Spring has undeniably sprung. Pollen is wafting everywhere, there is a sudden abundance of bare skin and even more reasons to head out into the great outdoors and do little else other than soak up the sun. But in dedicating your weekend to doing so comes a serious need for sustenance. So with that in mind, we enlisted the help of long-time purveyors of preserves, Cunliffe & Waters, to get us thinking about how to make our baskets brim with the very best on those hot days. Since starting out as a side project for artist Amanda Cunliffe, things have changed significantly. The one thing that has not, the team is careful to stress, is their techniques. “We get 24 or so from each batch, all cooked in French preserving pans. Ludicrous on a commercial scale, but we won’t ever change that as it’s what makes our jams so good,” says Caroline Grey from Cunliffe & Waters. Starting out by selling to friends and at local markets, the company’s range is now a far cry from its humble beginnings. Now in its 16th year, their shelves boast relishes, chutneys, marmalades, jams and the most recent addition, cordials – all of which act as the perfect accompaniment to any good picnic.
The aim of a picnic is a simple but honest one – to have a lovely time whilst stuffing yourself senseless in the most refined manner possible.
Let’s start at the very beginning. Our picks for refreshments are the passionfruit and raspberry cordials with soda water, and if you have the time and the esky, homemade Meyer lemon icy poles. If it’s a late afternoon picnic some Pimm’s with raspberry cordial will never go astray.
Next up is the finger food and when it comes to true picnicking, it’s much like an outdoor high tea. Sandwiches are the rule of the day and the more traditional the better. The classic roast lamb and cheddar cheese is a perfect match with a green tomato pickle, as is some aged cheddar and crackers. The tomato and red capsicum relish matches perfectly not only with ham and cream cheese, but also with some fresh avocado and rocket if you’re not of the meat-eating persuasion. Our rule of thumb is, the colder the cuts and fresher the bread, the better the day will be.
One of the most vital things to remember when packing your casually decadent food is that one should always save room for dessert. It’s one of the tastiest meals of the day and a warmer climate should be no reason to exclude such a vital ingredient to a feast. We decided that if you’re going to do it, better to do it well and went with the classic Victoria sponge cake and added liberal amounts of Willamette Raspberry Jam and double cream.
And though Cunliffe no longer paints professionally, with the creating, taste-testing and production of products, we don’t really mind at all. Because without herself and her humble team of helpers, we might not eat anywhere near as well as we could this summer.
Cunliffe & Waters Top Six Sandwich Fillers
• Mango & Pineapple Chutney, chicken, mayo, chopped celery and almond flakes
• Tomato Kasoundi, boiled egg and mayo
• Green Tomato Pickle, cold roast lamb and cheddar cheese
• Tomato & Red Capsicum Relish, ham, cream cheese and rocket
• Beetroot & Orange Relish, pate and endive
• Caroline's Onion Jam, roast beef, brie and spinach leaves
Victoria Sponge Cake
1 ¼ cups plain flour
6 eggs (room temperature)
¾ cup caster sugar
Filling and serving:
Willamette Raspberry Jam
Icing sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 180c and line two 20cm cake tins. Sift flour three times and set aside. Beat eggs and sugar until thick and pale (approximately 10 minutes) and add sifted flour slowly. Gently stir together and divide batter amongst the cake tins. Cook for 20–25 minutes or until cake comes away from the edges of the cake tin. Cool thoroughly before adding the cream and jam between layers.