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  • An English sparkling picnic by Searcys

    19 May 2022


    The word ‘picnic’ comes from the French word pique-nique, first mentioned in print in 1692. The term was used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. The concept of a picnic long retained the connotation of a meal to which everyone contributed something. 

    Picnicking was common in France after the French Revolution, when it became possible for ordinary people to visit and mingle in the country’s royal parks. The word picnic first appeared in English in a letter from Lord Chesterfield in 1748, who associates it with card-playing, drinking in and conversation.

    It was the Victorians who popularized the picnic and made it commonplace. They packed all sorts of wonderful foods in their wicker baskets. The simplicity was not their strong point though, as can be seen in the “Bill of Fare for a Picnic for Forty Persons” in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management of 1861.The menu: a joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, two ribs of lamb, two shoulders of lamb, four roast fowls, two roast ducks, a ham, a tongue, two veal-and-ham pies, two pigeon pies, six medium-sized lobsters, one piece of collared calf’s head, then salads, biscuits, bread and cheese, and 122 bottles of drink – plus champagne.

    Picnics became more and more elaborate in the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1920s, big department stores had an entire department for picnic hampers often used by motorists. In 1936, Hilda Leyel, of Shripney Manor, Shripney, Sussex wrote the Perfect Picnic. “The art of arranging cold meals is to choose dishes that are better cold than they would be hot,” she wrote. She championed local seasonal ingredients and recommended dishes like egg mayonnaise on crusty bread, watercress, beetroot and nasturtium salad, and chicken and leek pie.

    With the British weather set for sunshine, Searcys chefs share their recipes and picnic essentials to enjoy outside.


    Cured meats, cheeses and pickles


    From the deli counter buy a selection of:

    Meats and cheeses – 100g per person

    Cured meats, such as air-dried ham and bresaola 

    Salami and chorizo

    Farmhouse cheeses

    Pickles and preserves 

    Marinated olives


    Roasted peppers



    Sourdough, flatbreads, rye, crackers

    Plate it up and enjoy. 


    Caesar salad

    Serves 4




    4 anchovy fillets, drained

    1 small garlic clove

    Sea salt

    2 egg yolks

    2 tbs lemon juice

    ¾ tsp Dijon mustard

    2 tbsp rapeseed oil

    120ml vegetable oil

    3 tbsp Parmesan, finely grated

    Freshly ground black pepper


    120g 1cm cubes country bread, with crusts

    2 tbsp rapeseed oil


    2 romaine hearts, washed, dried and leaves separated

    50g Parmesan, shaved

    60g marinated anchovies, drained


    • To make the dressing; chop together anchovy fillets, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Use the side of a knife blade to mash into a paste, then scrape into a medium bowl. Whisk in egg yolks, 2 tbsp lemon juice, and mustard.  Adding drop by drop to start, gradually whisk in rapeseed oil, then vegetable oil; whisk until dressing is thick and glossy. Whisk in Parmesan. Season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice to taste.
    • To make the croutons; preheat oven to 190C°. Toss bread with rapeseed oil on a baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Bake, tossing occasionally, until golden for 10–15 minutes.
    • To serve; use your hands to gently toss the lettuce, croutons, anchovies and dressing, then top off with the shaved Parmesan.



    Eton mess

    Serves 6



    120g caster sugar

    2 large egg whites, at room temperature

    1 pinch salt

    300g mixed fresh berries, strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, blueberries

    40g caster sugar

    300ml double cream

    0.5 – 1 tbsp icing sugar

    1 vanilla pod


    • To make the meringues; heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7.  Place the egg whites in a sparkling clean electric mixer bowl   Whisk until they hold their shape.  Add a pinch of salt and then slowly add the egg whites, a little at a time, whisking until mixture is glossy and holds its shape. Turn down the oven to 130C/265F/gas ½. Spoon blobs of the meringue on to lined baking trays, well-spaced out and bake for about two and a half hours, until crisp, then turn off the oven and leave inside to cool completely.
    • Wash and hull the berries, as required and large ones into half or quarters, depending on size, they should be bite-sized in the finished dish. Put in a bowl, sprinkle with 40g caster sugar, toss very gently to coat and leave in a cool place to macerate for at least 20 minutes, by which time l they begin to give up their juices.
    • Scoop out a third of the berries and set aside. Lightly crush the rest into a chunky compote. Pour the double cream into a cold bowl, sift in the icing sugar, then scrape in the vanilla seeds and whip to soft peak.
    • When you are ready to serve; roughly crush four of the meringues, then fold the pieces and the crushed berries through the double cream, making sure not to over-mix: the cream should be swirled with the berry juices.
    • Spoon into a serving dish, or divide between six individual dishes, and top with the reserved berries and serve as soon as you can: the meringues will go soggy if kept for too long.



    Celebrate in style with Searcys English Sparkling Wine, crafted in collaboration with the award-winning Greyfriars Vineyard. This elegant sparkling wine is produced using grapes grown on the sunny south-facing chalk slopes of the Hog’s Back at Puttenham. The grape varieties are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier—the classic blend used in Champagne. The grapes are handpicked and aged in cellars for over four years using the traditional method.



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