Tennis. There’s a bit of it about at the moment, so today’s the day for a Wimbledon inspired Tennis Stress Free Dinner Party.
Fresh, luxurious summer produce.
Wimbledon is all about Champagne, though we’ll have a lovely Pimms to start.
Well, tennis. Green and white colour scheme, perhaps tennis sound effects in the background.
Seemingly Wimbledon has its start as a garden party and still has a formal player dress code. We’ll follow the code with all white (not off-white or cream) shoes and clothing. That includes visible undergarments and medical supports. Racquets are optional.
As ever, six guests invited to arrive 6.30 for 7.00pm.
6:30 Apéritif: Pimms with Oysters and Tomato Salsa
For me, Pimms and lemonade is the taste of English Summer. Half fill a 2L (2 Q) jug with ice, and some chopped up orange, strawberries, cucumber and mint. Add a cup of Pimms, and three cups of lemonade. If that sounds too sweet, it’s delicious with iced tea garnished with sliced orange, lemon and mint (sweetened to taste).
The bloke who invented Pimms had an oyster bar, so that seems the best accompaniment. The easiest is to buy them in the half shell, though these will not be as fresh as if you buy them whole and shuck them yourself. Whatever you choose, keep them refrigerated until you are ready to serve because you don’t want to make your guests ill. Allow two to three oysters per person.
Make a quick salsa by finely chopping a seeded tomato, a shallot, a seeded chilli and about a tablespoon of coriander or parsley. Stir in a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and leave a few minutes for the flavour to develop. Cover each oyster with a teaspoon of salsa.
7.00 Entrée: Prawn Cocktail with Champagne
Start by making a cheat’s dressing. Combine ¼ cup of tomato sauce with a ¼ cup of creamy mayonnaise. Add a little lemon juice and a few drops of Tabasco sauce.
Peel, clean and dry about a kilogram (2 lb) prawns. Shred half a lettuce, slice three avocados, wash and trim half a packet of pea shoots. You can either mix it all together and divide into six bowls, or layer the ingredients and drizzle with the sauce.
8.00 Main: Chicken Salad with more Champagne
To make the dressing, whisk six tablespoons of olive oil with two tablespoons of balsamic or sherry vinegar.
Slice four chicken breasts into 1 cm (½”) slices. Trim and halve two bunches of asparagus, halve 250g (9 oz) cherry tomatoes, trim, wash and dry a bunch of watercress or rocket (arugula) and cut six thick slices of sourdough bread.
Chargrill the bread for a minute each side, and while you chargrill the asparagus for four minutes, divide the watercress between the bread, and top with the tomatoes. Once you have cooked the asparagus, start the chicken for three minutes each side and divide the asparagus between the toasts. Top with the chicken and drizzle with dressing.
9.00 Dessert: Strawberries and Cream with even more Champagne
Wash and hull a punnet of fresh strawberries, cut into halves or quarters depending on the size and divide into six serves. Whip 300 ml (10 oz) thick cream with one teaspoon vanilla extract and one tablespoon caster sugar. Or you could swap the vanilla for a teaspoon of rosewater. Put the cream on the strawberries and top with crushed pistachios.
10.00 Digestif: Cheese with Reisling or Sauternes
It’s been a relatively light meal, and the last thing you want to do now is weigh it down with a heavy cheese board. Try a fresh Chevre with a firm Manchego and a creamy blue Roquefort or Gorgonzola. Accompany with a crisp apple, fruit paste, nuts and crackers. Consider some bread as well; a baguette perhaps. Plus tea, coffee and a dessert wine.
4.30 make your salsa, the prawn and chicken dressings, and the cream
5.00 prepare your prawn cocktail ingredients, bar the avocado
5.30 prepare the chicken salad, but don’t dress it
6.00 prepare the strawberries
6.20 prepare the Pimms drink
6.30 when the first guest arrives assemble the oysters
6.50 slice the avocados, put the prawn cocktail together, and serve
7.45 if you want the chicken, asparagus and bread hot, cook them now then dress and serve the salad
8.00 if the chicken is cold, just dress and serve the chicken salad
8.50 dress and serve the strawberries
9.50 put the cheese platter together and bring to the table