BBC – BBC Food blog: Olympic lunchboxes that pass muster

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If you’ve managed to bag tickets for the forthcoming games but don’t want to pay the high prices for food and drinks when you arrive, what are your options? With prices as high as £1.60 for a small bottle of water and £5.90 for a tuna salad, taking a packed lunch seems an appealing alternative. And then there’s the inevitable queues to consider…

To be fair, despite the headlines about junk food’s dominance at the games, there will be a wide variety of food available at most venues, so, even if it is pricey, you’re unlikely to be cornered into eating junk food. The organisers have taken pains to ensure special diets are also catered for, meaning gluten-free, vegetarian, halal and kosher food will all be on sale.

Gold medal millionaire shortbreads: a guaranteed winner.

For those who prefer homemade food or want to save money take note: security at the games is going to be very tight – the gate policy will be similar to that of an international flight. This means you need to take a few things into account when planning your picnic:

  • No liquids over 100ml/3½fl oz allowed (which includes yoghurts and ice packs).
  • No alcohol.
  • Food must be for personal consumption (I wouldn’t recommend one person carrying a picnic for the whole family).
  • Only one soft-sided bag allowed per person (of 25 litre capacity or less – approximately the size of a small rucksack). Crucially, it must be small and flexible enough to squash under your seat in the venue – so no picnic baskets or cool boxes!
  • No glass bottles (except for medication).
  • Cutlery should be considered carefully – make it disposable and, obviously, leave the knives at home.
  • Baby food, baby milk and sterilised water are allowed into venues but must be carried in containers with a maximum capacity of 1 litre per baby.
  • The security measures at football games are tighter than the rest of the events, so if you have tickets for a game it’s strongly advised that you do not take any bags with you.

If you’re one of the people who thinks a picnic just isn’t a picnic without a trestle table and deck chairs then you’re probably best passing on this one, but if like me you love the simple pleasures of tasty homemade sandwiches, a hunk of pie and maybe a slice of cake then there’s plenty to be enjoyed without coming a cropper at security.

Firstly, a few tip offs. Taking drinks in with you is out of the question, but free water is available from drinking fountains inside the venues and you’re allowed to take an empty plastic bottle with you.  Queues are expected and all bags will be thoroughly searched. To make the process as smooth as possible, ensure all your belongings are easy to check and store any food in clear plastic bags or cling film – tin foil is a definite no-no as it’s likely to set off the metal detectors.

When it comes to the actual food, think about the perishability of your picnic. You won’t be able to take a cool box with you, unless you have a small freezable cool bag, so any food you take needs to keep well when stored at room temperature (or even warmer if the sun decides to come out of hiding).

Ever popular couscous and pasta salads are an obvious choice with myriad variations available, our Feta, rocket and olive pasta salad is super tasty and can be made in a flash. And pasties, sausage rolls and pork pies are a real winner being so easily portable and satisfying, no matter what the weather brings.

If you want to try something different from the usual sandwiches, savoury cakes are a French picnic favourite and travel very well. Try Rachel Khoo’s Cheese, pistachio and prune cake or Antonio Carluccio’s delicious Beetroot layer cake.  And don’t forget the British picnic classics of Game pie and quiche.

Treats are literally a piece of cake. Avoid anything filled with cream but beyond that the choices are endless. Simple, unadorned cakes work best of all, such as Banana cake, Orange and almond cake or Parkin, but most cakes, fairy cakes and biscuits will be fine. If you’re keen to get into the Olympic spirit, try our Gold medal millionaire shortbreads or a slice of Velodrome coffee cake. For less-sugary snacks, nuts, granola bars and savoury muffins all fit the bill.

And if you weren’t lucky enough to get tickets, you can always join in the fun by throwing an Olympics party at home.

Did you manage to get tickets for the Olympics and, if so, are you planning on taking a packed lunch with you? Is price a factor or do you just prefer homemade food? Is anyone protesting about the sponsors by refusing to buy the food on sale in the Olympic venues?

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