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How to Picnic Like a Pro

With our current pack, The Great Outdoors, in full swing, barefoot entertaining is as good as back. This is unofficially the start of impromptu dining season, a season where it’s alright to drink great Champagne with fish and chips on the beach, where a picnic at Moonlight Cinema is a far better option than a microwave meal in front of the telly, and where long, lazy afternoon barbecues have a tendency to roll into long, lazy evening barbecues. With picnics in mind, we’ve asked four of our favourite food people to spill the beans on how they go about it: what makes a good picnic, some helpful do’s and don’ts, and, best of all, they’ve each been good enough to share their favourite picnic recipes!




Having earned her stripes at Movida and Tivoli Road Bakery, Jo – together with chef partner Matt Stone – is currently busy blowing minds (and collecting accolades) at Oakridge in the Yarra Valley. The recipient of this year’s ‘Hot Talent Award’ at the recent Time Out Food Awards, Jo’s food is nothing short of epic.

What makes a good picnic?

Easygoing company, warm weather, being in nature and food you can eat with your fingers.

Where’s your favourite spot(s)?

One of my all-time favourite picnic spots is called Scotts Bay just outside of Merimbula, NSW. I have had some ripper picnics there on family holidays over the years. The other, and a lot more accessible for the spur of the moment picnic, is Edinburgh Gardens in Fitzroy.

What’s so special about that spot(s)?

Scotts Bay has lots of space to run around and kick the footy. There are kangaroos lying about, and it’s home to a huge age-old strangler fig for climbing and hanging out amongst the branches. When you reach the top of the tree you can see the ocean.

Edinburgh Gardens is a small haven amongst the hustle and bustle of North Fitzroy. It’s lovely and green, and a great spot to stretch out and watch the dogs, skaters, basketballers, yogis… not to forget hanging out with your mates.

Who’s at you picnic?

At Christmastime it’s the family picnic. New Year’s it’s the friends. And anytime with my main man.

What’s in your basket?

I love simple picnics. Cheese, hummus, great bread, grain salad and roast chicken sandwiches. After working in the kitchen all the time, the break from routine and being outside is what is the best about a picnic. And there’s always a bottle of bubbles or funky rosé to wash it down.

Any picnic disasters you would like to share, or dishes that maybe don’t travel well?

The weather can always wreak havoc. Wind is always the enemy. I have been caught out a few times with no jumper and covered in mosquito bites. Always dress your salad at the rug – no-one likes a limp leaf. Sometimes the worst disasters are the best table stories.

Beyond the basket, what are you favourite picnic essentials?

A plaid rug big enough to accommodate the whole gang, and speakers.

Favorite picnic tunes?

Elton John, ‘Rocket man’; Foals, ‘My Number’; Icehouse, ‘Great Southern Land’.

Best picnic game?

Kubb, hookey or footy.

Any final tips or good advice?

You don’t need a reason for a picnic – take a jumper and keep it simple.


Jo’s Rosé & Strawberry Cake


Impressive, yet deceptively simple to make, this jelly cake is the perfect finish for any picnic.


1 punnet of strawberries, to layer and serve

Strawberrry and rosé jelly
1 punnet of strawberries, hulled
120 g sugar
175 g water
2½ gelatine sheets
150 g rosé

Lemon cream jelly
400 g cream
350 g milk
150 g sugar
zest of 1 lemon
4 gelatine sheets


Lightly spray a 20-cm Bundt cake tin or jelly mould with oil.

For the strawberry jelly, add the strawberries, sugar and water to a small saucepan and simmer gently for about 5 minutes until the liquid turns pink.

Bloom the gelatine in a small bowl or jug with enough cold water to cover.

Add the rosé to the strawberry syrup and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the gelatine sheets from the water and gently squeeze out any excess liquid. Add the gelatine to the strawberry syrup and stir until dissolved. Strain the syrup into a jug and pour into the greased mould. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Thinly slice 3–4 strawberries and spread them over the jelly in a single layer, avoiding contact with the sides of the mould – allow a 3-mm border on each side, which will ensure the layers stick together.

For the lemon cream jelly, heat the cream, milk, sugar and lemon zest to 40°C in a clean saucepan.

Meanwhile, prepare the gelatine as before and add to the cream mixture once it reaches temperature, stirring to dissolve. Strain the mixture into a pouring jug and gently pour into the mould, being careful not to displace the strawberries. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.

