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Minor British Institutions: Strawberries & cream

Sean O'Grady
Saturday 19 June 2010 00:00 BST

Strawberries and cream, these days taken for granted, must have come as a revolution in Tudor times. Combining the two was apparently the work of the most powerful man in England at the time, Cardinal Wolsey, who must have used his brilliant new dish to impress the (slightly less) rich and powerful who came to be entertained at his Hampton Court Palace.

They say that the dish was first served up in 1509, and this simple recipe has obviously stood the test of time superbly well. Nowadays, strawberries and cream are synonymous with tennis at Wimbledon and traditional British summers, ie, rain and sleet.

The original wild English strawbs would have been smaller and less juicy than their gigantic modern counterparts and the cream probably thinner and less consistent. Some are still troubled as to whether to add sugar, or possibly the more authentic Tudor sweetener of honey; ice cream is sometimes substituted for the cream, but it seems too sweet; other berries don't always add that much.

Adding cognac might be fun; Eton mess, adding bits of meringue, is another variation. Probably best to keep it simple though, just as the Cardinal did. E

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