Our Summer guide to the perfect luxury picnic (with 2 Tuscan salad recipes)

As a business with family values at the core of it, the Uashmama team and our family and friends love getting together to dine al fresco, and a picnic is an especially lovely way to spend time with loved ones during the summer months.

Though one of the beautiful things about picnics is how low-key they are, it can be really fun to spend a bit more time planning a luxury picnic for a special occasion, whether it’s a romantic date, a birthday, engagement party, anniversary, or a family reunion.

We think luxury means quality, comfort, and attention to detail; all those little extras that elevate an experience. Here are 3 picnic ideas to make your down-to-earth experience super special this summer.

 

1. Choose elevated picnic basics

All picnics start with the basics - a lovely picnic blanket or rug, food and drink, and something to put it in. Starting with good quality elements and building outwards from them is a sure-fire way to have a more luxurious summer picnic experience.

Choose a picnic blanket with a waterproof back, or a lovely thick rug that will ensure that extra comfort. We love the blankets from the Tartan Blanket Co, which are all made with responsibly sourced British wool.

Next you’ll need a picnic basket, and the best ones come complete with everything you could need, including crockery, cutlery, a board for cutting bread and cheese, and glasses for your drinks.

If you’d prefer to use your own crockery and cutlery from home, you can often find lovely baskets in second hand shops - using what you already have and shopping second hand are the most sustainable options.

And of course, you’ll need a cooler to keep your food and drinks fresh. Our top tip is to get one with wheels - if you’re feeding a crowd, it can get pretty heavy!

 

 

2. Some luxurious extras for your summer picnic

This is the really fun bit: adding all the lovely extra touches to your picnic to make it feel super sumptuous and fancy.

We like to think of a picnic as an outdoor dinner party - pretty much whatever you’d adorn your dining table with can be brought outside!

If you’re picnicking in the daytime, it’s best to set up in the shade, to ensure your drinks don’t get too warm and food doesn’t spoil in the summer heat. Adding decorative food covers will keep pesky pests from your delicious food too.

Cushions are a must for a comfortable picnic - the more, the better. You can get some lovely outdoor cushions made from water-resistant waxed cotton, or use cushions from your sofa if you feel confident that they won’t be damaged.

You’ll certainly need napkins, but instead of single-use paper napkins, why not use lovely linen napkins that you can use again and again at all the picnics and dinner parties to come. You could even match them to your picnic blanket.

Some people like to add a low table to their luxury picnic set ups, dressing them just as they would a dining table for a summer dinner party, complete with a linen table runner, fresh flowers, placemats and plate settings.

Whether you’re having a picnic in your garden or under a tree in your local park, you really can go all-out with the decoration to add those luxury touches.

If you’re picnicking in the evening, using citronella tea lights in lanterns will help to keep mosquitos away, and you could add an extra glow with festoon lights in the trees and solar lights on the ground.

The final finishing touch to create the perfect luxury ambience (and one that is often overlooked) is to create a picnic playlist. Choose gentle, upbeat music that can play quietly in the background; nothing too intrusive.

 

 

3. Just add the perfect summer picnic food

Of course, there’d be no picnic without some delicious food, and what’s more luxurious than freshly made dishes made with quality ingredients?

While we do love a classic British buffet of sausage rolls and crisps, for something a little more special, take a leaf out of the Italians’ book and create shareable dishes with colourful, in-season produce.

Alongside these dishes, you could add a grazing board of Italian cold cuts, cheese, bread and olives, and of course a bottle or two of Prosecco (champagne’s Italian cousin) kept cool in a Uashamama Ice-Cube Beverage Chiller.

Here are two of our favourite classic Italian recipes for the perfect summer picnic.

 

Tuscan panzanella

Panzanella comes from the Italian pane bagnato meaning wet bread, and is also associated with the word pappa, which is the soft texture that is made by soaking bread in liquid.

Tuscan bread is made without salt, and has a drier texture than other breads. Soaking stale Tuscan bread in some water to soften it and using it as the base of this salad is a way to reduce waste while adding bulk to the salad.

This salad is best eaten the same day, and if you can’t get hold of Tuscan bread, a good sourdough would work well as a replacement. 

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 500g firm ripe tomatoes
  • 400g stale dry bread
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 cucumber
  • 15 basil leaves
  • White wine vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Slice the bread and place in a bowl of cold water. Leave to soak for 10 minutes.
  2. Thinly slice the red onion and add to a bowl with 70ml of water and 70ml of white wine vinegar. Leave to soak for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and thinly slice, and finely dice the tomatoes.
  4. Crumble the soaked bread into a large bowl, squeezing out and discarding any excess water.
  5. Drain the onions and add to the bowl along with the sliced cucumber, diced tomato and chopped basil leaves.
  6. Let the panzanella rest in the refrigerator for about 1 hour, then season it with 4 tablespoons of oil, 15ml of vinegar, a pinch of pepper and a pinch of salt.

 

 

Insalata di riso

This rice salad is a must-have summer dish for Italian families, and can easily be adapted to include leftover vegetables from the fridge. A staple of lunches with family and friends outdoors, the salad is best enjoyed in the garden, at the park or on the beach with a side of crusty bread.

The rice should be seasoned when cold, and the fresh ingredients added just before enjoying the dish. The rice salad can be kept for a couple of days in the fridge and can be revived with a little oil or mayonnaise. 

Ingredients (for 6 portions):

  • 300g rice (if using leftover rice, toss with olive oil & omit steps 1 and 2)
  • 100g provolone cheese
  • 60g pitted olives in oil
  • 2 boiled eggs, sliced
  • 40g pickled gherkins
  • 40g pickled onions
  • 20g drained capers
  • 100g carrots
  • 100g courgette
  • 100g diced ham
  • 100g fresh blanched peas
  • 200g red and yellow cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 12 mozzarella pearls
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Mild mustard (such as Dijon)
  • Mixed fresh herbs

Method:

  1. Rinse the rice a couple of times to remove some of the starch, then boil al dente in salted water.
  2. Drain the rice, spread it on a tray to cool, separating it with a fork if necessary. When it's cold, combine it with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Prepare a series of 'non-fresh' ingredients to add a couple of days before eating the rice salad (olives in oil, cured cheese, hard-boiled eggs) and a series of fresh ingredients to add before serving (raw vegetables, ham, cheese). Chop everything finely.
  4. Combine the rice with the vegetables, meat and cheese.
  5. Whisk together a couple of tablespoons of dijon mustard with olive oil to make a dressing, and add fine chopped aromatic herbs to taste such as thyme, basil and marjoram.

 

A meal isn’t complete without a sweet treat. To continue the Italian theme for dessert, you could make individual tiramisu in jars, cannoli filled with pistachio cream, or maybe even bomboloni - an Italian doughnut rolled in sugar and filled with crema pasticciera (a kind of Italian custard).

 

We’re sure all of our readers are responsible picnickers, but of course, don’t forget to clean up after yourselves after you’re done, so that we can keep all of our lovely green areas happy and healthy.

Before you go and start planning your luxury summer picnic, have a browse of our Uashmama Table Top collection to give you some extra inspiration for items with which you could adorn your picnic blanket.

We wish you a very happy summer, filled with sunshine, picnics and time with loved ones.

 

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