To unmould the cake, run a knife around the outer and inner edges of the mould, place your serving plate on top and then invert. Fill the centre with freshly cut strawberries and serve. The cake will hold its shape until ready to serve at your picnic.




Few people have the ability to drop our jaws through food quite like Julia does. The Melbourne-based Italian teacher, mum and wife also happens to be an insanely talented cook. With a cult-like following of fans, Juila’s blog OSTRO documents her adventures cooking, baking and preserving. Her cakes are the stuff of legend…

What makes a good picnic?

Delicious food and good company make for a great picnic! While warm weather is ideal, I actually really love having a picnic in the cooler months too – there is something rather lovely about being outside all rugged-up with a thermos of coffee and some comforting food.

I think being prepared also makes for a good picnic – there’s nothing worse then setting up your perfect picnic to then realise you’ve only got plastic container lids to eat from. And while I’m sure there are actually worse things, I like to make sure that we have everything we need when we’re eating outside!

Where’s your favourite spot(s)?

One of my favourite spots for a picnic is Heide Art Gallery. My other favourite is Carlton Gardens.

What’s so special about that spot(s)?

I love having picnics at Heide because it’s a little escape from the hustle and bustle. The grounds are so beautiful, with art scattered throughout, and while there are usually hundreds of people there on any given day, you can always find a semi-secluded spot to lay your rug down and relax for the afternoon.

I think I love Carlton Gardens so much because I lived in Carlton all through my uni days, and I would spend so much time there with friends on the weekend and between classes. When I first started dating Nori, I was still living in Carlton, and he was working long hours in a restaurant. We would meet there between his lunch and dinner shifts and pass the afternoon just being there. I always get a bit nostalgic walking through the gardens there, and love going back there for picnics with Nori and our 14-month-old, Haruki!

Who’s at your picnic?

At my picnic is my husband Nori, our little Haruki, and all of our wonderful friends! Everyone would bring a plate and we’d hang out until the sun goes down.

What’s in your basket?

In my basket is fresh bread for sandwiches or homemade focaccia stuffed with mortadella. Maybe a vegetable tart. Always cheese and plenty of fresh fruit like watermelon and strawberries. I’d pack some sparkling water, and, depending on the weather, either beer or a bottle of red, or maybe both! I like to bring a cake to a picnic, something that transports well and isn’t going to spoil in the sun.

Any picnic disasters you would like to share, or dishes that maybe don’t travel well?

Once, Nori prepared a Japanese feast for the two of us. It was the loveliest summer evening, and the house we were living in at the time only had a small courtyard, so we decided to take our food to the median strip and eat it there to watch the sun go down. After a few minutes, the food was swamped by ants and we just couldn’t get rid of them! I think they were attracted to a sweet miso dressing and it was all a bit of a disaster, but a good memory nonetheless!

Beyond the basket, what are your picnic essentials?

I like to come pretty prepared and will usually bring a few rugs, some cushions and a book to read. I will always pack my camera and my notebook for writing if I have ideas I want to jot down.

Favourite picnic tunes?

My dad gave me his old portable record player, which folds into a black briefcase! If we’re having a proper picnic, we’ll bring it along with a few of our favourite records. Usually Lauryn Hill, Sam Cooke, and some Bob Marley for Nori!

Best picnic games?

In my usual life I really don’t care all that much for cricket, but as soon as I’m at a picnic, I’m all in!

Any final tips or good advice?

I think picnics are a perfect opportunity to outsource some of the work because the main goal is usually to relax and have fun! I like to make just one or two things, and then head to my local deli or grocer and pick up things like cheese, salami and fresh fruits.


Julia’s Lemon Almond Cake with Buttermilk Icing & Raspberries

This cake is wonderfully tangy and meets all three criteria for something that you want at your picnic – it transports easily, it’s delicious and it won’t melt in the sun! I made this cake in an old French four-cup cake pan, but it would bake really well in a loaf or round pan, too, with perhaps a slightly shorter time required in the oven. If you have a fair distance to travel, drizzle the cake on arrival and top with the almonds and raspberries before serving. This cake can also be adapted with different citrus, nuts and berries, depending on the season and what’s available!


200 g caster sugar
zest and juice of 2 lemons (zest and juice kept separate)
2 eggs
200 ml olive oil
100 ml buttermilk
150 g raw almonds
150 g self-raising flour
flaked almonds, to serve
raspberries, to serve

Buttermilk icing
130 g icing sugar
2 tbsp. (approx.) buttermilk
zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped and pod reserved for another use (I put mine in a jar of rum for homemade vanilla extract)


Preheat the oven to 170°C. Liberally butter your preferred tin.

