When the spring sun begins to shine and the days grow longer, I adore putting a few simple dishes together and heading down to my local park for a picnic with friends and family. It’s always a casual affair and while it does require a little thought and preparation, once you’re there, it always feels worth it.

I like to keep things pretty uncomplicated by choosing food that travels well and requires minimal crockery and cutlery. Picnicking is such a simple pleasure and in Melbourne there’s no shortage of great patches of green to stretch your legs, sip on some cold drinks and share some food.

My local is Edinburgh Gardens in North Fitzroy. It has everything you want in a park – great grass, plenty of trees and so many cute dogs. I pack some iced tea, cold beers and maybe a bottle of something fizzy. A stack of melamine plates, real cutlery wrapped in some linen (to use as napkins later) and a few cups, and you’re ready to picnic!

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Smoked trout pate
This smoked trout pate comes together in moments – make it extra fancy with some salmon roe to really impress. To make, mix 400g of hot-smoked trout and 200g of creme fraiche together in a medium bowl. Stir through a handful of finely chopped dill and chives and add in the juice and zest of ½ a lemon. Grate in 1 tsp of horseradish and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a dish or container and top with salmon roe and extra chives. Serve the pate with salted crisps or slices of baguette.

Chicken cotoletta sandwich
Some sort of sandwich is always popular, too. It can be as simple as a ham, cheese and mustard baguette or something a little more special. I usually like to take all the elements with me and prepare them there, so they’re freshly made. Picnics of my childhood were either mortadella sandwiches or left-over chicken cotolette stuffed inside crusty panini rolls – both still feature regularly at my own picnics.

To make the cotolette, pound four small chicken breast fillets so they are an even thickness. Dust the chicken in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, then dip into a bowl with two lightly beaten eggs. Finally, lay the chicken on a tray lined with panko breadcrumbs and coat it well on both sides. Shallow-fry each cotoletta in vegetable oil until golden on both sides and cooked through. Allow to drain on a rack and set aside.

Make a quick salad with ¼ of a white cabbage, shredded; 1 red apple, julienned; a handful each of mint and parsley leaves; 2 tbsp of grated parmesan; and 1 shallot, finely sliced. Dress with 2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil and the juice of ½ a lemon. Season to taste and set aside.

Halve four rolls and spread the base of each with mustard – I like strong English mustard, but Dijon works well, too. Place one cotoletta on each base and top with a good amount of salad. Spread the top of the roll generously with mayonnaise – Kewpie works well – and place on top of the salad.

Chargrilled capsicum panzanella salad
A big salad for sharing is a must, too. A panzanella-style salad is my go-to – it travels well and gets better as it sits. A perfect picnic choice!

For the salad, cut or roughly tear two thick slices of day-old sourdough bread into 3cm pieces. Arrange on a baking tray lined with baking paper and drizzle with 2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil and a scattering of sea salt. Bake in an oven preheated to 180°C for 15 minutes or until the bread is lightly golden and dried out. Transfer to a large bowl.

Cut three red capsicums into large pieces, discarding the inner membrane, core and seeds. Place in a bowl and toss with 2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil and season with sea salt. Heat a grill or frying pan over high heat and cook the capsicum until blistered and beginning to soften – this will take 8–10 minutes.

Add to the bowl with the bread, along with 150g halved cherry tomatoes and 100g blanched, dry-roasted almonds. Dress the salad with 3 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil and 2 tbsp of sherry or red wine vinegar, and toss to combine. Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes. Just before serving, add a large handful of basil leaves and season to taste. Top the salad with boiled eggs (cooked for 6 minutes, until jammy, then halved) and eight anchovy fillets.

Melon salad with ginger and vanilla syrup
I also love to take fruit along with me. Sometimes just a nice selection of seasonal fruit will do, and other times I like to go to a little more effort, such as this melon salad. Any left-over syrup is a great addition to cocktails, too – win-win!

Start by making a simple sugar syrup. Combine 100g of caster sugar and 100ml of water in a small pot with a 3cm piece of ginger, finely sliced, and a vanilla bean, split in half lengthways. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cook for 3–4 minutes or until slightly thickened. Allow to cool.

At the park, drizzle the sugar syrup over a platter of raspberries, sliced watermelon and rockmelon. Scatter over some shredded mint and serve with thick plain yoghurt or labneh.

This is an extract from the Broadsheet cookbook Home Made, which features 80 diverse recipes for home cooking, sourced from Melbourne's best cooks, chefs and restaurants. Published by Plum, the book is available for $49.95 at shop.broadsheet.com.au