Today we will embody the time boundaries and mechanical expertise of the Germans and add the passion, flair and love of the Italians”……. “We have 2 hours”…… Tired of hosting corporate activities, find an event planner that can organize and plan everything in your activities.
As you may know already my dear reader, here at Heart Kitchen, we offer tailor made packages at prices and times to suit the customer, so when we had a call from our first corporate client requesting a food experience/team building challenge with lunch, for 2 hours start to finish…..how could we refuse?
At midday prompt (well not really as half the team got lost coming up the lane…..note to selves….get a new signpost…) All 8 participants arrived, bringing with them another glorious sunny day. 7 women plus Mark, their MD washed up, put on aprons and began to prepare themselves for an intensive couple of hours. It took a few minutes; the ladies are part of a recruitment company support team, don’t see each other that often, and tend to meet up every couple of months for a catch-up, chat and evening out, so today was going to be a little different.
Simon started off by getting everyone’s attention, inviting them to breathe and be still and focus on the time ahead. We were going to be preparing our lunch; 2 types of tomato sauce accompanied by our homemade tagliatelle and focaccia bread. The participants were raring to go, so firstly they squished and scrunched garlic, rosemary, sea salt and olive oil into our kneaded bread dough so that we could leave it to prove and cook in time for lunch, multi-tasking whilst checking in with a crazy food fact. Next was the pasta making. Out into the field for a quick circle of shoulder massage, giving a massage to the person in front and receiving a massage from the person behind.
This is a great exercise in receiving, most of us are great at giving, but a little more uncomfortable with receiving, so participants are encouraged to ask for what they want from the giver. My request of a full Swedish was refused on the grounds that there wasn’t enough time sadly. Simon gave everyone a quick lesson on the ease of pasta-making and some pasta facts whilst everyone started to knead, roll and squeeze their pasta together and became the Italian Nonna/Paul Hollywood/Georgio Locatelli or whoever their pin-up pasta maker was!
A quick kiss for the freshly made pasta dough, then into the fridge. They then started chopping, ripping and crushing a selection of fresh seasonal herbs, leaves, garlic, tomatoes and the old favourites; celery, carrot and onion for the staple ‘sofrito’ we use as the base for our sauces. One team opted to make a spicy Arrabiata style sauce using tinned tomatoes,* the other went for a chunky style garlic and herb sauce made with English heritage tomatoes, which would turn out best?
With the sauces bubbling away on the stove, the bread baking in the oven, it was time to start the ‘Amazing Heart Kitchen Pasta Length Challenge’
Pasta machines set up; silken balls of pasta chilled and rested, teams of 2 formed, ‘Fresh is best’ were ready to take on the rest. The teams rolled, cheered and sprinkled semolina at break neck speed, until the winners were declared. The longest tagliatelle was however completely unusable as it was so thin (some compared it to a bandage) but it was the longest by far, so had to be passed as the winner!
Challenges over, the pasta sauces concentrated and tasting divine, the pasta was left to dry for a few minutes before being submerged into rolling boiling water salted like seawater. This part was the only part of the experience that suffered because of the timing, – pasta really needs more than 5 minutes to dry out, otherwise it tends to stick together in the pan, although with careful handling ours wasn’t too bad!
Finally we are ready to serve lunch, the Tuscan oak tables were laid up in the courtyard in the sunshine, the pasta added to the sauce with a little of the cooking liquor and the pans put on the table, served with the warm herby focaccia and big chunks of fresh D.O.P parmigiana reggiano. The participants attacked both pasta dishes with gusto, the flavours and textures were incredibly different, and there was no overall winner between the fresh and the tinned sauces.
The hardest part of the day for the team I would imagine, was that they had 20 minutes to eat their lunch, instead of the usual couple of hours to chat and savour the food that they had made with such passion and vigour! I hope that they will come back and spend a day with us sometime soon.
*In Italy, tomatoes are sorted, cleaned, skinned and canned within 4 hours of picking, so are a lot fresher than the somewhat tasteless hot house ‘fresh’ tomatoes that are imported from Northern Europe and have been travelling by road from the grower, via very chilled fridges for over 7 days before they land in your shopping basket!