For the cake, add the sugar and lemon zest to a large bowl. Rub the zest into the sugar until damp and fragrant. Add the eggs and whisk until pale and thick. Add the lemon juice, oil and buttermilk and whisk to combine.

Blitz the almonds in a food processor until finely ground but still with some texture, as you don’t want to completely pulverise them – I love using freshly ground nuts in my cakes for both maximum flavour and texture. Stir the almond meal into the batter, then sift over the flour and gently mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into your tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when tested. If you’re using a loaf tin or other pan, be sure to just keep an eye on the cake, as it will need a slightly shorter time in the oven.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin briefly, and then invert onto a cake rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, for the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add just enough buttermilk to create a thick but pourable icing. Add the lemon zest and vanilla seeds and stir until combined. Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake and top with flaked almonds and raspberries.




In a career spanning two decades, there is little Tobie hasn’t done in food. With four cookbooks under his belt, and time spent honing his craft in the kitchens of Caffe e Cucina, Il Bacaro, Termini, The River Café and Fifteen (the restaurant he co-founded with Jamie Oliver), Tobie remains one of Australia’s most-loved chefs.


What makes a good picnic?

Definitely a rug, no-one likes to get bitten on the bum by some bug that’s heading for your snacks but instead takes a wrong turn. On a food and drink note, I think picnics are really special, and rocking up with a tub of dips and biscuits is okay but not very thoughtful. When I think picnics, I think rabbit terrine, Champagne, amazing cheeses and charcuterie, smoked chicken and cucumber sandwiches, and champagne, again. Also, I was given a super-super-limited Adidas picnic basket, and the thing screams class and serves all of the above-mentioned friends. Speaking of friends, they are pretty important at a picnic too. Oh, and music is probably the most important thing, maybe more important than friends, actually.

Where’s your favourite spot(s)?

I’ve been going to the hill at Kew Boulevard since I was a teenager. It overlooks the city, and you are surrounded by trees, so it sort of feels like you are getting away from it, except for the fact you are looking down on a freeway plagued with a never-ending stream of cars. Regardless of the minor man-made interruptions, the place is nice. I also love snowboarding, and love to take the opportunity to escape the crowds and find a nice vacant spot. Ah the serenity…

What’s so special about that spot(s)?

Probably its accessibility; plans are plans and they often fall through due to life, but the hill is minutes away. Bored on a Sunday afternoon? No worries. You can head to Prahran market, grab some snacks, and within 20 minutes you are alone with a killer view and a glass of wine.

Who’s at your picnic?

Apart from my wife Georgia and daughter Birdie, I’d probably invite a couple of friends from Leonard’s House of Love because they make really good burgers, and, fingers crossed, they’d bring some. I’d probably invite my friend Guy who is a photographer and sometimes hilariously inappropriate, and, you know what, that’d do. I don’t function well around too many people.

What’s in your basket?

Being a certified and responsible picnicker, my first item would be a bin bag. Bin bags are important, as let’s be honest, you never know what can happen in the field. It could start raining, and BANG, you have yourself a raincoat or a shelter for several people. Champagne, wine, sparkling water, homemade baba ghanoush, a mini-barbecue (so I can cook some prawns and flatbread) a bottle opener, Bluetooth speaker and there are so many more human essentials that I won’t bore you with.

Any picnic disasters you would like to share, or dishes that maybe don’t travel well?

Yep, don’t ever travel with summer pudding. In all the pictures in cookbooks, people are enjoying this deliciousness outside and they look happy, I tell you, but it’s a lie. I tried it. If you have ever made summer pudding, you will know there’s a lot of deep-red syrup, and that stuff doesn’t come out of car upholstery well at all. Sorry, Mum.

Beyond the basket, what are your picnic essentials?

I feel I’ve answered this already.

Favourite picnic tunes?

Preferably background music, like Pete Rock or some Roxy Music, Bill Withers, Shuggie Otis, Donnie and Joe Emerson, Bowie, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Allah-Las.

Best picnic games?

Drinking Champagne.

Any final tips or good advice?

Be nice to people and wash your hands after you go to the bathroom.


