Ever since Chelsea 2010 pizza ovens have been on my radar. Â I helped a mate (Mark Gregory) plant his garden for the Childrenâ€™s Society, which to my delight had a pizza oven in it. Â To top that, on press day who rocks up to cook breakfast for us but Jamie Oliver â€“ Iâ€™m not joking, it was top drawer! Â So, picture the scene â€“ me eating pizza cooked by Jamie whilst chatting about design with Paul Smith â€“ yes â€“ Paul Smith. surreal!
Anyway, after that I dropped huge hints to my lovely wife, but nothing. Â Birthday and Christmas came and went. Â So, whatâ€™s a man to do? Â Do as she does and just buy it. (Yes, she will kill me when she reads this). Â Anyway, the big day arrived, along with the complete Jamie Oliver oven kit on one pallet. Â All we had to do was put the steel frame together and drop the oven on top – with the help of 4 strong lads – and we were off.
It takes less than an hour to get the oven up to 500f. Â Remember, you can only burn wood â€“ oak, ideally – and you donâ€™t want to burn anything that will soak into the stone base. Â Get yourself a small cooking thermometer and place at the front of the oven. Once you have your temperature, just push your fire to the rear of the oven with the scarfing rake! Â Iâ€™m sure there is something more suitable, but it works, and away you go.
I tend to make a couple of garlic breads to start off. Â I found it a bit like making pancakes; it takes a couple to get into the groove. The pizzas really do have a special taste to them â€“ the smoke, the heat â€“ and they really only do take a couple of minutes. The kidsâ€™ faces are a picture when theyâ€™re watching their pizza cook. I think these things are so much more versatile than a barbeque â€“ you can cook anything from a roast to a stew. Â If it rains itâ€™s only me that gets wet, which â€“ letâ€™s be fair â€“ Iâ€™m used to. Â Anyway Iâ€™m boring my self now so hereâ€™s my famous sauce â€“ well, it is in our house
My tomato sauce
I tend to make a load of this in one go, which I would freeze if it ever got left over but my lot tend to use whateverâ€™s left on pasta â€“ it goes down well.
- 1 small tin of tomato puree
- 1kg tomatoes, mixed types if possible
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 3 red onions, peeled and chopped in quarters
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Good splash of olive oil
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tins of toms, good ones
This is so simple but you will love it, trust me
Preheat the oven to 200c, place fresh tomatoes, onions and garlic in a roasting tin. Â Pour over olive oil and balsamic vinegar, toss all together and put in the oven. I leave them at 200C for 10-15 minutes and then turn down to about 140C and slow roast for an hour or so.
In the meantime, whizz up two tins of tomatoes (use whatever kind of blender you have to hand) and pour into a saucepan with the tomato puree. Â Once the roasted tomatoes are ready, I whizz them up and add to the saucepan. Â Stir in and heat through, add salt and pepper to taste. Â I have been known to add a little brown sugar at this point but itâ€™s your call.
I looked at lots of dough recipes but went with this one: Jamie Oliverâ€™s of course
Makes 6 to 8 medium-sized thin pizza bases.
- 800g strong white bread flour or Tipo ’00’ flour, plus 200g finely ground semolina flour
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 x 7 g dried yeast sachets
- 1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 650ml lukewarm water
Sieve the flour/s and salt on to a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. Â In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well.
Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Â Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.
Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size. â€¨â€¨Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands â€“ this is called knocking back the dough.
You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in Clingfilm, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straight away, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas â€“ this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas.
Timing-wise, it’s a good idea to roll the pizzas out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them. Don’t roll them out and leave them hanging around for a few hours, though â€“ if you are working in advance like this it’s better to leave your dough, covered with Clingfilm, in the fridge.
However, if you want to get them rolled out so there’s one less thing to do when your guests are round, simply roll the dough out into rough circles, about 0.5cm thick, and place them on slightly larger pieces of olive-oil-rubbed and flour-dusted tinfoil. You can then stack the pizzas, cover them with Clingfilm, and pop them into the fridge
Toppings â€“ you choose. But for desert, try Nutella and banana, kids just love it.