Let me introduce you to my new friend, Woody.
We’ve only been buddies for the last month, but I can already tell we’re going to grow old together. Woody is a Jamie Oliver Wood Fired Oven, and he can turn simple recipes into gorgeous outdoor showstoppers.
Considering “outside” in Essex, England, is a reasonably warm place to be over the coming summer months, I’ll be getting to know the oven’s capabilities (it’s a considerable learning curve, but worth mastering), sharing recipes and basically telling you how we’re getting on through this blog.
My oven is a Dome 60, one of several in Jamie’s range. This is the portable option; I say portable, it actually weighs quarter of a ton! It’s fuelled by burning wood inside the dome itself, this traps hot air beneath the dome and circulates it around the inside of the oven forming a searing, rounded heat which performs miracles on food. It is often referred to as an outdoor pizza oven, but its skills go further than cooking just that Italian fave. You regulate the temperature yourself by adding or removing wood, so it can still handle slow cooking; think about a lovely, slightly smoky leg of lamb or succulent pulled pork, as well as blast cooking, say egg or bread-based dishes.
It’s incredibly low-maintenance, safe for kids to touch while it’s on (the outside that is – keep hands clear of the inside) and a very good-looking piece of kit. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s the ultimate foodie’s fantasy. Jamie absolutely loves his, and so do I. It’s not cheap. However, neither are good ovens or top of the range barbecues, and you will be paid back in the amazing food you create in it, I can assure you.
This week though, let’s talk pizza – the perfect recipe to understand how the extraordinary heat generated by this oven can help change the way you cook. In this case, it blisters your pizza dough to perfection and ensures super-gooey, slightly crisped-up cheese.
My dough of choice, Jamie’s of course, is a recipe using yeast, which, although we’re not looking for anything other than a crisp, thin base, is perfect for said blistering.
One glug of passata, heated through with thinly sliced garlic and a pinch of dried oregano, forms the base. To that I added grated mozzarella, a few anchovies (the kids went for pepperoni of course) and a very light shaving of Parmesan.
Once the interior had reached about 350°C (660°F), I put the pizza into the middle. The oven comes with a proper bread paddle to help you get your pizza right into the heat. Dusted with flour this tool ensures a smooth transferal.
I then watched as the crust blistered and the cheese started bubbling. I kept it moving, giving it a quarter turn every 15-20 seconds until the whole pizza was evenly browned.
Then I whipped it out onto a serving board and sliced it. Served with a few leaves of fresh basil and a side of rocket salad, as well as my favourite chilli sauce, it was up there as one of the greatest things I’ve eaten; really hot (be careful) but crisp and gooey at the same time, transforming something incredibly simple into a miraculous treat.
Keep your eye out for what’s up next – wood-fired fish, West African style.