The Wimbledon tennis tournament is on now, and I am so excited! I used to watch the tennis matches regularly when we lived in England, and I vividly remember the competitive spirit and effervescent anticipation which always surround this event. To Brits, Wimbledon is more than just tennis: it’s a unique and exciting competition, a long-standing tradition, and a symbol of the great British summer. Now is the time for Brits to celebrate this season and its finest produce, from tender asparagus to rosy rhubarb, from delicate peas to crunchy cucumber and zucchini (“courgettes,” as they are called in England). Now, references to strawberries and cream (Wimbledon’s famous snack) can be found in all cooking shows and magazines – and for good reason. After all, strawberries are at their best during this period, so why not celebrate their majestic perfection and exquisite flavor?
I wanted to make a dessert to pay homage to the great British summer, but also to the American culinary traditions I have been exposed to since coming to Chicago. For the “British element” my mind went straight to the classic Eton mess recipe, a disorderly concoction of strawberries, meringue and whipped cream. When deciding on my “American element” I thought of banana cream pie, from which I took the vanilla pudding and the bananas. I knew the meringue would provide my dessert with the much-needed crunchy element. However, there was a problem: we just don’t like meringue! In the end, I used store-bought ladyfingers instead of the meringue, and this proved to be a good move: crunchy and not overwhelmingly sweet, the ladyfingers were the perfect vehicle for the other ingredients. Moreover, the delicious strawberries I bought from the local grocery store added freshness and lightness and turned a tentative dessert into an overwhelming triumph:
This dessert is really easy to make, and the vanilla pudding is the only element which takes a bit of time to get done. Believe me when I tell you though: making the vanilla pudding from scratch is really worth it 🙂
2 whole eggs at room temperature
1 cup milk at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
A few strawberries
For the vanilla pudding, combine the eggs with the sugar in a saucepan and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the flour slowly and keep stirring, making sure the mixture is smooth and there are no lumps. Add the milk and stir a few more minutes, until the ingredients are well combined. Bring the pan to the stove and cook the vanilla pudding over a low heat, stirring at all times. Approximately 4-5 minutes into the process you will see the pudding starting to thicken, and at this point it’s really important to keep stirring because lumps will otherwise appear very quickly. Add the butter in stages at the end – I usually divide it into 4 small portions and add them one by one. Stir vigorously a couple more minutes to prevent the pudding from separating. Take the pan off the heat and let the pudding cool down. Add the vanilla extract when the pudding is warm, stirring a few more times.
While the vanilla pudding is cooling down, slice the banana and the strawberries to get them ready for the next stage.
Now it’s also time to break the ladyfingers into pieces. I just love their crunchiness!
Take a tall glass and put a few ladyfinger pieces in it, then add a teaspoon of vanilla pudding. Add a generous layer of whipped cream and sliced fruit.
Continue adding layers of ladyfinger pieces, vanilla pudding, whipped cream and fruit. Finish off with whipped cream, a slice of fruit and half a ladyfinger on top. Serve chilled.
Already a summer favorite of ours, this no-bake dessert is ready in very little time and does justice to the fruits of the season. Strawberries are great to recreate the “British” part of this dessert. However, if you’re allergic to strawberries, you can use any fruits of your liking as long as they are fresh and in season. Use them generously and thank summer for its healthy delights, now in glorious abundance 🙂