Sunday 23 December 2012

Outdoor food tastes better

My girlfriend and I are spending Christmas apart this year which seemed like a perfect excuse to hold our own mini Christmas beforehand. We weren't tempted by the traditional affair, much as we're both a fan of turkey, but liked the idea of an Aussie style meal and a chance to fire up Bertha.

I love winter BBQs and not to be dissuaded by the grim weather we strung a tarp from the back of the house making quite a cosy little grotto or more accurately our own shrine to meat, this wasn't a particularly veggie friendly menu. We'd decided on surf and turf and given the special occasion ordered a lobster from Fin and Flounder and a huge t-bone from Meat N16. I was excited. The lobsters available at the market were smaller than they were expecting but that way I felt justified in ordering a couple of scallops too - this was a once a year treat so why not… The lobster we bought was a beauty, a 700g Dorset Blue still live and kicking and complete with roe. We weren't originally planning on a starter, but combining the roe, scallops, creme fraiche, chives and some blinis we rustled up seemed to do the trick. Bertha did a great job on the scallops, steak and lobster and also threw out enough heat so that we could sit outside enjoying the evening and the sound of rain falling on the tarp. It was a merry mini Christmas indeed.

Strikes me now that this blog has a distinct lack of pizza posts currently, something I plan to rectify in the New Year, although for now I'll leave you by wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Introductions - Part 2

Moving on to the next members of the family, this time the little ones, Sanj and Clare. These are our sourdough starters. Sanj, I made from nothing more than flour and water in my old flat, and he takes his name from my old flatmate. Clare, Sanj's more sophisticated other half, came along later when I attended a baking course at the E5 Bakehouse and they both sit happily bubbling away in the fridge in their own booze. We feed them once a week, usually on a Thursday as this way they're pretty lively for baking on a Saturday and they're used every weekend we're home be it for loaves, bagels, pizzas or even naans.

We've toyed with quite a few different recipes and have finally found one which we're really happy with - that warrants a post of it's own. Although if you're interested in starting making your own sourdough bread I'd thoroughly recommend the course E5 Bakehouse run, they're a really friendly bunch and the course packs in loads of information and techniques in one day.

Here's the photo journal of this week's efforts:

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Introductions - Part 1

Everyone meet Bertha, Bertha meet everyone. Here she is, our outdoor oven, handmade in the UK from Sheffield Steel and a bit of a looker even if we do say so ourselves.

I was originally planning to build myself an outdoor oven, I'd even downloaded plans from the internet showing how to go about it. Then, one Sunday whilst meeting some friends at a food festival at Hampton Court we stumbled across a stand from the Garden Oven Company. Moving house at the same time Bertha was my moving in present to myself, and an incredibly successful present at that. Gone was the issue of me traipsing through the house with all the materials to build an oven, the associate mess and risk of it cracking during the first winter and we had a fully functioning oven, ready to go which doubles as a BBQ - she's a beaut'!

Her official designation is Number 6 of Batch 1, although she's Bertha to friends, over these pages I plan to write more about what we cook in her, although for now here are some pictures of her in action.
my poking stick of choice
trial run
I should also give a big shout out to the lovely people at the Garden Oven Company who were particularly helpful getting her set up and even upgraded parts as their design has evolved - cheers guys!

Monday 19 November 2012

In the beginning...

So here it is, my first blog post, can't help feeling this is anti-climactic.

Perhaps a good place to start is to outline what I'm trying to achieve with this. This won't be your usual food blog, and I won't be out each week sampling new restaurants to post my thoughts here, there are plenty of excellent examples of those already. I've started this in an attempt to create some order to my research, my attempt to find the perfect pizza. This will be the place for my ramblings. Along the way I'll search for the best ingredients, I'll look into dough, how it works and what options there are, I'll chop logs, I'll play with fire, and I'll eat lots, and lots of pizza.

I think the first real pizza I made was at uni, longer ago now than I'd care to admit, but that was the first time I made everything from scratch, took the time to make the dough, slow cook a tomato sauce and procrastinate from the work I should have been doing. The issue was we didn't have an oven. That was never going to stop us though, in fact we saw it as an opportunity. Several beers later we had a George Forman Grill inverted over a frying pan on our electric hob and we were off, our first pizza was cooking, the charred crust being achieved by a plumber's blowtorch which was half the price of the namby-pamby "chef's blowtorch" the department store had on offer. Don't try this at home kids. But it worked. And no one died. 

Since then things have progressed somewhat, we now have an outdoor oven in our garden, our sourdough starter forms the basis for our dough and kebab meat is vetoed as a topping. But, that's not to say we've still not got so much more to learn, and that's what I hope will follow here...

how not to do it