Anatomy of a Picnic

"I'm going to have the daintiest things possible....things that will match the spring, you understand...little jelly tarts and lady fingers, and drop cookies frosted with pink and yellow icing, and buttercup cake. And we must have sandwiches too, though they're not very poetical"
- Anne of Avonlea;
L.M. Montgomery

ruby & cake picnic
Ruby & cake sydney harbour
Sydney Opera House Ruby & Cake

It is full on spring here, Spring flirting with summer. Warm and green. Winter and Fall are for staying put and cultivating your roots down deep. Then there are the  seasons for moving and growing. Seasons to be outside.

Rainbow Roses Ruby & Cake

The spring months are when you crave to be outside soaking up sunshine and feeling grass between finger tips. My heart craves picnics for aren't they just the sweetest thing.? I got my picnic wish last week complete with rich chocolate cake, parmesan crumbed chicken with an apple and fennel slaw, vegetable sticks, kiwi dip (for the nostalgia), fresh berries and one of the most beautiful souls you will ever meet. This picnic was for reconnecting and for sunshine.

Ruby & Cake Picnic at hanging rock

“Insulated from natural contacts with earth, air and sunlight, by corsets pressing on the solar plexus, by voluminous petticoats, cotton stockings and kid boots, the drowsy, well-fed girls lounging in the shade were no more a part of their environment than figures in a photograph album, arbitrarily posed against a backcloth of cork rocks and cardboard trees.”
― Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock

  Gifts from Japan

Gifts from Japan

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We shared crisp lemonade and a cheeky Japanese cigarette and unloaded stories of what we have missed from each others lives since the summer. She told me of life back in New Zealand which caused a physical ache of homesickness in my gut and of her latest adventures in Japan. We chose a grassy spot opposite the Opera House, (because grass and a decent view are very important when having a picnic), a busker set up and played a constant stream of background music for us. It was as beautiful as a day can be.

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Picnics are one of my most favourite things in the world. Probably stemming from a childhood infatuation with the whimsical literary picnics of old. The famous five with their boiled eggs and buttered bread. The girls of hanging rock with white frocks and Miranda leaping off the pages ethereal and slightly melancholy and their feast of chicken pies and a giant love heart cake – it was valentines after all. There were the picnics in Wind in the Willows, and while I myself would pass on tongue sandwiches they still made me yearn for the outdoors and friends like Rat and Mole.

  Film Still Form 1975 Picnic At Hanging Rock, Peter Weir

Film Still Form 1975 Picnic At Hanging Rock, Peter Weir

The essentials of any picnic must be a decent blanket, a little music or perhaps a book of poetry, refreshing drinks, sandwiches or cold pies and cake of some kind. Cheese, crackers, pear and wine may also be called for. Oh and maybe a flower crown. Because if you cant wear a flower crown at a picnic where can you? But do tell, do you enjoy picnics? What are your picnic essentials?

  My anatomy of a picnic

My anatomy of a picnic

Rescue Muffins

Ruby & Cake Blueberry Muffins
Ruby &  Cake Blueberry Apple muffins

I have been a little absent recently, just dealing with general life ephemera. Nothing bad or grievous just lots of things happening all at once. My evenings have been full and social which is never a bad  thing but as a result I have been subsisting on a diet of takeaways and restaurant foods, or miso soup and dark chocolate squares for dinner this week and it just will not do. I have been away from the kitchen for far too long so it was good, this weekend, to return to something familiar. Taking a step back and being able to relish in some simple foods. 

Ruby & Cake Apple Streusel Muffins
Ruby & Cake What Katie Ate
Kitten Ruby & Cake

While I was preparing them for the oven, a thunderstorm rolled in, so I had to bolt outside and rescue my washing (hence some of the muffins in these photos do not have the crunchy topping). The sheets smelt of fresh linen and rosemary and were still warm from the sun. Mishka, my housemates ancient cat, was most unimpressed by the sudden domestic goings on. When I bake she is often at my feet, dutifully sitting there keeping me company while I ramble out my inner thoughts at her (which i know has forever condemned me to an inevitable fate as a crazy cat lady) but there is something to be said in the restorative benefits of an afternoon spent baking and folding washing and singing to your cat the music of Portishead.   

Ruby & Cake Muffins
Ruby & Cake Muffins Apple
Ruby & Cake Afternoon Tea Muffins
Ruby & Cake Crunchy Munchy Muffins

These muffins are not too sweet and not too indulgent. They are a perfect afternoon or morning pick me up with a cheeky black coffee. I got the recipe from the What Katie Ate cookbook which I never tire of looking at. The photos are dark and rich and the food is all kinds of delicious. 

Ruby & Cake Food Photography

Blueberry & Apple Muffins with a Crunchy Munchy Topping

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/4 Cup/156g Self-Raising Flour
  • 1/2 cup/48g almond meal
  • 1/2 cup/80g superfine sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • large pinch fine salt
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter/113grams melted and cooled
  • 2 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes
  • 1 Cup Blueberries
  • handful sliced blanched almonds
  • handful of quick oats
  • 1-2 tablespoons light brown sugar

METHOD:


1. Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Line a 12-cup standard (1/2 cup) muffin tin with paper baking cups or small rounds of parchment paper.
2. Place the flour, almond meal, superfine sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt in a bowl and mix well. In a separate bowl, mix together the vanilla extract, melted butter, beaten egg and 3/4 cup warm water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon, then add the apple and gently stir to combine. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cup to about three-quarters full.
3. Place the strawberry quarters on top of each muffing, then sprinkle with almonds and brown sugar. As I didn’t had fresh strawberries, I used home-made strawberry jam. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

Ruby & Cake Oat Muffins