Heart Kitchen goes Al Fresco Italiano…….

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Our great friend Barbara decided that she would love to learn to make pasta and it has been something on her ‘bucket list’ for some time; so when Heart Kitchen suggested that she may like to come and spend the afternoon with them in their beautiful Al Fresco Kitchen and cook up some delights with some friends as a birthday treat, she did not need much persuading! The afternoon started at 4pm with all the women bowling up to Heart Kitchen armed with supplies of chilled Italian beverages, hunger pangs and an open heart. We were welcomed by Sue and Simon and were stunned by the array of fresh products laid out before us. There was a huge circular table laid out with a station for each of us with our own recipe pack, tasting spoon and pristine HK apron, an outdoor stove, pasta making machines, pots of living fresh herbs and bottles and jars of the freshest most authentic Italian ingredients. We started off our Master class when Simon introduced us to the star of the show, none other than Larry, who sat there majestically, looking stunning in his inky blackness; surveying the scene and moving slowly round the table. We had committed the first crime of animal husbandry. We had named the lobster! When we heard we were going to be attempting a Lobster Bisque and that the lobster was alive, some of us were shocked and not sure that we were able to agree to the lobster being terminated. However, Simon quickly pointed out the lobster – or Larry as we came to affectionately name him – had had a marvellous life, he had been well raised, lived with his mates at the bottom of the ocean, and had been tempted by the fisherman who had dropped his pot close to where Larry hung out. If it wasn’t for the fisherman trying to make a living by catching luscious young specimens such as Larry; he may well have lived a slightly longer life; but would not have been so well looked after, and would most likely have been severely under-nourished, and not have the appeal for the table. So we took a moment to honour Larry, the fisherman and indeed all the people who had worked to bring Larry to our table, to be enjoyed and to be a part of our wonderful birthday feast.IMGP1437 The Lobster was cooked quickly in boiling water, then refreshed and left to cool. Meanwhile, we got busy chopping roasted ox cheek – prepared ready to make our ragu for later; making the crunchy Tiramisu for dessert (*note here, the recipe calls for this to be made 24 hours in advance. Personally I thought it was delightful, fresher and crispier made just a few hours in advance). We made pasta dough, using 100g 00 tipo flour and one egg per person – kneading and working the dough until it was silky smooth; we made dough for focaccia bread – all taking on the persona of our favourite baker/chef and becoming that big floury person; – Linda was sure she had become Jean- Christophe Novelli, the rest of us just wanted to be somewhere near Paul Hollywood’s hands….. It was interesting how some of the girls naturally got stuck in to the cooking methods, whilst some stood back, convinced that they would not be very good as they had ‘never been very good cooks’………However with some encouragement from Simon and the other girls, soon everyone was whisking and kneading, stirring, chopping and tasting, although we did have to drag a couple of them away from the sink! We rolled out pasta for ravioli – very hard to make it wafer thin we found out – that needs more practice! We used the machine to make the pasta thin enough for tagliatelle and found that the old adage ’many hands make light work’ was very true here, it was brilliant fun all doing it together and supporting each other! Niamh meanwhile was making her signature Chocolate and Mascarpone Sea Salt Torte with a group of girls so we were going to be spoilt for choice! Sue took a group to the kitchen garden to collect some fresh green salad and the rest of us set to in groups to make some zingy dressings with citrus fruits, smashed garlic, green grassy olive oils, and the freshest just-picked herbs. We picked the lobster and made a lovely lobster bisque stock with the crushed shells, some soffritto (finely chopped celery, onion and carrot) and water; we finished the ragu by adding more soffritto to the ox cheek with wine and water and cooked it out for a couple of hours; and finally finished the bread by scrunching up the proven dough with fresh rosemary, sea salt and great glugs of olive oil and baking for 20 minutes.IMGP1468 Sue and her team had snuck into the kitchen (it was getting a little chilly outside by 8pm) and laid the table, decorating it with fresh flowers from the garden- though nothing else was needed; the food was decoration enough. Ravioli was served filled with lobster and served with lobster sauce and a green garden salad and focaccia; followed by ox cheek ragu, tagliatelle and grated pecorino mmmmmmm; and to finish, the torte, the tiramisu and a selection of Italian cheeses. All washed down with lashings of Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, Gavi de Gavi and the great Barolo. There were sadly no takers for the amaretto…..Lively conversation ensued, much banter, laughter and enjoyment. The whole evening was mulled over, discussed and decreed a huge success! The Heart Kitchen had proved their Pasta –Making and eating evening was an event to be repeated; everything scored 10 out of 10 apart from the ravioli which was deemed slightly too thick, although no Italian worth his sea salt would roll out the pasta dough when he has a perfectly good machine sitting on the side, guaranteed to turn out wafer thin dough! Cannot wait for the next event!IMGP1490

Author: Celia

The Rambler, AKA Celia Dulieu
Celia has been sharing food, wine, recipes and friendship with Simon and Sue Gale for more than 15 years.
In a former life she was a mass caterer, working for large companies such as Selfridges, London; but after moving to the countryside with husband, 2 kids and dog, she resurrected her love of food, - particularly by entertaining her large extended family to lunches ,sharing informal get togethers with friends, and developing her small but productive kitchen garden. She is passionate about all things to do with food and wine; from where it is produced to how it arrived on her doorstep.
Celia’s love of meeting people, visiting places and trying different things has culminated in being invited to get involve with writing up the experiences of the Heart Kitchen and sharing her love of food with you through her ramblings.