Sydney summers are all about spending time outdoors – and, in the middle of a pandemic, that is surely a good thing! Our nights out at restaurants and dinner parties with friends have become picnics in the park, where we can more safely catch up with our loved ones.
But while a picnic can be as simple as throwing down a blanket and opening a basket of sandwiches, creating a more substantial and amazing alfresco feast doesn’t have to be too complicated. In fact, events queen Chyka Keebaugh says the key to catering a lavish outdoor luncheon is actually to keep it simple, but abundant.
And to create a picture-perfect picnic spread, just say cheese!
The former Real Housewives of Melbourne fan favourite says cheese makes the perfect centrepiece to any picnic spread, with so many varieties and different ways to serve it – even as a dessert. And a whole wheel of cheese surrounded by an array of fresh breads, meats, vegetables, and dips looks totally impressive but is so easy to prepare.
“You don’t have to be too tricky or have too many things, it’s just about layering things on beautiful boards and having enough that looks generous and inviting,” Chyka says.
“Fromager d’Affinois cheese is a staple for this because it is so, so flavoursome and crowd-pleasing.”
One simple yet stunning picnic dish which Chyka loves is Fromager d’Affinois Florette served with home-made cherry jam and crackers. Chyka says the velvety and slightly acidic goat’s milk cheese is beautifully matched by the fruity cherries.
If you really want to impress, try her baked Fromager d’Affinois Excellence with thyme and lemon. Chyka says the ooziness of this triple cream cheese makes it a real show-stopper. It only takes a few minutes to prepare and cook but looks amazing when you serve an entire wheel of gooey, gorgeous cheese at your picnic!
Cheese can also make a decadent dessert-style dish, such as her peach and pastry wrapped Fromager d’Affinois Florette, or sweet, warm caramelised apples which ideally complements the blue kick of Fromager d’Affinois Bleu.
Chyka says these easy but extraordinary looking dishes can turn a simple picnic into something special, especially when shared with family and friends.
“I think that is one thing that Covid has taught us – it has taken us back to the basics of spending more time with our family and friends,” she says. “It doesn’t matter how we catch up, it’s the fact that we catch up with our friends – and more often these days that needs to happen outdoors.”
And a picnic is a beautiful way to spend time with family and friends because it can be in an environment that you all love – whether that is the mountains, the beach, the country or even just a favourite park.
Chyka’s top tips for hosting the perfect picnic are to keep the food simple, but yummy and plentiful – think fewer elements but in abundant quantities – and to ensure you bring everything your guests might need to be comfortable, such as extra hats, sunscreen, insect repellent and cushions or chairs.
“All you need to do then is find that perfect place and enjoy the delicious picnic that’s been packed!” she says.
Chyka says to make baked Fromager d’Affinois Excellence with thyme and lemon, start by warming an oven to 200C and putting a 2kg wheel of Fromager d’Affinois Excellence triple cream cheese onto baking paper on a tray. Cover with the peeled zest of a lemon, ¼ cup of fresh thyme and 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and bake for 10 min. You can use the baking paper to lift the cheese into an insulated container and then watch the amazement on your friends’ faces when you take it out at your picnic and serve it with more thyme, lemon wedges and flatbreads or crackers.Sydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.