The weather is warming up and Easter and Sham El-Nessim holidays are just about the best time to venture outside for a picnic. And now that the capital has a few more green spaces, finding a park shouldn’t be that difficult.
A few tips on what needs to go into your basket:
Think Inside the Box
Disposable containers are easier to, well, dispose of, but aren’t such great news for the environment. Glass containers are too heavy to lug around and break easily, so opt for lightweight but airtight plastic containers that you can wash and reuse. The ones divided up into compartments (available at Carrefour and major supermarkets) are great for packing a variety of food, and are perfect for sharing. Alternatively, pack an individual box for each picnicker.
Cutlery should be lightweight but not flimsy – sturdy forks won’t break as you’re trying to spear your salad and heavier cups won’t blow away when they’re emptied. Bring your condiments in sachets or mini jars and make sure you’ve stocked up on both tissues and wipes to mop up hands and faces. Also make sure that the blanket you’ll be spreading out is large enough to hold all your picnic-goers, your food and your basket/bags.
Nothing’s worse than unpacking your basket and realizing you’ve forgotten an essential.
Make yourself a checklist as follows:
• Blanket or spread (the larger, more lightweight and easier to fold the better)
• Cutlery and stackable cups
• Tissues/paper towels and a pack of wipes
• Tongs or other utensils as needed
• Large plastic bag for all your used utensils and containers (you likely won’t have access to running water so wipe these down with paper towels so there’s no spillage before putting in the bag.
• Rubbish bag to collect disposable tableware and unwanted leftovers
• Knife for slicing bread or cold cuts. Bring one with a plastic cover or wrap in a towel so there’s no risk of anyone getting hurt.
• Ice packs or bags to keep food cool and safe. Remember that food spoils faster in warmer weather and packing in ice will allow it to keep longer.
• Chopping board (optional)
Photo courtesy of AP
Roll Up Your Sleeves
Since it is Sham El-Nessim, then renga (herring) will headline any picnic spread. Prepare a herring salad with lots of lemon juice and vinegar and you can bring along a small bottle of oil to keep it from spilling. See our recipe below.
Renga trimmings necessarily mandate green onions, colored eggs and a stack of baladi bread, so put those into your basket first thing. Make sure you also bring fresh lemons which when halved and rubbed into your fingers and nails will help take the edge of the pungent renga door.
Natural colours for your Easter eggs
Not a Fan of Renga?
Not everyone is a renga fan, especially children, so make sure you have something for everyone. Fried fish fillets (which many Egyptians enjoy cold) can be an easy-to-eat seafood alternative and you can bring a small tub of tahina salad for dipping.
Avoid food that spills easily or that contains fats that coagulate when cold. Sandwiches are perennial picnic favourites over the world – chicken or cold cut wraps are your best bet.
Remember that veggies wilt or sweat in a sandwich so keep salads and condiments separate for everyone to choose from as they’re eating. You can slice up in advance but if you’re not eating straight away, it might be a good idea to bring washed whole veggies and a small chopping board with you.
Other foods you can eat without having to heat up or use utensils include baked or fried pastries like sambousek, minced meat goulash and kobeiba.
Creative Commons via Flickr/julie rohloff
Fruit is the best dessert to pack on a picnic because you won’t need forks or spoons. Apples, pears, strawberries, tangerines and bananas require minimal fuss – needless to say watermelon and mango are not the easiest fruits to cut up and eat without the amenities of running water. Even if you slice them up and bring in a container they tend to droop and sweat.
For something both kids and adults will love, why not prepare a light fruit pizza drizzled with white chocolate? It looks colorful and tastes delicious and the dough can be made ahead and frozen for easy preparation — turn to page xx for a recipe. For a traditional Easter treat, bake up a batch of brioche too.
Pickled Herring recipe (15 mins to make)
Photo courtesy of AP
Renga (herring) is a perennial Sham El-Nessim favorite. Garlic and herbs in this recipe bring out the flavor of the fish. Serve with piping hot baladi bread, spring onions and lemon wedges.
2 lemons, coarsely chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
6 garlic cloves, sliced
10 thyme stems (can substitute with any other herb)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp white vinegar
• Sterilize jar (lid as well) in boiling water and dry, making sure there is no remaining moisture.
• Fillet herring, making sure all bones are removed.
• In the bottom of the jar spoon chopped lemons and spring onions. On top, alternate a layer of herring fillets and a layer of garlic and thyme. Pour lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil over the layers. Close the jar tight and shake to make sure liquid has reached the bottom. Refrigerate overnight to set before opening the jar. You can store renga in the fridge for up to a week.