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CASUAL picinics

We would rather call it a 'family outing' -- choroi bhaati, as it is known in Bengali, for “picnics” are grand affairs on the local scene. People go out to picnics in droves in buses that also carry a huge stock of chicken, beef and rice to be cooked and devoured at the spot, somewhere nearby.

Our notion of picnics is an outing closer to home and in the warmth of family bonding. How about a day out -- just the family, Frisbees and a basket full of light food -- a stark contrast to the oil frenzy we are so accustomed to.

This week we introduce new recipe columnist Rukhsara Osman, who along with celebrated chef Tommy Miah provides picnic recipes featuring light food that is easy to carry and serve in an open setting. We also chime in with our ideas about the dos and don'ts of picnics.

Picnics are supposed to be fun events -- for you, your partner, the children and not to forget the elderly. Let Star Lifestyle show you how.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed


The beginners' gardening portfolio

By Rukshara Osman

'Choroi Bhaati' or picnics are ideal during winters in Bangladesh. The pleasant weather calls for a long drive out of the city, away from the noise, the indoors and the television; just to have an alfresco meal with your friends and family. Somehow dishes eaten outdoors taste better and are more memorable than the same foods eaten indoors.

The flavours and colours become etched in your mind, along with the experience of a lovely day spent in nature. Plan a picnic meal that is easy to pack so, no matter where you decide to spread out your blanket, it is fuss-free enough to eat while you're sitting on the ground. It's a simple task to clean up, but still enjoyable for everyone attending.

Tangy potato salad
Potato salads are my favourite and a staple for picnics for me. This is a recipe with no mayonnaise as it keeps well on long journeys.

Serves 6
2 lbs of small potatoes, quartered
2 tbsp vinegar
¼ cup of olive oil
2 tsp kashondi
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ cup of chopped spring onions
¾ cup of crumbled Dhaka Cheese
2 tbsp chopped mint (optional)

Place potatoes into a large pot and cover with lightly salted water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, 10 to 15 minutes; drain.

Mix the vinegar, olive oil, kashondi, mint, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl; add the potatoes and spring onions. Toss gently to coat. Let stand until cool, about 20 minutes.

Fold the cheese into potato salad before packing into the container.

A refreshing minty drink to have in your thermos at picnics. Sometimes when rushed, I would use 7up inside of soda water and the sugar syrup.

Large handful fresh mint, leaves picked
6 lemons, juice and zest of 3
Soda water, to top up
3 tbsp of simple sugar syrup
For simple sugar syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Directions for simple sugar syrup:
Bring water and sugar to a boil and boil until sugar is dissolved.

Method for Mint-o-lade:
Place the mint leaves into a tea towel and bruise with a rolling pin.
Add the mint to a pitcher, with the lemon juice and zest and sugar cane syrup
Top up with soda water. Mix well and add more sugar syrup, to taste.
Spiced chicken wraps
This is an easy and delicious recipe with a garlicky mayonnaise.

Serves 8
Spice mix*
½ cup (125 ml) plain yoghurt
1½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1½ tsp salt
2 lb (1 kg) boneless and sliced, skinless chicken breast
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for sautéing
16 ?at-breads

Garlic mayonnaise*
Spice Mix
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
¾ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ginger paste
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground sweet paprika (optional)
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
Garlic Mayonnaise*
2 cloves garlic, crushed in a mortar and pestle with ½ teaspoon salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
7 tbsp mayonnaise

Garlic mayonnaise
Crush the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle until it forms a smooth paste.
Whisk together the garlic paste and mayonnaise.
Put in a container to take along with you to the picnic site.
Chicken wrap

Combine the spice mix with the yoghurt, lemon juice, garlic and salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat.

Heat a pan and heat some oil. Add the chicken into the pan and fry them until they are done, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Note: chicken can be refrigerated this way for up to 3 days before continuing with the rest of the recipe.

Lay a chapatti, add the chicken strips and wrap it tightly. Secure with a toothpick.


How to entertain kids at a picnic

This generation of sun-hating, dirt-averse, indoor-bred children can be a challenge to entertain during a family picnic. Those PS3s and other hand held consoles can spoil the whole idea of an outdoor day of basking in the sun and running among nature. In order to show your kids the glamour of the good old days, here are some non-electronic and non-board game entertainment ideas which can keep the kids both engaged and entertained during a picnic.

Story times
The journey to and from the picnic spot can be long and tedious. It also sets the tone for the rest of the day and hence the entertainment should start from this very point. Entertain your kids with stories of picnics you have been to as a child and as an adult. Picnics can be a great source of hilarious or embarrassing anecdotes and the morning journey can be the ideal time for relaying those to your droopy-eyed, sulking children. You can also tell them about some of the games you have planned for them during this period to add to their excitement and boost their energy.

Active sports
For some, a bat and ball can keep them entertained for hours but if you have a mix of children both in terms of age and gender it is wise to not occupy some with a long term game while the others brood and sulk. Design games where all ages and genders can participate with equal enthusiasm. You can begin with the traditional picnic games of sack race, three-legged race or egg race. Such games should be conducted in the morning since that is when the energy level is at its peak. You can also conduct the races in age groups.

Relaxed exploration
After lunch everybody enters a relaxed, drowsy state. Hence it can be fruitful to accommodate the exploration of the picnic spot in this phase of the picnic. March off to discover the natural beauty from which we are deprived in our city lives. If possible enrich the exploration with identification of the various plant species and insights about their useful or interesting features. Climb a tree. Let the children play monkey for a while; let them get dirty and obtain a few scratches. The scratches will heal fast but the memories will last a long time.

Throwback to the old
In the evening you can occupy the kids with some of the outdoor games from the good old days such as gollachut or fuultokka or rumalchut. All these games are non-age or gender biased and hence can be enjoyed by everyone together.

Rules of the game
In gollachut you need to draw circles, one in the center which the 'thief' will occupy and the others around the central circle. The occupants of the other circles will have to move in between themselves without the thief capturing an empty circle first.

In fuultokka you need to designate two team leaders who will give themselves secret names (such as belli and kolli) which the other players will then be asked to choose from and the teams formed accordingly. The team leaders will than designate secret names to each member of the team and choose a player of the opposite team who will be blindfolded and receive the 'tokka' from a member of the opponent team. The chosen player's duty is to identify who delivered the 'tokka' and points are provided depending on the success and failure of the guess.

Finally, for rumalchut you need to sit in a circle with a 'thief' carrying the rumal and circling the sitting group. The thief will drop the handkerchief behind one unsuspecting player whose responsibility it then becomes to throw the cloth back at the thief before the thief runs around the whole circle and takes the empty position of the tagged player.

Picnics need not be a chore for the parents where gadgets can be a relief in keeping the kids busy. It can easily become a shared joy where both parents and children can run, jump and cheer together in an attempt to win the game in question. It can become that memory of the children which they themselves will one day share with their own and that experience of the parents through which they can relive their childhood for just one more day.

By Raisaa Tashnova
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed


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