Just because the weather is decidedly nippy doesn’t mean I should shelf my picnic basket until next year. Enjoying an indoor picnic can be just as much fun with a light hearted attitude! Last weekend, I prepared a picnic feast for a low-key celebration completed with picnic blanket, wicker basket, portable edibles, and even floating candles in mason jars. It was a fun and relaxing alternative to a night out on the town.
My menu consisted of simple dishes with vibrant Middle Eastern flavours. Although I generally prefer to serve everything homemade, prepared food can be a great source of convenience especially since I was short on time. As soon as the blanket was unfurled and the candles were lit, I emptied the spread from my basket. We sipped on chilled hard ciders and nibbled on granola-crusted nuts (recipe from smitten kitchen). Dollops of spicy sweet mouhamara halabiya were smeared over torn pieces of pliable lavash, both of which I bought at Arz Find Foods. Although I made mouhamara before, I was happy to let someone else do the work for me this time. Arz’s version of this roasted red pepper walnut dip is as addictive as it comes. I can never get enough of it.
I opted to spend my time preparing the main courses. I made an Open Kibbeh from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe. This unconventional take on kibbeh is a cake with layers of bulgur, savoury ground lamb and onion, baked tahini sauce, and plenty of toasted pinenuts. The fragrance of cinnamon, allspice, and coriander wafted to our noses the minute I uncovered the baking dish. I will definitely be making this again, picnic or not.
In addition to the kibbeh, we also enjoyed Apricot Almond Quinoa Salad in Orange Pomegranate Vinaigrette. I make this salad regularly without a recipe because the taste is already so familiar. The medley of chopped parsley and mint adds a freshness to this season that I simply adore. Did I mention it also keeps well in the fridge?
Dessert was double header of Sour Cream Mocha Layer Cake and Halva Flapjacks. The flapjacks were made with an unusual combination of tahini, medjool dates, condensed milk, and honey. As you can imagine, the bars were soft and sticky in the most tempting way especially with the addition of toasted walnuts, sesame seeds, and cardamom. Dan Lepard’s recipe was just the right touch of Middle Eastern flair to complement my menu.
As for the chocolate cake (recipe also by Dan Lepard), it was a classic two layer sour cream mocha cake with thick duvet of dark chocolate frosting. I wanted something simple, something that screams Happy Birthday. Unfortunately, no photos. We devoured hearty slices of cake quickly after the lone celebratory candle was blown.
Picnic and birthday, two of my favourite things together at last!