With the world’s greatest tennis tournament happening right now, Gemma Harrison picks some of her favourite tea time treats to make before you sit down to watch.
As well as being the world’s top tennis tournament, Wimbledon is an English and British tradition as entrenched as Royal Ascot, Morris dancing, or Trooping the Colour.
And it’s not just about watching tennis matches, either. One of the reasons why you may see rows of empty seats on the show-courts is that the fans (and especially those in the Royal Box) like to have some refreshment between matches. It’s all part of the fun and the tradition.
Watching every cough and spit of a five-set duel between two of the game’s masters can be hungry and thirsty work.
Therefore, the prospect of some sustenance in Wimbledon’s elegant tea tent will be the order of play for many.
Happily, we can create this feeling in our own homes, or even have it served to us in Muscat.
The prospect of perfectly-brewed tea in pristine white china cups, as well as three-tiered cake stands groaning with an irresistible array of luscious sandwiches, cakes, and buns is simply irresistible.
Here are some staples that are easy to do and are English to a T.
Yes, ridiculously easy to make, but cucumber sandwiches came into being courtesy of colonels in India during the Raj era. As cucumbers are 80 per cent water, the British top brass wanted a snack that was light, and refreshing. And the tradition has endured.
• 12 slices of bread, half white, half brown
• 300 gm soft cheese (use light if you prefer)
• ½ cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
• Spread the white bread and brown bread with some soft cheese. Season.
• Layer the cucumber on half the bread and sandwich with the other half of the slices. Trim the crusts, then cut each into fingers, rectangles or in any shape you like.
(Source: BBC Good Food Guide)
No English tea is complete without them, and making them couldn’t be easier if you observe all the conventions of baking (cold hands etc). Fruit scones (raisins, sultanas) are the perennials but they can be plain, with cheese, or made with wholemeal flour. They’re also best enjoyed when freshly-baked, warm, and with butter; or (when cooler) with jam and cream. But the jury is out on the age-old debate of what goes on first – jam then cream or vice versa? Queen Elizabeth prefers to put her jam on first. And when HM The Queen settles an argument, it stays settled.
• 225 gm, self-raising flour
• 40 gm, golden caster sugar
• 75 gm, spreadable butter
• 50 gm, mixed dried fruit
• 1 large egg, beaten
• about 3-4 Tbsp milk, to mix
• a little extra flour
• First sift the flour into a bowl then add the sugar and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks crumbly.
• Now sprinkle in the dried fruit, pour in the beaten egg and add three tablespoons of milk. Start to mix to a dough with a knife, then bring the mixture together using your hands – it should be a soft but not a sticky dough, so add more milk (a teaspoon at a time) if the dough seems too dry. Form the dough into a ball and turn it out onto a lightly-floured working surface.
• Now, with a floured rolling pin, roll it out very lightly to a thickness of about 3 cm. (This thickness is vital. The reason scones don’t rise enough is because they’re rolled too thinly.) Then take the pastry-cutter and tap it sharply so that it goes straight through the dough – do not twist or the scones will turn out a strange shape!
• When you’ve cut as many as you can, knead the remaining dough together again and repeat. Then place the scones on the baking tray, dust each one with flour and bake near the top of the oven for 12–15 minutes. When they’re done they will have risen and turned a golden brown. Remove them to a cooling tray and serve very fresh, split, and spread with butter.
Wimbledon’s fans will be paying about £3 (RO1.5) for six plump strawberries doused in runny, single cream at one of the takeaway stands. But if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, why not attempt Eton Mess? It’s a traditional English dessert so named as it was believed to have originated at Eton College, the Victorian (and very expensive school) attended by Princes William and Harry, as well as many of the UK’s top (male) politicians.
• 900 gm, strawberries
• 2 tsp, caster or vanilla sugar
• 2 tsp, pomegranate juice
• 480 ml, whipping cream
• 1 packet individual meringue nests
• Pierce and chop the strawberries and put into a bowl and add the sugar and pomegranate juice and leave to soften while you whip the cream.
• Whip the cream in a large bowl until thick but still soft. Roughly crumble in four of the meringue nests. You will need chunks for texture as well as a little fine dust.
• Take out about half a cupful of the chopped strawberries, and fold the meringue cream and rest of the fruit mixture together.
• Arrange on four serving plates or glasses, or in a mound, and top each with some of the remaining macerated strawberries.
(Source: Nigella Lawson/Food Network)