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Top tips for dining al fresco this summer


Nothing says summer’s here quite like making plans for dining al fresco. Whether it’s a barbecue or a picnic, with friends or family – or a romantic, candle-lit meal á deux, feasting outdoors is the loveliest way to eat a meal.

We’ve created a checklist of tips to ensure you have a successful outdoor dining experience this summer…

Picnic by the river
1. Light, easy to serve, easy to eat foods are best

Think finger foods; sausage rolls, sandwiches, cupcakes, dips, crisps etc… essentially this is a buffet on the ground and food should represent that, so make sure you can serve it all at the same time. It makes the whole experience less formal, plus everyone likes to break the, no-dessert-til-you’ve-finished-your-dinner rule! Be aware that it could get a little windy so watch out for things like crisps and leaf salads, which can get blown about. The Nutri Ninja will help you create so many things for your meal; from dips like mango salsa, to refreshing smoothies and dough for bread and pizza.

2. Keep it cool
No one likes sweaty sandwiches or runny ice cream (in fact ice cream is a definite picnic no-no – ants and wasps are huge fans and they’re the gate crashers that are sure to spoil your picnic fun!). Use cooler bags to get your food to its destination in style! Sachi has a great selection of different insulated food bags.

3. Check the rules before you go
While picnics are rarely a problem at most parks and beaches, barbecues are often considered a hazard and are banned from many public open spaces. Check with your local council via their website to see what the dos and don’ts are in your nearby parks.

4. Do a test run
Even though at the end of every summer we promise ourselves we’ll put the barbecue away before the season changes – there is always the inevitable rusty reminder when the snow melts, that we forgot. So it means we often have to buy a new one when the barbecue mood takes us. Do give your new grilling machine a trial run before you invite the family over – charred sausages and undercooked burgers are the stuff of British summertime nightmares.

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5. Get inventive
Create as many of the essential parts of the barbecue yourself as you can. Both burgers and coleslaw are simple and easy to make – check out this ingenious food chopper from Kuhn Rikon which will make coleslaw a cinch. Adding your own touches means that not only will your guests be delighted at the trouble you’ve gone to, but if you make your own burgers you can always par-cook them before they get thrown on the barbie.

Little extras
1. Ask your guests if they have any dietary requirements. There’s nothing worse than forgetting someone’s gluten intolerance for making you feel a little less than the hostess with the most.
2. Stick to plastic plates, cutlery and cups and avoid bringing glass ever. Here is a selection of chic non glass drinking vessels from Cook’s Essentials and Lori Greiner.

Picnic Essentials

3. Sunscreen, baby wipes, jumpers, extra blankets, rubbish bags and even insect spray if you’re staying out into the evening.
4. Bring a Frisbee, bat and ball or other sports equipment and get team games going to ensure you make the most of time outside. If there are enough of you, suggest a game of rounders – everyone’s favourite ball game at school.

5. If you’re planning a picnic in the back garden or very near-by don’t worry if it rains, simply bring the blankets and food inside and have a carpet or conservatory picnic instead! You could even use a picnic basket to get the full effect – this one from Cook’s Essentials comes with a coordinated wine basket.

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6. Grow your own herbs – this barbecue herb plug plant collection means your barbecue food will be freshly seasoned to perfection!

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7. Try something different too – Green Seasons have these delicious pork and apple burgers – who could resist?!

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8. Think about what you’re wearing ladies – you’re going to be sitting crossed legged on the ground – shorts or trousers are definitely the best option!

Our top five picnic and BBQ hacks
1. Freeze bottles of water and add them to your cool box. They make great homemade ice packs to keep your food cool and when they’re melted you’ll have fresh bottles of water to drink. Perfect if you’ve got a wine holder – alternate your rosé and white wine with frozen water.

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2. Use a muffin tray for condiments – not only will it look nicer than umpteen half empty bottles but you’ll be able to see if things are running out easily and top them up. In fact there are a number of pieces in this pretty polka-dot cookware set that would look lovely on your barbecue table or picnic rug.

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3. Put an old shower curtain down under your picnic blanket to stop damp on moisture getting through to your clothes
4. Bring along a few pegs to put on open packets. They’re great for securing things when you’re ready to leave and also when you’re in-between snacking sessions
5. Freeze fruit – rather than bringing ice cubes freeze small fruits like grapes that you can then add to drinks instead of ice cubes. If you and the rest of the gang are indulging in a jug of Pimms or a G’n’T or two, cut and freeze lemons, limes and oranges.

Glam up your outdoor space for those special occasions.

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Adding stylish garden furniture and pretty or even romantic outdoor lighting – check out Luxform‘s range – will bring a sophisticated feel to your al fresco dining experience.

This peony light strand from Bethlehem Lights  is a really lovely and unique way to light up your outdoor space.

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If you want to change the vibe for after the kids have gone to bed or you’re hosting a grown-ups only ‘picnic’ no-one says you have to sit on the floor! This stunning dining set with parasol is a fantastic way to add sophistication to your al fresco dinner.

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At a chic table and chairs you can go to town with real plates and cutlery and give those Michelin starred restaurants a run for their money.

Whichever way you decide to enjoy your food outdoors, and whether you host your meal at the beach or in the back garden these tips will ensure everyone dines delightfully at ‘chez you’.


Check out our Home & Kitchen and Garden & Leisure departments for more inspiration.

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