Make it takeaway

Bart Beek | VOLUME 28, ISSUE 6

With these fuss-free delicacies in the esky, your next trip on the boat or to a favourite picnic spot is sure to be a success.

Summer is here at last and, with the warmer weather, we welcome lighter foods with fresh, seasonal flavours fit for the festive season and for relaxed outdoor picnics.

Most of my extended family lives in Melbourne’s west and, when the weather warms up, we like to organise picnics in the magnificent park grounds at Werribee Mansion or at the adjoining Victoria State Rose Garden, where we have enjoyed amazing food from the comfort of a simple picnic blanket.

I have a basic checklist with the essentials for a successful picnic, which may vary depending on the chosen picnic destination. The list includes items such as plates, cutlery, cups, glasses, napkins, tablecloth, rubbish bags, cling film, salt and pepper, cutting boards, tongs and hand wipes.

A picnic is all about relaxing, enjoying the surrounds and each other’s company and having a delicious, fuss-free meal. And if you prepare all the food and pack it well at home, all you need to do is lay it out and serve. A cold lunch or dinner picnic is wonderful in the summer and it’s amazing just how good a combination of various prepared dishes can be. I like to combine cold pastries with sharply dressed salads and turn leftover foods into gourmet delicacies.

In this issue I’m presenting a selection of dishes that can be prepared at home and served cold at a picnic on a boat or in a park with little fuss. The chicken and leek turnovers are made with leftover roast chicken and my favourite butter pastry recipe. There’s a chilled frittata (a wonderful thing to eat in summer) that uses delicious roasted thyme onion slices and sautéed mushrooms or, for a little ‘touch of class’, try making the crunchy potato and zucchini fritters with crème fraîche and smoked salmon.

My roasted red pepper and goat’s cheese tartlets are a regular treat in my house. I make them using a standard muffin tray as the portion size. The couscous salad with olive tapenade is a lovely appetiser and perfect to serve with drinks before a meal. This dish works best if all the items are packed separately and then assembled on site.

I love presenting fresh fish at a picnic and it’s fine to grill it the day before. I like to cut the portions small and present them with an interesting salad. The dressing, made with garlic and anchovies, makes a bold statement and seafood lovers will be licking their plates clean!

A very simple dessert to round off the picnic would be my chilled blueberry, raspberry and pecan bread and butter pudding. It seems to taste better the day after it’s made and is perfect finished with a little pouring cream.

The key to a fabulous and safe summer picnic is correct food handling. Cooking foods the day before is fine, but keeping them at warm temperatures for lengthy periods can promote bacterial growth. By quickly cooling cooked foods, you reduce the risk of harmful bacteria forming.

Be aware that watermelons and rock melons can carry bacteria on the rind. Melons are not acidic (unlike most other fruits) and can support the growth of harmful bacteria. It’s best to wash the rind if leaving on and keep the fruit chilled at all times.

When transporting food, the rule is to keep foods cold at below 4°C. Pack everything in a sturdy insulated cooler box with plenty of ice packs and ice cubes. I have a large 60lt Engel fridge/freezer on a slide in my station wagon. I love it and it’s set at 2°C, which is perfect for keeping all items chilled and safe.

Follow these simple instructions and you’ll be well on your way to making friends and family very happy at all your picnic outings.

These tartlets can be served with drinks anytime and are delicious served chilled. Find a good chevré (goat’s cheese) that is soft and will blend to form a smooth thick paste. Because the filo is delicate and browns quickly, place the tray in the lower part of the oven. Check the olives for stones as you place them into the filo cups.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Makes: 12 tartlets

6 sheets filo pastry

1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil

12 roasted baby red peppers, cut in half (available from delicatessens, use unfilled peppers)

150g kalamata olives, pitted, cut in half longways

1 egg

3 egg yolks

1 cup cream

150g smooth goat’s cheese

⅓ cup parsley, roughly chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

Begin by cutting the filo pastry into 12cm squares. You will need to use at least two squares per portion. Brush one section of pastry with a little olive oil and place a second piece over the top to form an eight-sided star shape.

Lift up and gently place into a muffin tray, pushing the bottom neatly in. Continue until you have made 12.

Place two red pepper halves and several olive halves into each pastry case.

