Tasty tips to relish ‘picnic’ concerts

Chef Jack Baker's summertime picnic prepared at Relish on Ecclesall Road for Sheffields Music in the Gardens event
Chef Jack Baker's summertime picnic prepared at Relish on Ecclesall Road for Sheffields Music in the Gardens event
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MUSIC-LOVERS are being given a slice of inspiration ahead of a four-day festival of ‘perfect picnic concerts’. Feature writer Molly Lynch discovers a best of British menu.

THERE has never been a better time to be British.

Queen's Diamond Jubilee party at Ordsall Community Centre

Queen's Diamond Jubilee party at Ordsall Community Centre

From the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, to preparations for London 2012, so far this summer has passed in a sea of red, white and blue.

Even England’s exit from Euro 2012 and relentless rainfall has failed to dampen the spirits of people across Sheffield, which was evident when thousands of Union Jack-waving revellers turned out to welcome the Olympic torch relay.

And keen to capitalise on this celebration of all things British are organisers of Music in the Gardens, one of the highlights of the city’s jam-packed social calendar.

This year’s event promises to be the biggest and best yet, with big-name acts such as 10cc performing at Sheffield Botanical Gardens along with the cream of local talent, from July 4.

The collective of rotary clubs of South Yorkshire are billing the four-day festival as the perfect summer picnic concerts.

While there will be the usual array of food and drink stalls at every event, music-lovers are being encouraged to bring along their own home-made treats.

Geoff Marston, Music in the Gardens committee chairman, said: “As a Rotary-organised event, we have always wanted to keep Music in the Gardens, first and foremost as a community event for Sheffield’s families.

“Our ‘picnic concerts’ are the perfect British tradition allowing families and friends to spend time together in one of Sheffield’s most beautiful venues listening to some of our city’s and the UK’s best musicians.”

With just a week to go before the Big Band Night takes to the stage at Sheffield Botanical Gardens on the opening night, The Star drafted in the help of expert Jack Baker to help readers who might lack inspiration in the kitchen.

The 29-year-old - who is head chef at Brew Kitchen’s laid-back eatery Relish in Ecclesall Road - was tasked with coming up with a menu featuring the best of British and easily prepared at home.

And he did not disappoint. From quaint finger sandwiches to mouth-watering scones, his delicious dishes oozed national pride encompassing a unique Sheffield twist.

In a world where consumer convenience rules all, it might be easy to opt for the ready-made salads and sandwiches in supermarket aisles, but Jack insists that everything on his menu is quick, easy and fun to make.

In fact, one of the most inspired items in Jack’s recipe book is perhaps one of the simplest - home-made Henderson’s crisps.

After cooking, Jack adds a generous helping of the Sheffield-made relish. He recommends serving with a dollop of sour cream which can come in picnic-friendly plastic tubs.

Jack, who has been a chef for almost a decade, said: “They’re really easy. You get a Maris Piper, the longer the better, and chop it up thinly enough to get about 50 slices, depending on the size of it. Then you warm a pan full of oil and cook for about four to five minutes. You’ve got to make sure they keep that crispness and don’t go soggy.

“I always have Henderson’s with me. You can’t beat it.”

Health-conscious concert-goers will be pleased to know that they are equally as delicious when oven-baked.

For sandwiches, Jack’s tip is to use brown bread for fish and white for meat.

He would also encourage shoppers to try local bakeries.

He said: “We get all our bread from Roses the Bakers in Sheffield. There are some brilliant bakeries in this city. I’ve chosen egg and spinach and smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber because they’re typically English.”

For those with a sweet tooth, Jack recommends scones with clotted cream and jam, home-made cookies and strawberries dipped in chocolate.

He said: “Cookies are really easy to make, I use the one-two-three method. You get 100 grams of sugar, 200 grams of butter and 300 grams of plain flour, chop up some chocolate, fold it in to the mixture and cook in the oven

“For the strawberries you just melt some chocolate, dip them in and refrigerate so they set. Both of these are really easy to do and parents can get their kids involved in making it.”

While champagne might be known as the perfect accompaniment to strawberries for adults, Jack has come up with a Relish speciality for the kids’ cooler box - a strawberries and cream milkshake.

He said: “You take two scoops of strawberry ice cream, a cup of milk, chop some fresh strawberries, add whipped cream and mix together. They’re really popular here.”

If Jack’s picnic menu tantalises your tastebuds, be sure to snap up your Music in the Gardens tickets before heading to the shops to stock up on ingredients.