Summer is a perfect time to be dining outdoors. Especially for weekend lunches, when the whole family is together to enjoy an al fresco meal in the patio or back yard, with a lazy, afternoon sun tempting appetites and warming the relaxed table conversation. Match mood to food by changing up the usual weekend fare and serving the perfect Ploughman Lunch – British farmer style. It’s so simple, so rustic and so much fun to put together.
What you basically need for an authentic Ploughmans Lunch is bread, cheese and pickle. Additionally, apples, boiled eggs, ham and pickled onions are also served to add variety to the 3 basic Ploughman staples in many British pubs (where non-farmers get to enjoy the treat).
Here’s all you need to know to execute a Ploughmans Lunch with the panache of a hospitable ploughman’s wife:
THE PLOUGHMAN LUNCH SERVICE
# 1: Typically, the lunch is served on wooden platters. You can use wooden chopping boards to load up the food and let everyone eat family style.
# 2: The meal does not call for cutlery – except a buttering knife. You use the same knife for everything. (It’s rustic, remember?)
# 3: While a ploughman doesn’t have much use for plates either, you may want to go against tradition and put some out to catch crumbs and spills.
# 4: Since all the food is piled onto wooden platters (or planks or chopping boards), you have to slice everything up and make them ready-to-eat.
# 5: The butter has to be served soft to ease the loading of breads with it. The bread is not warmed. Chutneys, pickles and other relishes go directly on the boards too.
# 6: Slate cheeseboards and platters look really pretty when dressing up a ploughmans table, but wood is the way to go. Also, sticky chutney and pickle juices get into the crevices and indents in a natural slate slab, which is horrible to try and clean out later.
SORRY, NO SANDWICHES
# 7: Tempting as it might be to construct sandwiches with the ingredients of a perfect Ploughmans Lunch, that is not the way. The piling up of food on the bread has to be spontaneous and organic. A bit of cheese and pickle now, a bite of ham there or maybe just a dollop of butter in the next mouthful… All very relaxed and languid.
# 8: Mid-sections of baguettes are ideal. You have to stay rustic with your bread choices and go for white, nutty, multigrain, simple peasant bread. No rolls, crackers, pita pockets etc. You eat whatever a ploughman’s wife bakes in her oven. And you don’t serve it warm.
# 9: Think hard or semi-hard British cheeses, and serve two or three types of it. Something like savory Cheddars and a dry, crumbly Lancashire. No soft cheeses.
# 10: The ham has to be as hearty and grassroots as the rest of the fare. Therefore, something baked and thick-cut. Serving a poncy platter of charcuterie will go against the one-dimensional nature of the ploughmans meal. Simplicity is the overriding theme here.
PICKLE AND RELISH CHOICES
# 12: Beer – lots of it – and cider. No, British farmers typically don’t drink Pimm’s. Not even for a Ploughmans Lunch in summer.