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How to nail the perfect picnic

The sun's out - quick, grab the wicker basket! If you're partial to a picnic (I mean, who isn't?) here's some inspo on how to pimp up your al fresco feast - including £500 of free Ocado deliveries (well hello M&S Deli range).

FRIDAYS WITH FRIENDS IN ASSOCIATION WITH

What is it about picnics and the British? As soon as the sun breaks through, there’s something almost primal about our desire to loll around on a blanket, nibble unpronounceable deli bites and knock back chilled rosé all afternoon.

Well, a heatwave is on its way, so get ready to steal yourself for this summer’s first pass at serious al fresco fun, with some help from Muddy Stilettos. Firstly, with the launch of our brand new Fridays With Friends, where we’ll be sharing recipes, the best food and wine around, and generally getting into the swing of socialising and sozzling at the end of the week (what can I say, it’s kind of playing to our talents). And secondly with a jaw-dropping £500 to spend at awesome online grocer Ocado in our brand new Reader Treat. You read it right, sister, go plunder!

I always think the best thing about picnicing is that anyone can pull it off. At Muddy we’re all about the downtime, and when you picnic you don’t need to cook for hours, or worry about posh crockery, or panic over what to wear. It’s about as simple and relaxing a dining experience with friends as you’ll ever get.

I ordered my picnic ingredients in one go from Ocado, the online grocer I’ve been using since my heady party years in London (no jokes about the 19th century, thanks). Ocado offers all the supermarket brands you’d expect, but also has its own estabished food range, a kitchenware and entertaining arm that includes the likes of Daylesford and Sophie Conran, a back-to-school section (trust me, you’ll be buying white polo shirts before before you know it) – and perhaps most importantly for my picnic and stress levels, it stocks a gratifyingly huge range of M&S food, including the Master Deli collection. PRAISE BE!

It’s unkind to pick favourites, but I have to put a good word in the Hondurian marinated king prawns, (below) handrolled spinach and feta filo borek, the pesto halloumi kebabs and the Natoora Sicilian tiger plum tomatoes (seriously, they’re a thing!) that made my burrata salad look like a real Italian beauty. A grateful nod also to the Labneh yoghurt dip (below) because it looked so pretty, even in its container. Actually, the whole shop was pretty glorious, an online supermarket sweep in a one-hour slot, grabbing all kinds of gorgeous stuff from olives and flatbreads to berries and cream in a bit of a frenzy.

The great thing about picnics is that, apart from making the setting look attractive – as easy as a checkered cloth, big bunch of blousy roses from the garden, and some artfully mis-matched crockery (not hard in my house, everything’s broken) – there’s virtually nothing left to do apart from present the food. I’m no stylist, but I plucked at the wild thyme and edible violets growing amongst my wonky garden tiles like I was a pro, and – well you be the judge but I think it worked!

Zsushing my flowers – seriously, it’s about as stressful as a picnic gets

I did make one beautiful salad from a recipe on the Ocado site – rose-scented watermelon with maftoul, pomegranate molasses and pistachios (see the plain white bowl below for my effort!).

The colours were beautiful and I thought it would look pretty, so I just ordered the individual components with my Ocado picnic shop. It literally took 15 minutes to throw together. I’d totally recommend Ocado’s Recipe section actually – there are literally hundreds of easy recipes on there, including plenty of lovely salads, and if you find one you like, just click and it will add the ingredients to your shopping basket.

My picnic was home-spun because I’m horrifically lazy, but if you’re planning to head into the countryside, down to the river or the beach, all power to you. Just remember your sun-cream, portable speaker and charger, swimmers (you never think you’ll need them – you always do) and, if you’re the lucky winner in our Reader Treat, £500 of Ocado goodies. If you can’t wait til then to dive into its summer offering, there’s currently £20 off your first Ocado shop with the offer code VOU5058363 if you spend £60 or more – how delicious is that?

Ocado.com

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