Place the egg and egg yolks, cream, goat’s cheese and parsley into a bowl. Gently whisk until well combined. Pour this mixture gently into each pastry, filling each one half full.

Place onto a lower shelf in the pre-heated oven. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until set and slightly puffed up.

The secret to making crispy fritters is to remove most of the moisture and starch from the raw potatoes. The addition of salt at the start will help to do this. Once you place a mound of the raw mix into a hot frypan, push it flat so it cooks and colours evenly. Once drained on kitchen paper and cooled, the fritters must be stored in a lidded container in the refrigerator. Crème fraîche is a rich, smooth, soured cream rich in butterfat, but not as sour as standard sour cream.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 6 minutes

Serves: 8

2 cups potato, peeled and grated

¼ tsp salt

1 egg

⅓ cup plain flour

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 small zucchini, grated

2 tblsps grapeseed oil

3 tblsps crème fraîche, whipped until thick

4 slices smoked salmon

¼ cup snowpea sprouts

Combine the grated potato and salt. Place into a strainer and push most of the moisture out. Place into a bowl and fold through the egg, flour, pepper and grated zucchini.

Heat a frypan and add in the oil. Place tablespoon-size amounts of the potato mixture into the oil and flatten slightly. Grill until golden on one side, then turn and grill until brown. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Present with a small dollop of whipped crème fraîche, smoked salmon and some snow pea sprouts.

Soft-boiled eggs prepared this way will have a soft yolk and silky smooth eggwhites. Peel and cut in half once you’re ready to place them onto the salad plate. Present this delicious platter with slices of grilled sourdough bread.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4

1 cup pearl couscous, cooked

1 small red onion, sliced thin

2 cups baby spinach

1 cup red cabbage, shredded

2 tblsps grapeseed oil

1 tblsp red wine vinegar

Salt flakes and pepper, to taste

1 cup celery, cut into 8cm batons

1 cup cucumber, cut as for celery

4 radishes, cut in half

2 small eggs, soft-boiled

½ cup tapenade, store bought

Place the cooked couscous, sliced red onion, baby spinach and red cabbage into a mixing bowl. Make a dressing by combining the grapeseed oil, red wine vinegar and seasoning; stir well and pour over the salad ingredients. Toss well to coat.

To make the soft-boiled eggs, place a saucepan of water on the heat and bring to a boil. Carefully place in the eggs, cover with a lid and turn off the heat. Allow to sit for seven minutes then remove the eggs and run cold water over them until cool.

When ready to serve, peel the eggs, cut in half and place onto a serving platter along with the celery and cucumber batons, radish halves and couscous. Present with a bowl of tapenade and some grilled sourdough bread.

These can be made by using store-bought frozen shortcrust pastry sheets – they will work out fine. My pastry recipe is easy and produces a nicer mouth-feel. It’s much easier to fill the turnovers if the chicken filling is cold and the pastry will turn out better and will be easier to handle if it is kept cool.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Makes: 20 turnovers


270g plain flour

¼ whole nutmeg, grated

¼ tsp salt

150g cold unsalted butter, cut into large cubes

4 tblsps ice-cold water

15g butter

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 leek, bottom 15cm section only, sliced thin

1 small brown onion, diced

Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

15g plain flour

¾ cup chicken stock

1 cup roast chicken, diced

2 heaped tblsps grated parmesan

¼ cup parsley, chopped

2 egg yolks (for brushing)

½ cup tomato chutney, store bought

Combine the plain flour, nutmeg and salt and sift together three times. Place into a food processor and add the cubed butter. Blend quickly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the cold water and process for several seconds until it combines together. Remove and form a ball. Flatten, wrap with cling film and rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add in the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, then combine in the sliced leek and diced onion. Cook until soft and season well. Combine in the plain flour and stir well. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, stirring well until a thick sauce is achieved.

Stir in the diced roast chicken pieces, parmesan cheese and parsley. Set aside to cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 4mm and cut into 10cm circles.

Place a small amount of the filling onto the pastry circles, brush one half of the edge with a little egg and fold up forming a half circle. Crimp the joining edges with a fork and place onto an oven tray lined with baking paper.

Brush the tops with a little egg yolk, mark with a fork and bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until golden.

