Strawberries and cream have long been associated with Wimbledon. But does anyone know when the pairing originated? Kathryn Morrissey from The Lazy Baker wondered about this when she was at a match last week. She also shares her beautiful strawberry and cream combination - Strawberry and Cream Semifreddo for Great British Chefs.
Blog post & photography by The Lazy Baker
The concept of tennis players wearing hats and ties on court, using wooden framed tennis rackets, and serving under arm with hand sewn tennis balls is perhaps difficult to fathom in light of our familiarity with todays modern game. Such was the case at Wimbledon back in 1877 when the tournament first began.
However, although many aspects of the game itself have evolved, Wimbledon is a sporting spectacle steeped in tradition. This is a tournament which prides itself on attention to detail. When I visited the games on Tuesday last, I was surrounded by the time honoured and unmistakable colours of the games. Purple and green were the colours of the flowers on every walk way, table and hallway. On the perfectly pressed linen dressing the dinner tables, tea cups, saucers, plates, even the napkins.
The fashion is also dictated by this colour combo, many paying homage to the colours of Wimbledon by choosing attire in either green, purple or both. Players are immediately recognisable around the grounds, standing out in their pristinely crisp white attire, a rule and tradition by which they must abide. As the spectators meander around the grounds, many of them are taking it all in whilst enjoying a punnet of perfectly plucked, pristinely prepared strawberries with cream.
I began to wonder. Why is it that strawberries and cream became so synonymous with the games and have Wimbledon spectators been enjoying them for the last 135 years?
The pairing of strawberries and cream itself is credited to Cardinal Wolsey who is said to have served the dessert at Tudor feasts at Hampton Court in the 1500’s. Home to the largest kitchens in Tudor England, the chefs at Hampton court were known to have fed 600 lords and ladies twice daily. Suggestions are that the chefs were aiming to prepare a dessert which took little preparation or time, considering the vast numbers they were feeding.
Although some attribute the introduction of strawberries and cream at Wimbledon to King George V in the early 1900’s , it seems that in fact they have been synonymous with the games since the outset. Quite simply, the seasonality of this wonderful fruit coincided with the games. This New York Times article quotes Audrey Snell, Librarian at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. "Strawberries were normally available only at that time of year. When the championships started in the late 1800's, it was a fashionable thing to eat. The appearance of strawberries just happened to coincide with the event."
After sampling one small punnet of the 28000 kg of strawberries served at the games, with a small trickle of the 7000 litres of cream used throughout the two weeks, it makes sense that this logical explanation would be the most credible. Eating strawberries at their peak is hard to beat, and they burst into intense sweet strawberry heaven when bitten. Total perfection.
There have been criminal adaptations of this traditional legendary dessert, most notably and worryingly in the form of a strawberries and cream sandwich, created by Tesco last year, and sold for £1. Feeling slightly offended by this foodie felony, I felt the need to dedicate some TLC to this wonderful dessert. Here I have created an adaptation of the humble but honoured Strawberry Cream Combo.
Strawberry and Cream Semifreddo
300ml of double cream.
300g of creme fraiche.
50 g of soft brown sugar.
1 punnet of fresh strawberries, sliced.
I use brown sugar here because I like the faint butterscotch flavour it adds to this dish.
1 medium size loaf tin.
1. Whip the cream and the sugar until thick. Gently fold in the creme fraiche.
2. Line a medium loaf tin with a large piece of cling film (you want enough to fold back over the mixture). Create a layer of sliced strawberries, followed by a thin layer of semifreddo mixture.
3. Repeat three times, finishing with a layer of strawberries.
4. Cover with the cling film, and freeze.
5. Take out of the freezer about 20 minutes before serving to allow to soften slightly.
6. Slice and serve
Blog post & photography by The Lazy Baker
You'll find more strawberry recipes in Great British Chefs strawberry collection. Do you have any favourites recipes that use strawberries and cream? Share them over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.