We’ve had a record number of picnic-worthy days so far this year, which, in theory, would mean hours of lying about in gardens and parks, were it not for all the thunderstorms that broke our sunny harmony. I’m happy to admit that I find picnics a bit of an inconvenience, so welcome any excuse to decamp back to the comfort of my dining table. But whether you’re sitting on a blanket or a chair, picnic food can be as versatile as you need it to be.
Giant couscous with golden raisins, lemon and almonds (pictured above)
This is just as good eaten at room temperature as it is warm. It’s an ideal portable meal, because it can be made well in advance, it’s easy to transport and it will keep for hours.
Prep 10 min
Cook 25 min
250g giant couscous
500ml vegetable stock
Salt and black pepper
½ tbsp olive oil
50g golden (or normal) raisins
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground in a mortar
60g flaked almonds, toasted
10g dill leaves, roughly chopped
10g basil leaves, roughly torn
For the parsley oil
30g parsley leaves
120ml olive oil
1 small garlic clove, peeled
Put the couscous in a medium saucepan for which you have a lid, and dry toast, stirring occasionally, over a medium-high heat until some of the pearls begin to colour – about four minutes. Add the stock and a half-teaspoon of salt, bring to a boil, then cover and turn the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed, then turn off the heat and leave the couscous to sit, covered, for 10 minutes more.
Meanwhile, finely grate the lemon peel into a small bowl – you should have two teaspoons of zest. Using a small, sharp knife, trim the top and tail off the zested lemon, then cut away the skin and pith. Release the lemon segments by cutting between the membranes, then cut each segment into rough chunks and add to the zest bowl with any remaining juice squeezed from what’s left of the lemon – you need about a teaspoon. After the couscous has rested, stir in the lemon mix and the oil.
Put the raisins in a bowl, cover with about 100ml boiling water, leave to soak for five minutes, then drain. Mix the raisins, cumin, almonds, herbs, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper into the couscous.
Put all the ingredients for the parsley oil in a blender with an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and blitz until smooth.
Pack the couscous into a portable container and spoon the oil on top (though, if you’re serving this at the table, spoon on the oil just before you eat).