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How to plan a perfect picnic

There’s no better way to enjoy the winter sun than to head out for a picnic. Lounge tells you what you need for the perfect outing, from food and drink to tech, music, and even books for the solo picnicker

Skip that weekend Netflix binge and get moving on your Sunday picnic basket to enjoy some winter sun. (Pradeep Gaur )

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It’s tempting to think only about food when it comes to a picnic but the best experiences are when you work out all the details, from whom you are inviting to how you are going to preserve your memories. Here are apps and gadgets to help you plan.

Polaroid Go Instant Camera

Picnics and pictures go hand in hand. The Polaroid Go is a small, yet powerful instant analogue camera which will not only give you perfect pictures but also keep you away from your smartphone (and its camera!) for the duration of your picnic. The Polaroid Go comes with an accurate flash system, a self-timer, and can even click selfies. The camera is rechargeable (lithium ion batteries) and even has a wrist strap, which makes it easy to carry around. Available on amazon.in, 20,062

Also read: Reviving the joy of the great Indian picnic

Portable beverage chiller from Vacu Vin

Portable beverage chiller from Vacu Vin
Portable beverage chiller from Vacu Vin

You can use this portable wine chiller for both indoor and outdoor purposes. The elegant case of this chiller contains a reusable cooling element that keeps the bottle at its ideal serving temperature for longer. All you have to do is keep the cooling element in your freezer for at least six hours for optimal use. When you are ready to use it, just pop it in the case and place your bottle inside. A useful accessory even if you are not planning to carry alcoholic beverages. Available on modernquests.com, 2,895

Windy weather app

Windy is available on Android and iOS
Windy is available on Android and iOS

You don’t want it to be too cold, too hot or too windy during your picnic. So a check on the weather forecast is essential. Windy is an easy-to-use app that gives you detailed forecasts for any location in the world. You can check everything from wind speed to humidity. The app recently introduced an air quality overlay as well, which means you can see if the AQI in your city is conducive for a day outdoors. Available on Android and iOS

Staresso portable espresso Coffee maker

Now you don’t have to worry about that perfect cuppa at your picnic. This portable espresso maker can travel with you. Compact and easy to use, this espresso maker requires no electricity and works well with both coffee grounds and capsules. This coffee maker is made of BPA-free material and stainless steel. Available on amazon.in, 18,618

Splitwise app

This bill-splitting app will ease all planning for expenses, especially if you are organising a picnic with multiple friends. Splitwise makes it easier for you to track shared expenses, and who owes whom how much. The app also has a feature that lets you categorise expenses. Splitwise is available in more than seven languages and can be used across more than 100 currencies. Available on the web platform, Android and iOS

—Nitin Sreedhar

 

Toasting the winter sun

While lemonades are the most obvious drink of choice at picnics, there is a whole lot more to be discovered in the ready-to-drink segment.
While lemonades are the most obvious drink of choice at picnics, there is a whole lot more to be discovered in the ready-to-drink segment. (iStock)

"We do a lot of lemonades,” says Minakshi Singh, talking about drinks for picnics. The Delhi-based entrepreneur, who co-founded the bars Cocktails & Dreams in Gurugram, Haryana, and Sidecar in Greater Kailash, Delhi, makes lemonades interesting by mixing in fresh orange or grapefruit slices and mint sprigs.

While lemonades are the most obvious drink of choice at picnics, there is a whole lot more to be discovered in the ready-to-drink segment. Singh names homegrown beverage companies like Jade Forest, Sepoy and Svami, which offer ginger ale, iced teas and flavoured sodas. One of her current favourites is the roasted pineapple soda by London Essence.

To customise them while serving, garnish like a mixologist, with a twisted orange or lemon peel. Another option is to carry packaged dehydrated fruits and slide them into the drink before serving to bring it up a few notches.

Another Delhiite, Anjali Batra, co-founder of the gin festival Gin Explorers Club, makes an interesting virgin punch-like drink with half tonic, half soda, muddled with fresh fruits with a squeeze of malta orange. The fruits continue to release flavour, getting better with time. “When your bottle or jug is half empty, all you need to do is pour in more tonic or soda. No need to mix in more fruits because it’s already infused with fresh flavours.” She always adds mint leaves for freshness.

