River Cottage chef Gill Meller’s top tips for the perfect picnic…

River Cottage chef Gill Meller's top tips for the perfect picnic...

Gill Meller knows a thing or two about al fresco dining – so much so that he’s dedicated his latest book to cooking and eating outside.

And one of the most accessible ways to enjoy food outside is with a picnic, where you can precook everything and cart it to your favourite location.

“One of the most lovely eating memories I have is heading out on a very cold winter’s afternoon up onto the cliffs, just east of where I live in Dorset – and having a thermos full of lentil soup with Alice, my wife,” Meller reminisces.

“Having this warming, comforting homely nourishment in the form of a simple soup just makes you feel safe – it’s like a reassuring blanket.”

If you really want to nail a picnic – whatever the weather – these are Meller’s top tips…


Planning what you’re going to cook will save you a last-minute scrabble for picnic food. Meller suggests choosing “recipes that are cooked inside in advance – conventional cooking, but with an aim of transporting those wonderful things, and those delicious recipes to a whole new place – wherever you choose to enjoy it, whether it’s on the

beach, in the woods, in the park, or just down at the bottom of the garden”.

Even though Meller is all about preparation, that doesn’t mean you have to do anything incredibly elaborate – “Even eating a cheese sandwich at the end of the pier in the rain” can be exactly what you want.


“I love that idea of being able to pack up something fantastic to eat, heading out the door and building up an appetite by exerting yourself – whether it’s swimming in the sea, or hiking up a hill – then rewarding yourself with the food you’ve prepared,” he says.

“It’s just the most lovely thing – I enjoy that food and outdoor connection. You’re doing something that feels slightly unusual, in that you’ve made something, you’ve taken it with you and you’re eating it. It’s not how we tend to live conventionally, it’s special and becomes a treat.”


The picnic chapter in Meller’s new book is broken up into seasonal sections, because no one really wants to take lentil soup out with them on the hottest day of the year.

“If you’re cooking seasonally, you tend to be cooking with ingredients that fit that time of year. So on a hot, sunny day, you’ll probably be preparing fresh vegetables, salads, fruit, and light, clean, crisp things. Whereas in the cooler autumn months, you’ll have a different approach to the picnic food you make – and indeed, the food you eat on a daily basis.”

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter