Sabrina Ghayour on preparing a summer picnic

PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 June 2020

Sabrina Portrait (c) Kris Kirkham

Sabrina Portrait (c) Kris Kirkham

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Picnics have suddenly become one of the most exciting things we are permitted to do both safely and legally outdoors. Never has a soggy sandwich on a grotty old blanket, meant so much. Yet again, I find myself thanking God for the fact that I moved to Yorkshire and have the freedom to enjoy the beauty of wide open spaces without the threat of bumping into hoards of people whose absent-minded pursuit of joy means social distancing is ignored.

My mother still lives in London but has been staying with me since the end of February as I wanted to ensure she was kept safe. Between us, we have now probably said ‘Thank God for Yorkshire’ about 100 times. The London flat I grew up in had no garden or balcony, not even a window box, perfectly normal life in the big smoke. But here, well, it is just so different. So green, so beautiful, so peaceful. Picnics in London mean trying to find an unoccupied square metre of grass that isn’t covered in dog poop. Here you can escape to the White Horse, Castle Howard, Fountains Abbey or my absolute favourite little escape, where rarely do you see another soul, Byland Abbey.

I struck it lucky when I found the house I live in now. It’s nothing grand, quite devoid of structural charm and nothing quaint, traditional or cottagey about it; but the garden is magical. Right now the trees are full with leaves and blossom and busy with the gentle hum of bumble bees, birds and fat-bottomed, cotton-tailed rabbits that graze at the foot of them. The garden is enormous and I still haven’t learned to do anything in it, except enjoy it.

We have had our fair share of sunshine and the weather is gradually warming up which just makes me want to enjoy meals in my garden as much as possible.

The daytime or early evening picnic is going to fill the warmer months and I like to prepare lots of little dishes from crudites and dips like hummus to sliced cold meats, filled wraps and always a salad of some kind. I am well known for my colourful, flavourful salads.

Orzo is an Italian pasta that looks like rice; it is small, light and perfect for using in soups and salads. This is one of my favourite pasta salads to make and a real crowd-pleaser. But even though it may be a while until you next feed a crowd, please yourself and make a big bowl of my orzo salad… it is full of flavour and stores happily in the fridge for several days. 

Orzo & tomato salad with capers & Kalamata olives

Serves 6–8

350g orzo pasta

2 × 290g deli packets of semi-dried/sunblush tomatoes in oil, drained (reserve the oil) and cut into strips

400g green beans, trimmed and halved

200g pitted Kalamata olives, roughly halved

50g flat leaf parsley, leaves and stems finely chopped

400g feta cheese, crumbled into small chunks

100g pine nuts

240g capers in brine, drained

Maldon sea salt flakes and Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Rinse thoroughly in cold water and leave to drain for 10 minutes.

Transfer the drained pasta to a large mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil that was drained from the sunblush tomatoes and mix well to coat the pasta.

Cook the green beans in boiling water for 6–8 minutes, or until al dente, then plunge them into a bowl of cold water to arrest the cooking process. Drain well.

Add the cooled, drained green beans to the pasta with the remaining ingredients and mix well. Add a little more of the oil reserved from the sunblush tomatoes and season very generously with salt and pepper, then mix once more and serve.

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