still slightly soft, they should crisp up as they cool so remove from the oven and slide back onto the wire cooling rack. Snap the crackers along the score-lines and leave to completely cool before storing in an airtight container.
Roasted veggie dips
For the lemony-courgette dip:
2 medium courgettes
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup walnuts, pre soaked
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
pinch chili powder
For the creamy-sweet potato dip:
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 tbsp tahini
Juice of 1/2 lime
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
pinch cinnamon powder
For the orange-beetroot dip:
2 large beetroots
1/2 cup cashews, pre-soaked (or 3 tbsp cashew cheeze)
Juice of 1/2 orange
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of ginger powder
Cut the beetroots and courgettes into quarters and the place on a tray with the whole sweet potatoes. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and place in the oven with your crackers, or t 150 for about 40 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. When you are ready to make your dips, start off with the courgettes and put them in your blender. Add all the other ingredients for the courgette dip and blend until smooth. Scrape out as well as you can and transfer to a jar. Now make the sweet potato dip. Peel the skin off the potato and add to the blender along with the other ingredients. Blend until smooth then again, scrape out and transfer to a clean jar or bowl. Finish off by making the beetroot dip (I do it in this order so that the colour of the beetroot doesn’t effect the rest of the dips and I don’t need to wash out the blender between each one!) Add all of the ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to your container and store all of the dips in the fridge until ready to serve.
To serve, arrange your dips, seed-snaps and veggie sticks on a board or platter and enjoy outside, under your favourite tree, most loved beach or right outside your back door. Save any left-over dips for spreads in sandwiches, in wraps or with falafels or burgers.
With summery love,