Drinking in public is disallowed; that’s why non-alcoholic wines exist. Jacob’s Creek Unvined Shiraz, with traces of oak, is a good choice—and it’s available on Amazon. Kefir and kombuchas are easy-to-carry, gut-friendly options. The Delhi-based food brand Atmosphere Studio has a kombucha and fudge kit that’s perfect for picnics.

For warmth, there’s nothing like piping hot chai, coffee or virgin toddy (if you will). Singh says: “Picnics are about family and being in your comfort zone. They are about claiming a part of a public place for a few hours—and finding your own space under the sun.”

— Jahnabee Borah

 

Perfect picnic paperbacks

Snooze between pages or finish a whole book over the course of a fête champêtre for one.
Snooze between pages or finish a whole book over the course of a fête champêtre for one. (Pixabay on Pexels)

It’s a strange time of year— as you wind down from a season of festivals and weddings, you find there is barely any time to reorient yourself before having to jump back into work mode.

At such a time, there are few things better than a picnic by yourself in the light warmth of winter sunlight. Think about it: There are people around but none you have to expend energy on; there are children, some cute, some not-so, but you can observe from a distance, playfully make faces or look away from them; there is the open sky, and depending on the park you go to, monuments to see or trails to walk.

The best company on such sweet occasions (other than your dog, perhaps) is a book. Here are some perfect picnic paperbacks, old and new. Snooze between pages or finish a whole book over the course of a fête champêtre for one. There are no rules.

FICTION

The Last Tiger: My Favourite Animal Stories, by Ruskin Bond (2023)

Beetles that race, owls that love spaghetti and monkeys that dance. Reading Ruskin Bond is always a great idea. Reading his prose with interesting animals, even better.

The Greatest Goan Stories Ever Told, selected and edited by Manohar Shetty (2022)

Short stories that take you through Goa’s past and present via its rich literary multilingual tradition—English, Marathi, Konkani and Portuguese.

Ms Ice Sandwich, by Mieko Kawakami (2017)

A young boy, an oddball, loves going back to the same supermarket worker, another oddball, to buy egg sandwiches. His childlike fascination for her fills this slim novella with vivid vignettes.

NON-FICTION

The Half Known Life: In Search Of Paradise, by Pico Iyer (2023)

The famed traveller and essayist uses the covid-19 lockdown to write this book, a collection of reflections on four decades of travel and reading, to meditate upon the idea of paradise.

Morning: How To Make Time, by Allan Jenkins (2018)

The best of literary self-help. This doesn’t tell you how to wake up at 5am. It is instead an ode to mornings, and a poetic invitation for you to want to inhabit them.

Leela: A Patchwork Life, by Jerry Pinto (2010)

An insightful yet breezy biography of one of the “beauties” of Indian cinema. Do not miss Pinto’s foreword.

POETRY

Annus Horribilis, by Avinab Datta-Areng (2022)

Easy verse, poignant ideas. A relatable debut collection if you are prone to being in your own head.

Out Of Syllabus, by Sumana Roy (2019)

One of the freshest, light but lingering works of poetry in recent times. Even the fifth reading will feel like the first. Perfect for solitude.

New Delhi Love Songs, by Michael Creighton (2017)

The city’s winter might be a testing time, but this debut collection might soothe some of the current cold and stinging scars.

The Whitsun Weddings, by Philip Larkin (1964)

The titular poem in this iconic collection of 32 is one of the best examples of people-watching. Appropriate for part of the itinerary.

—Vangmayi Parakala

Music for the outdoors

Curating a playlist for a picnic is all about knowing the participants.
Curating a playlist for a picnic is all about knowing the participants. (iStockphoto)

Curating a playlist for a picnic is all about knowing the participants. Do they like gentle synths or guitars? Are they the dancing type? Let their tastes guide you. Remember that you will be hearing the music in the open, with the sun shining, and conversations happening over them. Try and include tracks that can play at a comfortable volume in the background—crashing drums and loud riffs don’t suit picnics. Carry a portable Bluetooth speaker or two.

