It was my Birthday last week. The best way to celebrate for me is to cook for friends. I decided to have a picnic in the park nearby since it was nice outside. I had a really great time planning the menu, looking for inspiration online and shopping. I was cooking for 2 days while working, shopping and preparing for the party all on my own but it was totally worth it. I did get a bit tired in the end and had plenty of leftovers despite 10+ people showing up and worries if there will be enough food.
Below I will share my menu and some general tips. I will be posting some of the recipes, many of them were inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi creations.
My menu didn’t have a specific theme though in its majority it was Mediterranean (Middle East, Greece, Italy). It is diverse, vegan-friendly cuisine perfect to celebrate what summer brings.
When planning a picnic it is important to think about convenience. Do not make dishes too messy or complicated to eat and also consider hot weather outside (in my case it was a very warm evening, I had a thermal bag but rather left the cake at home to have later). Majority of foods were appetizer/snack sort of dishes.
- 3 dips – hummus with dried tomatoes, muhammara, tzatziki
- 3 salads – beetroot, walnut and feta salad, tomato, basil and red onion salad with sumac vinaigrette, pineapple & chilli salsa
- Eggplant Saor
- Lentil loaf made with yellow split peas, chestnuts, pumpkin seeds and curry type spices
- Stuffed mushrooms (garlicky herby buttery breadcrumb stuffing)
- Spicy plantain chips
- Ume vinegar roasted almonds
- Potato kibbeh
- Pita chips & crackers
- Red pepper & carrot sticks
- Olives, pickles
- Vegan cheese
I didn’t make anything sweet but ordered a delicious raw cheesecake with blueberries from a great cafe.
Among the things, I planned to make but left out were tapenade, pickled onions, oyster mushroom ceviche, fruit skewers, savoury pie or puff pastry pockets with some green stuffing, tabouleh.
To make all these food proper preparation is necessary, I planned my menu, then wrote a shopping list accordingly marking what things I will buy on the day of the picnic to have it fresh and what I can buy earlier and also planning what parts of the recipes I can cook ahead. For example, eggplant saor and tofu feta for a salad require some time in the fridge so I made this two days ahead. I also cooked yellow peas for the loaf, roasted peppers for muhammara and chickpeas for a hummus a day before.
It was important to have all food in convenient containers to carry for a picnic. The presentation wasn’t the best but everybody enjoyed the food, amused that everything was vegan (the majority of people were omnivores).
In the end, it was more than enough food. We had some live Balkan music on the background from a celebration nearby and lots of fun.
Happy Birthday to me and many many happy occasions to cook and enjoy the food with my friends! 🎉