Wimbledon! In a word, quintessentially British, other than perhaps the Queen herself, Ascot, and Sunday roast. Not only is it the only Grand Slam to be played on grass but it’s also the world’s oldest tennis tournament. It is the highlight of the English summer social calendar, steeped in etiquette, pomp and ceremony and of course, a window to our favourite royals gracing the gallery.
It’s the competition’s strict obedience to tradition, from the obligatory whites to food offered, that sets Wimbledon apart from other tennis tournaments. PIMM’s cups were first served in 1971 and flow abundantly still. Cornish Pasties and The Dutchee (a spicy sausage on a bun) are firm crowd favourites for those lucky enough to enjoy the action courtside.The stars of the grand slam of course, other than the players themselves, are the strawberries and cream, simply served on a dollop of softly whipped cream and topped with a little more.
While I don’t ever need an excuse to gather friends and break bread around the table, this event does provide the opportunity to get into the Wimbledon spirit, unpack the fine china, polish up the bits of silver and enjoy some traditional British fare. I don’t mean a full on three course meal, which of course you could labour through. For me, it’s about making the most of The Victorian heritage with finger morsels like tea sandwiches, scones and perhaps a Victoria Sponge all washed down with crisp champagne, in a crystal flute.
This year is no exception. We are devout tennis fans. Supporting and watching your favourite pro play is serious business. Being an unyielding Djokovic fan, there is inevitable banter, cutting jibes and often heated moments from my Nadal and Federer counterparts. The thing is nothing brings people together like good food, good humour and sport.
WHAT TO SERVE AT YOUR WIMBLEDON MATCH DAY PARTY
I love white, flaky fish and chips and no one does it better than the Brits. To give this humble classic a simple and elegant face lift serve individual bite size portions in newspaper cones then wedge the parcel into glasses to hold them up. Add a lemon wedge but have tartare sauce and brown vinegar on hand.
Cucumber Sandwiches hardly need introduction or a recipe but if not done well they are as boring as the sum of their ingredients. Key here is sliced white bread, proper unsalted butter (at room temperature) and the best cream cheese you can buy.
Spread the butter as thinly as possible followed by a thin layer of cream cheese. I like to remove the seeds from the cucumber then thinly slice and layer generously. Purists have written that the cucumber filling must be the same thickness as one slice of the bread. Most importantly season well and remove the crust.
For the meat lovers offer some roast beef and horseradish tea sandwiches or ham and hot English mustard.
Cut into fingers or triangles and keep under a wet cloth until ready to serve.
Speciality shops and larger chain supermarkets stock delicious scones and bakes, jams and preserves. It’s important here to serve your scones with real clotted cream, indulgent strawberry jam and real butter.
Strawberries, while not in season, are still available at selected shops. Pile them high into a bowl as a centrepiece and have plenty of softly whipped cream on the side. A bowl of meringues is a great addition to the buffet. Gently break the meringue keeping its structural integrity, cover generously with clotted or gently whipped cream, pile on strawberries and drizzle over strawberry sauce.
All these ingredients are the makings of a classic Eton mess so make sure you have some glasses available for a DIY version.
JAZZ UP YOUR BUBBLES
3 large handfuls strawberries (or frozen)
1 bottle Champagne or Sparkling wine
To make the sauce, place the strawberries in a blender and puree until smooth. Pass the puree through a sieve to remove the seeds and chill.
Divide the strawberry purée between six Champagne glasses, carefully fill with bubbly and enjoy! For kids, top up with sparkling water.
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