Our short playlist is for an imaginary listener who doesn’t mind some genre-hopping. We start with the irresistible dancehall bragging of Jamaica’s Sister Nancy, then travel to Niger with the hypnotic Ya Habibti (you could swap this acoustic track with one of Mdou Moctar’s electric rave-ups). The warm guitar sounds of Kurt Vile and Ali Farka Touré mellow the mood, followed by four varied and invigorating takes on R’n’B, from a Tamil film, a Pakistani singer, a cult English composer of Indian descent and a Punjabi rapper. We close on a note of beauty: the vigorous piano of John Adams and the gentle acoustic picking of Adrianne Lenker.

1. Bam Bam by Sister Nancy

2. Ya Habibti by Mdou Moctar

3. Jesus Fever by Kurt Vile

4. Soukora by Ali Farka Touré & Ry Cooder

5. Perinba Kadhal from the Natchathiram Nagargiradhu OST

6. Joona by Hasan Raheem

7. He by Jai Paul

8. Kala by Prabh Deep

9. Hallelujah Junction (1st Movement) by John Adams

10. Mostly Chimes by Adrianne Lenker

—Uday Bhatia

Look for a unique experiece

Every winter, the picnic scene in Maharashtra is enlivened by juicy, green, tender kernels of jowar (sorghum).
Every winter, the picnic scene in Maharashtra is enlivened by juicy, green, tender kernels of jowar (sorghum). (Manoj Madne)

Every winter, the picnic scene in Maharashtra is enlivened by juicy, green, tender kernels of jowar (sorghum). Known as hurda in Marathi, it’s available for a short window from December to mid-February. Tender jowar is the stage before harvesting—the mature jowar is harvested in February. During this season, all-day weekend picnics are organised at farms,with tender sorghum as the hero ingredient. These are known as Hurda parties.

Last week, Jayesh Paranjape, founder of the Pune-based travel company The Western Routes, took a group of about 30 people to a farm for one such getaway. Hurda is roasted in a vessel fuelled by dried cow-dung cakes, imbuing it with a smoky flavour. It’s served with a squeeze of lime, chopped onion, tomatoes and chillies, and flavoured with chutneys. To give it a Puneri touch, Paranjape bought bhakarwadi (spicy and sweetish pinwheel snacks) from Pune’s iconic Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale, crushed it and mixed it in. The idea is to create a personalised experience, wrapped in the rustic charm of being at a farm.

There are a handful of regional travel companies, retreats and local restaurants that organise these all-day seasonal picnics. Paranjape names Pune-based restaurant Shreyas and Meher Retreat at Khutbav (about 42km from the city). A quick Google search—type hurda parties in Solapur—reveals there are farms that serve up to 500 people in a day in buffet style.

Any highway that passes by Solapur or Ahmednagar in Maharashtra will lead to farms with hurda parties, says Paranjape. He adds, “Some of them serve hurda with freshly plucked fruits, like guava, kairi (raw mango) and ber (Indian jujubes), for a wholesome seasonal experience.”

Jowar is native to the western belt of Maharashtra and Gujarat. It thrives in drier regions and is used to make items like bhakris, vadas and dhoklas. The crop matures by February, is harvested and milled into flour. Tender jowar marks the beginning of a year for farmers in this region. There’s no better way to celebrate it than huddling around a fire while it roasts, relishing it like a chaat and savouring the experience of a picnic on a farm.

—Jahnabee Borah

And finally the food 

No picnic is complete without a good spread.
No picnic is complete without a good spread. (iStockphoto)

One of the good things to come out of the pandemic is that it reunited people with the outdoors. Sure, you can book a table for 10, sip mimosas and gorge on pancakes in a restaurant. But it’s a different thrill when you coordinate with the whole family or a group of friends—all vaccinated—to keep a Sunday free for a picnic in the park, especially when the outdoor temperature is tolerable. Deciding which type of sandwich will not turn soggy and the games everyone will participate in—the joy of an IRL picnic hits differently in the Instagram era.

So, we decided to help you pack a hamper. But do keep some things in mind: Carry biodegradable or reusable utensils, ensure the music from your speaker doesn’t disturb others, keep waste in check, and clean up before you leave.

Two chefs share some easy recipes.

Sourdough sandwich with grilled pineapple, bacon, avocado & rocket leaves

Ingredients

2 sourdough slices

2 bacon rashers

15g pineapple, cut into cubes

One-fourth of an avocado

4-5 rocket leaves

Olive oil

Method

Cook the bacon until crispy. Keep aside. Grill the pineapple in a pan on low heat until caramelised. Cut the avocado into thin slices. Construct the sandwich on the sourdough toast, layer the bacon rashers with the pineapple and avocado. Top with rocket leaves tossed in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with toast.

