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Do you know what makes me really happy? Having a picnic. There, I've said it. I can practically hear you all muttering from behind your Sunday papers, 'that Rachel Allen one needs to go and get a life'. And maybe I do. But come on, isn't there something just so uncomplicated and pleasurable about eating outside in the elements? Everything tastes better, for a start. There's minimal cleaning up to do afterwards and, unless you eat outdoors all the time - which, as we are in Ireland, I doubt - there is a certain novelty factor to picnicking that I just adore.
 
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Way back when, after our ancestors started using fire as a means of heat, they discovered the transformative effects of flames and smoke on meat. Not only did smoking bring great flavour, but it also preserved the food, which was, of course, essential for survival in primitive times.
 
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There's nothing quite like a bank-holiday weekend to make you want to get outside and start cooking al fresco. If you haven't already brushed down your barbecue, then now is definitely the time. For those of us who live in lovely unpredictable Ireland we know that a bit of spontaneity is key when it comes to cooking outside, as we seem to be the only country in the world that can have whole four seasons in one day! But fear not, here are some great recipes to get the barbie season kicked off in style, rain or shine.
 
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If there's just one food that seems to have appeared out of nowhere in the last few years, it's got to be quinoa. It's so popular that the UN named 2013 International Year of Quinoa in recognition of its high nutritional content.
 
It's hardly surprising that this pseudo-cereal - which is actually a seed related to beets, spinach and chard - has become such a big hit. It's a complete protein and contains more calcium than milk, and it's also a rich source of iron, manganese, B vitamins and dietary fibre.
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