Making a Vegan Picnic – a Walk in the Park?
Can a Vegan Have a Picnic?
The English summer is fast approaching; a time for lazy afternoons, gingham blankets and chasing wasps away from jam. Picnics are definitely a must for any sunny weekend, but how easy is it to make your picnic vegan?
A few years ago, my answer would have been a lot different than it is today. We are lucky to be living in a time where supermarkets are waking up to the idea that plant based is here to stay – yay!
There are opportunities for homemade cake and pickles picnics. Equally, there are times for impromptu see-what-you-can-find-at-the-shop picnics.
Ready-Made Vegan Products
Thankfully, supermarkets have now got all your vegan picnicking needs covered. More and more vegan products are being launched into supermarkets every week. You can now pick up vegan sushi in Aldi and sausage rolls in Tesco (for just 75p)! So any decent sized supermarket will have you set.
There are, of course, lots of accidentally vegan products which are cheap and easy to grab: hummus and bread, couscous, crisps and some biscuits (ginger nuts, bourbons, Oreos). But we now have a lot of exciting new products to try.
M&S have got a new vegan range called Plant Kitchen, which includes things like coleslaw, potato salad and sandwiches, that are all ready to eat on-the-go.
Sainsbury’s are leading the way with plant based innovation at the moment. They have recently launched vegan shrimp and smoked salmon – although these have had mixed reviews! Why not pick up their Shroomdogs and some ready-made puff pastry for DIY sausage rolls.
For a cheeky drink, Aldi have cans of fruit cider which are clearly labelled vegan for 99p!
There are a few key things required for a successful picnic, these are:
- Some sort of blanket (or a coat or plastic bag) – don’t underestimate how damp the grass might be…and no one wants those weird grass marks on their legs.
- Eating utensils – however hand-held your vegan picnic might seem, you are guaranteed that someone has brought some sort of salad. A couple of forks and spoons are always useful, unless you want to try eating couscous with your hands.
- A bottle opener – there is nothing worse than settling down and looking forward to a refreshing sip of fruit cider, before realising you have no way of opening it. Attempting to fashion a bottle opener out of food packaging can prove rather challenging!
- A cool box/ bag – this is if it is a pre-planned picnic. Keeping food and drink cold is pleasant.
- A bin bag – not all fields have bins, or they might be full; clean up after yourselves, kids!
DIY Vegan Picnic Ideas
If you are wanting to DIY your vegan picnic, then here are a couple of recipes to help you get started. I have stuck with veganised traditional picnic recipes, so you don’t scare your omni friends.
The first recipe is for these super cute, mini chick’n and pesto pies. When I was younger, I used to make these delicious chicken and sweetcorn pasties with a cheese pastry. It quickly became a comforting winter staple. I was inspired by this old favourite when I was thinking of vegan picnic recipes. The freshly baked chicken and sweetcorn pasties were delicious steaming out of the oven, but I wanted to make something which was just as delicious when cold. And obviously, the recipe needed to be veganised.
The filling is a creamy mix of pesto and mayo with leeks, sweetcorn and soya (or Quorn) pieces – I used soya pieces here because they are cheap and easy to get hold of. I prepared them using the packet instructions, but used stock to cook them in place of water. The homemade pastry is totally optional; they will be equally fab with shop bought shortcrust pastry (just check it’s vegan). I have added a cheesy flavour to my pastry using nutritional yeast and cornmeal for extra crunch. No one is going to be able to resist these gorgeous little pies!
For me, the quote ‘a gathering without cake is just a meeting’ rings very true, so I have developed a super quick and easy vegan cake. It is the easiest cake to bake and the flavours are totally adaptable. Here I have made it with lemon and berries, but it works well with lime and coconut too for a tropical twist. I bring this cake almost everywhere with me. It is definitely my go-to recipe when going to anyone’s house. It is so versatile; I have made it as a loaf and in a square tin (as I have done here). You can top it with buttercream, a drizzle icing or just a simple sprinkle of flaked almonds before baking. This cake has never let me down and I hope you find your own twist to put on it.
A couple of bonus things I love taking along to picnics or BYO parties are flavoured roasted nuts and a super fresh pea and mint dip; these are excellent nibbles. The dip is fab with some bread or on the side of anything really. You just blitz up some cooked frozen peas with a good handful of mint and lots of salt, pepper and olive oil.
Vegan Picnic Recipes
Mini Chick’n and Pesto Pies
150g Vegan hard margarine (like a baking block), cold
300g Plain flour
10g Nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp Sea salt
3-6 tbsp Cold water
1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, nutritional yeast and salt.
2. Cut the margarine into cubes and add to the flour.
3. Using your fingertips, rub the flour and margarine together until it resembles breadcrumbs.
4. Add the water a tablespoon at a time until the pastry comes together when pressed in your hand – you might not need all the water or you might need more. The pastry shouldn’t be wet, but should be a bit crumbly.
5. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
Filling and Pie Ingredients
50g Soya chunks, prepared according to packet instructions
1 leek, sliced
30g Frozen sweetcorn
2 tsp Vegan butter
1 tsp Vegetable oil
1/4 tsp Sea salt
1/4 tsp Black pepper
1 tsp Dried mIxed herbs
2 tbsp Pesto
2 tbsp Mayo (I used Aldi’s own Garlic Mayo)
Pastry you made earlier
1. Put the butter and oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
2. When the butter has melted, add in the leek, sweetcorn, salt, pepper and herbs.
3. Fry for 5 minutes until the leek is soft.
4. Add the soya chunks and pesto, fry for another 3 minutes.
5. Finally, add the mayonnaise and stir everything together.
6. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool.
7. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease 6 holes of a cupcake tin.
8. Roll out the pastry to just under 1/2cm thick. You want it to be thin, but not breaking. I like to roll my pastry between two sheets of cling film to minimise adding flour and cleaning up.
9. Cut out 6 x 10cm circles for the bases and carefully place these into the cupcake tins, making sure the pastry is pressed into the bottom corners. You also want a little lip of pastry over the top for you to stick the lid to.
10. Spoon the filling into the pastry cases, making sure not to overfill.
11. Re-roll the pastry, if necessary, and cut out 6 x 8cm circles for the lids.
12. Place the lids on top of the filled pies – using a fork, press the lid onto the base and then make 4 small holes in the middle (to let the steam escape).
13. Brush the tops with a little bit of plant-based milk and bake for 30-35 minutes.
14. Check the bottoms of the pies are cooked, then immediately transfer them to a cooling rack to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom!
Lemon and Berry Cake
250g Self raising flour
150g Caster sugar
1/2 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp Sea salt
2 Lemons, zest and juice
250ml Plant milk, I used oat
120ml Vegetable oil
1 tsp Vanilla extract
100g Berries, I used blueberries and raspberries
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a square cake tin.
2. Sieve the flour, baking powder and bicarb into a large mixing bowl.
3. Add the sugar, salt and lemon zest, stir to combine.
4. In a jug mix together the lemon juice, milk, oil and vanilla extract.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and gently stir to combine.
6. Fold in the berries.
7. Pour into the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the middle is baked.
8. Allow to cool on a cooling rack.
50g Icing sugar
2 tbsp Raspberry coulis
1/2 Lemon, juice
1. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl
2. Add the coulis and lemon juice, stir until it is a thick but pourable consistency. Add more lemon juice if required.
3. Wait until the cake is completely cool before icing.
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A Sheffield based baker and self-confessed foodie. She initially became vegan to help her work towards her fitness goals, now she's vegan for so many other reasons too.