Tobie’s Salt & Pepper Prawns with White Bean & Kale Stew



– Serves 4 –

12 large prawns, peeled and deveined
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
20 g salted butter
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely sliced on an angle
1 tsp. roughly chopped thyme
200 ml dry white wine
250 ml vegetable stock
2 fresh bay leaves
400 g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
400 g can butter beans, drained and rinsed
80 g kale, finely shredded
2 lemons, halved


Pop the prawns into a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper, drizzle in a tablespoon of oil, mix, cover with plastic wrap and set aside until needed.

Melt the butter over low heat in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the garlic, celery and thyme and sauté for about 5 minutes. Once the garlic has softened, add the white wine and reduce by a third. Add the stock, bay leaves and beans and cook for 20 minutes at a gentle simmer.

Remove the beans from the heat and season to taste. Stir through the kale and set aside to cool slightly.

While the stew rests, cook the prawns on a preheated barbecue for 1–3 minutes, depending on their size, flipping just once – avoiding moving the prawns whilst cooking will give them a browned and crispy outer. You can also cook the lemons flesh-side down until quite dark in colour.

Divide the stew between four plates, or one platter. Arrange the prawns on top, squeeze over some lemon juice and finish with a little bit of pepper and a drizzle of oil. Serve with the rest of the lemon and enjoy.




Raph Rashid’s passion for food and culture is infectious. As the man behind Beatbox Kitchen, Taco Truck, All Day Donuts and Juanita Peaches, he has helped shape the way Melburnians eat, and influenced a wave of others in the process. Raph was inducted as a ‘Legend’ by the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in 2014.

What makes a good picnic?

Good weather + good homies + good foods.

Where’s your favourite spot(s)?

Couple of good spots just by the house on the bike trail next to the Tulla fwy. I also like the small mountain spots, Hanging Rock, You Yangs, Dandenongs etc.

What’s so special about that spot(s)?

Always down for a good scenic walk/hike after lunch.

Who’s at your picnic?

Family and friends.

What’s in your basket?

I like to have few elements. My father always had the three-layer stack-em stainless containers. You know, the Indian Tiffin – lunch delivery style. So yeah, that’s what I rock to the picnic. In layer one, I have my rice and chicken, in layer two, I put my tomato salsa and lettuce, then in layer three, I put the cheese, plus some little containers with fresh herbs and some raw radish.

Any picnic disasters you would like to share, or dishes that maybe don’t travel well?

Inviting too many people, and not having enough food.

Beyond the basket, what are your picnic essentials?

Always rock a boom box. If not too hot, I will generally bring a portable turntable.

Favourite picnic tunes?

I think picnics are a good time to listen to records you grew up on, ya know. Chill with your family and bang Wu Tang, Souls of Mischief ‘93 ‘till Infinity’… Always with some Pete Rock and CL Smooth too.

Best picnic games?

Badminton and bocce.

Any final tips or good advice?

Keep it mellow. Don’t spend all your time in the car – sometimes the best spots are just by your house.


Raph’s Taco Rice with Grilled Chicken & Salsa



– Serves 4 –

Grilled chicken
2 tbsp. chipotle in adobo
20 ml vinegar
a good of pinch salt
4 chicken thighs, skin on

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1½ cups long grain rice, washed
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk

Tomato salsa
2 ripe tomatoes, deseeded and diced
½ white onion, diced
1 handful of coriander, chopped
1 handful of pistachios, chopped
2 tbsp. lime juice

Green chilli salsa
3 green chillies
1 garlic clove
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. sugar

To serve
sliced iceberg lettuce
grated Black Jack cheddar
sliced radishes


For the chicken, finely slice the chipotle chillies and mix with the vinegar and salt. Pour over the chicken and marinate in a container overnight, or for a minimum of 4 hours.

For the rice, in a heavy-based saucepan, gently heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice, then add the stock and milk. Cover the pan and cook, stirring every few minutes, for about 12–14 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside, covered.

Heat a barbecue or skillet and grill the chicken skin-side down until the skin goes nice and crispy. Flip over and continue to cook through. Remove from the heat and set aside to rest.

Meanwhile, combine all the tomato salsa ingredients and season to taste.

For the green chilli salsa, place the chillies, garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle and grind to a chunky paste. Mix in the vinegar, lime juice and sugar until combined. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, a stick blender will be okay.

To serve, chop the chicken and place on a bed of rice. Top with iceberg, tomato salsa, cheese and green chilli salsa and serve with radish on the side.