LONDON, England - Picnics are a great way to enjoy lazy summer afternoons in the sunshine and can be a cost effective family day out.
Emma Bridgewater, the handmade kitchen and dinnerware company, has created top five tips for the perfect picnic for summer 2012.
1) Keep food simple
Think about how practical certain dishes are when you prepare for a picnic. Dishes that work brilliantly around a dining table may not be so sensible served balanced on a picnic rug. Finger food eliminates the need for cutlery and will usually mean less mess at the end of the meal!
2) Choose foods which travel well
Hopefully you'll be taking advantage of a really beautiful day, in which case your picnic will be just one part of the day's fun. With this in mind, choosing food which travels well means dishes remain intact and that your sandwiches aren't disappointingly soggy by lunchtime! The most delicious sandwiches are often the simplest - ham with really good mustard is a favourite, as is smoked salmon and a thin layer of cream cheese. Use lettuce or baby leaf spinach to surround mayonnaise-based sandwich fillings to keep the bread dry.
3) Create a finger-food salad
Chop up chunks of cucumber, cherry tomatoes, capsicum, carrot, courgette and celery sticks to make a finger-food salad. Serve in bowls with houmous for dipping for a delicious raw vegetable treat. This way you can still serve healthy food without the need for knives and forks.
4) Keep the desert simple
Bring a Victoria sponge cake and a bowl of fresh strawberries, blueberries or grapes for a refreshing end to your picnic. Avoid sticky foods and cover cakes and sugary deserts to keep insects at bay. Cheese and biscuits are popular with those who are not so keen on puddings. Keeping desserts simple is also likely to reduce the amount of cleaning up required at the end of the picnic!
5) Serve fresh and fruity drinks
Homemade lemonade, elderflower cordial or fruit juices can be kept cool with an ice pack in your picnic hamper. Serving drinks in sturdy tumblers with a wide base mean they won't get spilled when you spread out on a picnic rug on uneven ground. Wine glasses and champagne flutes may look elegant at a picnic, but can leave guests struggling to hold a delicate glass, cutlery and plate of food.
Emma Bridgewater, founder of Emma Bridgewater, comments: "Picnics are almost my favourite way to spend the day with my family when the sun is suddenly out. Of course, the great British weather can be very unpredictable, but keeping picnic food really simple means planning ahead is easy; you can still throw a delicious meal together with minimum fuss."