This magnificent fish comes from the islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago off the coast of Western Australia in the Kimberley region. These are farmed saltwater barramundi with an exceptional taste and perfect texture. This is such a good dish to present cold and guests can simply mix their fish and dressed salad together. The watermelon and blood orange salad is a perfect partner for both the barramundi and a hot summer’s day.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 7 minutes

Serves: 4

4 portions Cone Bay barramundi, skin on

1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil

Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 baby fennel, sliced thin

1 cup young celery leaves

1 blood orange, skinned segments

2 cups watermelon, diced

½ tblsp sage flowers

½ clove garlic

2 anchovy fillets

1 tblsp white wine vinegar

2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp grain mustard

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat a heavy non-stick pan. Season the barramundi well, place into the pan skin side down and hold down to keep the portions flat for one minute. Grill until golden brown, then turn over and grill for several minutes until just cooked. Remove from the pan and keep warm or chill and place into the refrigerator.

Combine the sliced fennel, celery leaves, blood orange segments and watermelon cubes.

To make the dressing, place the garlic and anchovy fillets into a mortar and pound until it becomes a pulp. Add in the vinegar and olive oil and pound again until a sauce has formed. Stir in the mustard and a little pepper.

Dress the salad and place into the centre of a platter and surround it with the fish portions. Garnish with the sage flowers and serve.

A frittata is basically a quiche without the pastry crust. They are so easy to make and are a great way to use up any valuable leftovers in the fridge. I often roast a stack of the thickly sliced onions as they are simply delicious and can be mixed through pasta, risotto or be used in a roasted vegetable salad.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 6

1 tblsp butter

2 cups button mushrooms, sliced

2 medium brown onions, sliced 1cm thick

2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

1 tblsp thyme leaves

6 eggs

200ml cream

1 tblsp olive oil

Green salad

1 cup green beans

½ bunch asparagus, split longways

1 cup broad beans, blanched and skinned

2 tblsps lemon thyme tips

6 heirloom tomatoes, halved

1 tblsp red wine vinegar

2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the tablespoon of butter in a frypan and add in the sliced mushrooms. Cook until golden and sizzling, then remove and set aside.

Place the sliced onions onto a baking paper-lined oven tray and brush with the olive oil. Sprinkle over the thyme leaves and season well. Place into a pre-heated oven set at 180°C and roast about 40 minutes until golden. Remove and set aside.

To make the frittatas: combine the eggs and cream in a bowl. Line a six-portion muffin tin (or an oven-proof dish) with baking paper and divide the mushrooms among them. Top the mushrooms with the roasted onions and cover with the cream mix.

Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes or until set and golden on the tops.

Blanch the green vegetables by plunging them into boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Remove immediately, strain and plunge into ice-cold water. Drain well. To make the dressing, combine together the vinegar, olive oil, mustard and seasoning.

Present the frittatas with the dressed green vegetables and heirloom tomatoes sprinkled with lemon thyme tips.

Almost any type of bread can be used to make bread and butter pudding. In this recipe I utilise the sweet flavour of brioche, which is available from the bread section of most supermarkets. Brioche contains butter, so there’s no need to add more butter to this recipe. Sometimes nutmeg and sultanas are added but you can add the flavours you like. These puddings are equally delicious served warm or chilled and make a decadent dessert at a picnic.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 6

2 cups cream

1 tsp vanilla extract 3 eggs

⅓ cup caster sugar

10 thin slices brioche

40g unsalted butter

1 cup blueberries

1 cup raspberries

1 cup pecan nut pieces

6 tblsps raspberry jam

1 tblsp caster sugar

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 tblsp icing sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Bring the cream and vanilla to a boil, then remove and set aside to cool to lukewarm. Combine together the three eggs and ⅓ cup caster sugar. Add in the warm cream and whisk to combine well.

Place the brioche slices into a buttered ovenproof dish (or individual portion cups or a muffin tin) and top with the blueberries, raspberries and pecan pieces. Gently pour the cream mixture over the brioche, allowing it to soak into the brioche.

Place small spoonful dollops of the raspberry jam randomly over the top and finish with a sprinkling of caster sugar and the ground cinnamon. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before placing into the pre-heated oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and set.