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Heart Kitchen decided to run a half day taster event for our final outdoor event of 2013. As it was the Bank Holiday weekend in August, we could be sure of a balmy warm summer afternoon and evening, we may even get to dine  ‘Al Fresco’ which would be just perfect for an Italian dining experience. The Saturday morning dawned, cloudy and dull, Simon set about marinating and roasting the whole haunch of venison he had sourced from a local butcher, who assured us the deer had been dispatched earlier that week on a local farm and had been able to run free until his final minutes. This makes me feel a bit sad when I think of it, but then I think of a mass produced animal that is kept in a vast barn with only artificial light, no access to green fields, food not fit for consumption – if indeed it is food, and made my peace with my feelings, for after all, if the human race did not eat meat, all our animals would be confined to zoos and safari parks; there would be no need to allow them to roam free over our countryside. Back to the day, and as the morning progressed, Sue and Simon sorting out the curious kitchen; Niamh and Phoebe building up to the live panacotta demo, and Celia dragging her wet dog around the farmers market looking for necessary seasonal produce; it became apparently obvious that the day was not going to brighten up anytime soon. We bit the bullet, put out umbrellas and spare coats and waited for our guests to arrive. On cue at 2.30, the hearty cookers began to bowl up, wellies and macs in evidence, and started to get ready to cook up a storm. After introductions; a menu briefing; a little bit of a check-in and a crazy food fact about oneself, we got stuck in. Sue took a willing party down to the kitchen garden to pick herbs, tomatoes, peas, salad leaves and whatever else was in abundance and they trotted off, harlequin umbrellas twirling as they went. I had the enviable job of foraging for sweet cherries and apples to make a beautiful garden salad for an appetiser. Jeanne- Claire, Debbie and Rod were the lucky trio who came to scrump with me – Rod was first up the ladder by the cherry tree on the edge of the woods: he erected said ladder which brushed against the tree and sent a deluge of more rain water over all of us – if we weren’t wet when we started, we were now. Everyone collected a bowl of cherries, then it was over to the sweetest rosiest apple tree which just happened to grow over the pond………….Brave Jeanne-Claire ended up standing on tip toes, on one leg, other leg hanging over the pond, trying to reach for the biggest, shiniest apple…. one sleeve of her jacket is now twice the length of the other where I was hanging on to her! We were lead in a pasta making frenzy by Simon, everyone became their favourite Italian mamma and got kneading, pushing and pulling their dough until it was ready to leave to rest and the consistency of a wet chamois leather – a quick kiss to show the love and away in the fridge! Niamh and Phoebe had fun making the ragu for the pasta sauce by dissecting the sweet roasted venison; and everyone got busy chopping vegetables for soffritto bases for the sauces, salads and starters. We were all encouraged by Simon to taste taste taste – no hardship for some of us I can assure you!  Sue invited everyone to make a pea and mint shot for our starter plate; Clams were washed and checked for dead ones (they would not taste good!); Ciabatta dough was made and left to rest, and Niamh and Phoebe got ready for the live basil panacotta demo, which was fabulous – a huge success. The inclement weather was encouraging us to work very quickly, I don’t think it spoiled anyone’s day, just made them work quicker and move more! Finally everyone was encouraged to work together to take the food to the yurt where we were going to eat, and lay out the starters buffet style for everyone to help themselves. Sadly Al Fresco was not going to happen, the rain was still torrential and the temperature was in single figures! We managed to sample some very pleasant Italian wines and beers and then all went to the curious kitchen to cook our pasta and finish off the sauces. Beautiful dressings were made for the salads – everyone played with whatever ingredients they fancied and some wonderful combinations were made up – my favourite was a mixture of balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil and mustard, – thank you! Between us we managed to do justice to all the food, the starter plate was fresh, seasonal and palate cleansing; the pasta with ragu or clam and tomato sauce or just plain tomato sauce was tasty and comforting. The beautiful basil and lemon panacotta was just that, and the conversation and enjoyment of the evening finished the day off perfectly. At the close of the day everyone shared what they were grateful for and what they were taking away with them – apart from a chunk of spinach pasta – and whether or not they were complete. Most of us were complete, replete and fit to burst, confident to go off and try our newly learned skills!

Author: Simon

My early memories of food stem from visits to my Grampy's allotment, six years old, digging, weeding and planting these tiny seeds and tender plants...Wow what an intro…taking this bounty back to Gran, who would make the most delicious meals for us to share…..most of the stuff I had no idea what it was called……but it smelt and tasted delicious….so the journey began…..cooking by aged eight, anything I could get my hands on….trained at catering college, a complete waste of time as I already knew all these techniques. Then came girls, a change of career, my wife and children….but I still cooked, learning, watching, practicing my hobby…..never really following a recipe!!! just trusting my hands …. the feel, the aromas, the look and, of course, the taste….re-trained at the tender age of 49 as a Heart IQ Coach…and this is it! Bosh!….got passionate about my passion in life, totally off the richter scale…..inspired by food….all of it….so, 2013 Heart Kitchen is born to share with the world …….sourcing, honouring, preparing, sharing and connecting …..I love it!!!! - Simon