Silly 'Franglais' aside a picnic can be a thing of joy in the more clement months but they can also be disastrous. Planning is key and my mantra is 'keep it simple'. Ever since my co-director and step-brother Tom sat in a parentally-crafted pissaladière on an ill-fated trip to Chesil Beach (in mitigation he was only 6 years-old at the time) I have tried to avoid packing anything that can leak or be squashed with the notable exceptions of children and dogs. Tupperware is your friend and a bit of prior planning can almost guarantee a pleasurable experience. Never travel too far – no one enjoys being stuck in a hot car for hours on end and avoid beaches on bank holidays like the plague.
I think a side of poached or baked salmon is a good starting point. It's a cinch to cook, tasty at ambient temperature and easy to both serve and eat. Potato salad makes a good carbohydrate accompaniment and I normally add a green salad or tomato salad (or both) to round off what will be the main serving. Experience has taught that shallow bowls work much better than plates when eating outdoors on uneven terrain as they hold ingredients in. Kitchen roll and wet wipes are both useful items to pack in the (inevitable) case of spillages or accidents. I avoid wearing chinos or any white clothing for similar reasons. Crudités, with hummus or tzatziki (or both), work well as a starter and a large bag of salted crisps is always appreciated. Unless the temperature is soaring I always pack some cheese and hard flatbreads. Perhaps some Cheddar and Manchego and maybe a soft cheese and some home-made chutney. I could probably picnic happily on cheese alone but accept that others appreciate more diversity.
Fruit is the ideal picnic pudding. I do love a fruit tart (with some crème fraiche), but they are a target to be sat on so I normally favour plain raspberries or strawberries as a safer option. Fruitcake or ginger-cake or flapjacks can boost blood sugar levels later on in proceedings and a small thermos of strong coffee is quite good for reviving adults after a siesta.
Wine-wise this is the time of year for rosé and chilled red and I tend to over chill bottles at home so that they can be appreciated after they have warmed up a little in transit. This month's pretty, coral pink Menetou-Salon would make a great picnic wine as would the Domaine Fa Beaujolais with its supple tannins and palate-cleansing acidity.
A large rug, good book, corkscrew and plenty of sun cream are the last items on my check list. As we are only going to the far end of the garden it won't be too much of a disaster if I've forgotten something!