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Ideas for Spring & Summer Al Fresco Eating

Monday, 19th April 2021

So at long last we can have a little social interaction- sharing food in the fresh air is a great way of catching up and raising our spirits. Of course we still have to be wary of certain sharing activities we took as normal- bowls of crisps for instance, but  with a little thought we can do this safely. It is also a great opportunity to make an effort with more healthy choices.

Lean meats with marinades make a good alternative to sausages and burgers, kebabs with vegetables cut the calories. Many vegetables alone make good kebabs too, along with corn on the cob (later in the year)  etc… Fish barbecues well too. 

It has been suggested that each person could barbecue their own food but I think a designated person would work- with an area put aside to collect your food and own cutlery.(I have added  marinade ideas from BBC Good Food at the end).

Salads do not have to be boring- you can include many vegetables, soft herbs(basil, chervil, coriander)  grains, seeds, nuts and fruits in your salads. Dressings I think are best with some oil but virgin olive oil  or cold pressed rapeseed is very good for your health so I feel I can be included, add lemon juice or other citrus with seasonings for a nice flavour. If you really don’t want to use oil, citrus on it’s own with seasonings works well (dried oregano or marjoram work in moderation- used on greek salads a lot). 

 If creating a sharing platter I wouldn’t use shared tongs- make sure each person takes their own portion of salad using clean utensils- or if you are sitting in a garden so not travelling with food- maybe plate everyone’s as you would in a restaurant. (I have added an idea for salad at the end). 

Also if you don’t fancy barbecuing- add a cooked protein to your salad such as poached chicken, boiled eggs, seared tuna, low fat mozzarella/feta or more grains/lentils for a vegan take (I also believe marinated tofu is good but not tried this). 

Other Ideas
My focaccia recipe from an earlier blog is great for picnics and barbecues. Pitta’s and flatbreads are great too.

I don’t think dips are the best idea at the moment unless each person has their own. 

Use fruit as a healthy end to meals, bowls of berries, greek yogurt instead of double cream and if you fancy some sweetness add some mini meringues- deconstructed Eton mess!   Rhubarb is in season- Rhubarb fool can be made with equal quantities of cooked sweetened rhubarb, greek yogurt and low fat custard stirred together. Individual portions of all of this could be done in wine glasses (or reusable plastic equivalent if travelling). 

Also if you eat in a park or picnic anywhere this goes without saying really- take your rubbish home!  (Or dispose of it properly, if the bin is full take it with you !) Leave nothing but your footprints- take nothing home except your rubbish and your photos/memories (countryside code).  

Ideas for marinades: How to marinate chicken – BBC Good Food 

RECIPE – Happy Salad
A salad to eat as a side to a pasta dish or add a protein (boiled eggs, cooked chicken, cheese etc..) and make into a healthy meal….you could serve with boiled potatoes as a side too

To make it look professional garnish with fresh herbs or edible flowers


  • 2 little gem lettuce
  • 1 carrot grated or finely diced 
  • 6 radishes sliced
  • 1 eating apple thinly sliced
  • ½ a cucumber cut in half lengthwise and sliced (take seeds out) 
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds or walnuts/flaked almonds


  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons mustard
  • 3 tablespoons lemon or orange juice (you can add zest too) 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or honey


  1. Pull the lettuce leaves apart- wash and dry well
  2. Make the dressing by whisking the ingredients together 
  3. Blend all the ingredients together (don’t dress until just before serving- take dressing with you in a jar if travelling). 
  4. Serve either as a sharing dish or in individual bowls
  5. You could also top with croutons 
  6. Add the protein element on top if using.

Enjoy the outdoors!!!

– Sue, Hospitality & Catering lecturer

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