Strawberry and cream pie

Strawberry and cream pie by chef Vanshika Bhati, founder of Petite Pie Shop
Strawberry and cream pie by chef Vanshika Bhati, founder of Petite Pie Shop

Ingredients

200g strawberries

100g castor sugar

1 lime for lime zest

150g whipped cream

3-4 drops vanilla essence

15g leftover sponge or bread

Pre-baked tart shell

White chocolate

Method

In a sauce pot, add chopped strawberries, sugar, vanilla essence and lime zest. Cook till the sugar has melted and the strawberries are mushy. Cook till a little dry, cool. Whip the cream and fold the cooked strawberries in the cream. Place leftover sponge or bread in a tart shell, pour the strawberry cream on top. Garnish with melted white chocolate, dip halved strawberries in it and place it on top of the strawberry cream.

Grilled mushrooms, spring onion, coriander in tacos

Ingredients

200g oyster mushrooms

2 tbsp garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp thyme, chopped

Spring onion, cut into 1-inch slices

Coriander leaves, to garnish

Soft tacos

Butter

Method

In a pan, add some butter and thyme and cook the garlic until soft. Add the mushrooms and mix. Let it cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are cooked and the water evaporates. Let it cool. Create the taco: Place the taco on a plate. Top with the mushroom mix. Garnish with sliced spring onion and coriander leaves.

Grilled corn, with a sesame and green garlic chutney

Ingredients

1 corn

20g white sesame seeds

50g green garlic

1 tbsp butter

Fresh coriander

Method

Grill the corn directly on flame until charred and cooked evenly on all sides. Brush with butter. Roast the sesame seeds until lightly brown. Let it cool. Make the chutney: Blend the green garlic, toasted sesame seeds and coriander leaves with some salt and pepper until smooth. Add some oil if needed. Eat with the grilled corn.

—Recipes by chef Vanshika Bhati, founder of Petite Pie Shop

 

Date pesto & BLT sandwich

Ingredients

Pesto

100g soaked dates

20g Parmesan

20g walnut

20ml olive oil

Half tsp chilli paste

Salt and pepper to taste

Sandwich

6 slices of white or brown jumbo bread

100g crispy bacon

150g tomato

150g salad leaves

50g butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Soak the dates and blend with all the ingredients into a paste. Toast the bread with butter. Spread date chilli pesto. Line with tomato, crispy bacon and a handful of salad leaves. Wrap in butter paper and cut into half.

Roasted Pumpkin Dip

Ingredients

300g pumpkin

3g thyme

3g garlic

20ml olive oil

1g pepper

1.5g feta

Lemon and salt to taste

Method

Roast the pumpkin until soft and golden. Allow it to cool. Blend the mixture with feta, lemon and salt. Enjoy with lavaash, crouton or crackers.

Cocoa dusted Kalhua Srikhand

Ingredients

200g hung curd

10g coffee

15ml Kalhua

5g cocoa powder

6g icing sugar

Method

Mix all the ingredients together. Add to a jar. Dust with cocoa powder and enjoy.

Upside Down Salad in a Jar

Upside Down Salad in a Jar by Aman Jaiswal, executive chef, Essex Farms
Upside Down Salad in a Jar by Aman Jaiswal, executive chef, Essex Farms

Ingredients

Italian Vinaigrette

1 fresh garlic clove

Half cup extra virgin olive oil

One-fourth cup red wine vinegar

Juice of half a lemon

Half tsp dried oregano

1 tsp Dijon Mustard

A pinch of sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Salad

100g boiled chickpea

50g edamame

50g boiled rajma (red kidney beans)

200g blended green vegetables

20g each olive and cherry tomato

25g chopped lettuce

Method

Mix the vinaigrette in a bottle and keep separately to pour over the salad at the venue. Combine the salad ingredients and take in a separate container.

—Recipes by Aman Jaiswal, executive chef, Essex Farms; as told to Pooja Singh

Now that we have given you a list of ideas to plan a great outing with family and friends, skip that weekend Netflix binge and get moving on your Sunday picnic basket.

Also read: This baker created picnic boxes to ride out the pandemic

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