A picnic requires an entirely different sort of forethought than a dinner party hosted in your home, and dining al fresco can be subject to a separate set of potential pitfalls. How tragic, for instance, to make something beautiful and delicious, only to discover that your presentation is in pieces once you arrive at your destination!
There are few cookbooks that give much thought to food that travels well. A Moveable Feast by Katy Holder, a food stylist, recipe writer, and food editor based in Sydney is a notable exception. As well as packing tips that cover everything from appetizers and main courses to desserts and drinks, Holder also advises on the best way to spruce up your outdoor dining style.
Don’t settle for plastic cutlery and paper plates or Styrofoam cups to fill from a recycled bottle. Of course that is all fine and dandy, but for some occasions it is nice for things to be a bit more beautiful! Holder also advocates personalizing your table setting — if you collect napkins or mismatched vintage cutlery, a picnic can be a great way to use your collection and add charm to your environment, and Holder suggests that you “look for inspiration in what you already have.”
The book is divided into nine chapters, with fun titles like “Flaky and Crumbly,” “Fresh and Leafy,” “Artfully Moveable,” and “Bigger Bites” instead of more traditional dividers. Bright and colorful photographs throughout show beautiful sandwiches in wax paper, tied up with string; wicker picnic baskets and Indian tiffins full of tandoori prawns; and a host of other ideas to inspire your next meal away from home.
Recipes in the book include:
The Daily Meal: What is your philosophy of cooking (and/or eating)?
Katy Holder: I’m into easy cooking, sharing food with family and friends and enjoying everything in moderation. I love salads, vegetables, and fruit and healthy eating in general, but I also eat cheese, chocolate, and the occasional bowl of fries, but just not too often (oh except chocolate!). I avoid processed food, especially when you can make something far superior from scratch. I like to use simple flavours and cooking techniques; to marinate my food for added flavour and to have big plates of food to share among everyone when eating with friends. Eating should be really enjoyable, and everyone should take time to sit and eat together as often as they can. We eat dinner at the table as a family every evening, and at weekends we have a big breakfast together as well. Unfortunately our busy daily schedules prevent us all having breakfast together every day, although I would love to. Eating meals together is a very important tradition and can help instill a healthy attitude towards food, cooking and eating.
How did it inspire the recipes you chose to include in this book?
I guess a lot of it comes down to simplicity and ensuring the recipes work. I want to encourage people to make something from scratch to take with them on a picnic or to a friend’s house, instead of grabbing something off the supermarket shelf that is crammed full of additives and other nasties. Cooking for your friends and family is a just such a lovely, caring thing to do, even though I know sometimes it can feel like a chore. When I take sandwiches or rolls on a picnic I like to wrap them in a few layers of paper and tie them with pretty twine, so it’s like you are giving everyone a gift — I describe this in the book.
What is your favorite recipe in the book and why?
That’s like picking your favourite child — impossible! However, my favourite salad and one that I cook on a regular basis, in one incarnation or another, is the quinoa salad with goat’s cheese, basil, and crispy prosciutto. The quinoa is simply a vehicle for lots of other great flavours. I regularly make this when we go camping because quinoa transports so well. I also love the orange choc truffle slice, which is the most delicious way to end a meal and I love the smoky Mexican chicken. These tender pieces of chicken are great as finger food, in a salad, or in sandwiches.
What are some of the foods you can’t live without?
Fresh salad, vegetables, and fruit. I’m not a vegetarian but if I don’t eat enough fresh fruit and veg my body starts to crave them. I am a grazer, by which I mean eating small portions of food throughout the day, rather than three large meals. Mid-morning I’ll have a small handful of almonds and then maybe a banana later, then a grain salad for lunch and then another healthy snack in the afternoon before dinner with my family. I get quite agitated if I can’t graze! And I’m not sure if I mentioned it earlier, but I can’t live without chocolate!
Would you rather dine out or cook at home?
That’s a tricky one. I just love sharing food with people so I love having friends come to our house for dinner but equally I love going out to dinner with friends too, or going to a friends’ house for dinner. Some of my friends do say they are intimidated having me around for dinner, but I just love the enjoyment of eating with friends and most of my friends are fantastic cooks! Having said this, I do also get inspiration from going out to eat and seeing what chefs are doing. I’m not so interested anymore in the expensive degustation menus, although I love that there are such creative chefs around who love to do this.
What is your favorite go-to meal or drink?
This is a regular question with our kids around the dinner table. Probably some sort of Thai or Vietnamese noodle salad with either lovely big prawns or rare beef, masses of fresh herbs and a tangy lime dressing. And my favourite drink would have to be Champagne, although in the summer months I love to make the Mojito Beer in the Moveable Feast cookbook; it’s a fantastic, long, and refreshing drink — it sounds weird but it’s amazing.
How do you hope readers will use this book, what do you hope they take away?
I wrote the book to encourage people to share food at many different occasions — not just picnics. All the recipes were created with transportation in mind, so they taste great hot or cold and can be transported safely. I’d like to encourage family and friends to get together and share food on a picnic, on a hike, or just in their back garden. I’d also like people to think they don’t need to cook lots of different dishes if they are going on a picnic with friends, just pick one lovely thing from the book and make that — a delicious pie, a gorgeous dessert, or a selection of yummy sandwiches.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
My passion really is in encouraging people to cook and to realise how simple so many dishes are and to share home cooked food with family and friends. You don’t need to spend hours cooking, although you can if you want! I encourage my kids to cook with me and I just put up with the mess — mess can be cleaned up fairly quickly, whereas suddenly learning to cook when you leave home is a lot harder and takes far more time.