WIMBLEDON FINALS KLAXON.
Ok, so we’re on a less-than-a-week-away countdown to the Wimbledon finals, and it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to celebrate. If that’s your thing. And for me, it most *definitely* is.
Typically I’ll spend the last Saturday/Sunday of the Wimbledon fortnight at home, praying for sun, and watching with a group of friends. With that comes the difficult decision about what to serve (worst pun ever), and really, you’ve got to go FULL WIMBLEDON to really do it justice.
Let’s start with drinks; somebody will inevitably bring gin, which is perfect – but as host, there’s going to be an expectation that you’ll also have Pimm’s on tap.
Pimm’s No. 1 Cup is still made to the original recipe which remains a closely-guarded secret, known only to six of Pimm’s top people called ‘the secret six’. Its history dates back to 1823, when pubs would create a ‘cup’ that emulated the gin people tried to make in bathtubs (and was actually pretty lethal). James Pimm became the owner of an oyster bar, and his mix became super popular before going commercial in 1851. All you need to do is add a few key ingredients to create a supremely refreshing tipple.
For a party, you’ll want to make this by the jugful, but if at all possible, I’d make by the glass. People can add their own quantities of fruit and alcohol to suit. You can add basically any fruit you like to Pimm’s, but the classic recipe is strawberries, lime, mint, orange and cucumber, plus lemonade. I discovered Lovely Drinks‘ sparkling lemonade at the Artisan Springboard last week, and the hint of English lavender in it makes it the perfect pairing for Pimm’s.
Check out this orange I picked up, which was SO MASSIVE I had to quarter it. Anyway, based in the North Somerset countryside near Bristol, Lovely Drinks began as a hobby in the family’s garden shed using elderflowers from nearby fields. It’s now an award-winning and thriving (but still small) family business – and they still blend, process and pack the bottled drinks in a converted sawmill five minutes’ walk from their home. It’s delicious.
Next up, for something savoury, I’d go for a classic sandwich. I adore The Guardian’s ‘how to make the perfect xxx’ series, and their cucumber sandwich recipe is the absolute best. The whole point of cucumber sandwiches is that they’re refreshing, light, and won’t spoil your appetite if you’re planning a big dinner – but if you mess them up, they’re dull as anything.
The key is thin, soft white bread. I picked up a loaf from Greensmiths yesterday from The Old Post Office Bakery, London’s oldest organic bakery in Clapham, which is perfect for this. Some schools of thought say remove the crusts once the sandwich is made, but I prefer to cut two slices and take the crusts off them together (one on top of the other), so that they’re even. I just find it easier.
Peeling the cucumber is mandatory. Then cut the cucumber into slices as thin as you can make them (again, some people say to remove the seeds, but I always keep them in), sprinkle lightly with salt (don’t go overboard) and leave for 20 minutes. Taste to check you haven’t oversalted them: you can rinse them at this point if so.
Lay out the bread and butter each slice generously (it acts as a barrier to stop the sandwiches going soggy). Again in Greensmiths yesterday, I found this amazing butter from Longman, which you can only get in the South of England. When you’re doing a cucumber sandwich, you must must use unsalted – salted against the salted cucumber is just too much – and the Longman dairy is well-known for its large herds and rich pastures. The creaminess is ideal when you’re doing something so simple, where every aspect has to be right.
Arrange the cucumber on the slices, overlapping each round, and sprinkle with ground white pepper. And voila. I like to throw in a salmon version too, to make the savoury choices a bit more hearty. Just repeat the same process with the bread, add the salmon, a squeeze of lime, and a hefty grind of black pepper.
Finally, the most classic Wimbledon dish of all; strawberries and cream. Having found some beauts from Marsh Produce yesterday at Lower Marsh Market, all I had to do was combine with this with some cream from Longley Farm (always single for strawberries & cream).
Longley Farm, based in Somerset, has been open for over 50 years and uses Jersey herds to give the pasteurised luxury cream its distinctive colour, consistency and taste. Drizzle away, and you’re done – that’s all it needs.