So as the season for cooking outdoors comes to an end for the majority of people and as Summer drifts in to Autumn I decided that I was going to have a bit of an end of season party in the garden. As most people who know me are aware when I cook in the garden i don’t just throw a few burgers on the BBQ in the past it has been whole shoulders of pork with various sides for about 75 people while having a live band in the garden, another time turning out about 50 12″ pizzas when I got the new wood oven. I decided that I would make it a charity BBQ and raise some funds for worthwhile causes. We will be raising money for 3 great charities that have personal meaning to myself but that also do amazing work.
Talking2Minds was established in 2008 with the sole purpose of helping those suffering from PTSD or other severe stress related conditions.
The Pilgrim Bandits was established by a small group of Special Forces veterans in 2007 with the sole aim of using our unique training and experience to help and inspire wounded soldiers to live life to the full.
Hope GB Hope GB is a voluntary support group which provides practical help and encouragement for people affected by autism.
I then wondered how best to raise funds for the charities other than donations from guests attending the BBQ for the feast of fine food that I would be serving up. I started messaging people on twitter and facebook and began getting donations of raffle prizes and even of meat for me to actually use at the event. Within a few days I had donations and prizes from the people listed below.
Pork for the pulled pork and other pork goodies is being supplied by
Quiet Waters Farm We are a small, family run, mixed farm in Atherington, in the heart of North Devon.
The Welsh Pig Company Happy pigs are stress-free, looked after with care and given everything they need to live how pigs live best: outdoors, free-range, with plenty of sunshine and stimulation.
Sausages not your average BBQ bangers, all from award winning producers.
Native Breeds Native Breeds are a small Charcuterie based on the Lydney Park Estate in Gloucestershire.
Trealy Farm Local award winning charcuterie based in Penperlleni Monmouthshire.
All BBQ’s need bread in some form but this will not be stodgy white buns this is bread from a world champion Artisan baker.
Alex Gooch Local artisan baker using only the finest ingredients.
Raffle and Auction prizes
Ioshen Knives Without doubt the best knives I have ever used.
Ian Mckend Mac’s BBQ Suppliers of all good things BBQ from smokers to wood chips.
Higgledy Garden grow traditional annual flowers in a Cornish paddock. They are grown without the use of any chemicals and are available to buy online and from a select few Cornish shops.
Bev Reed Award winning pâtissier who has worked at Claridges in London and Michelin starred restaurants at Château de Montreuil in France, Stuckis and Der Walserhof in Switzerland and L’Ortolan near Reading.
Liz Knight We make flavours and special seasonal treats inspired by the food that grows around us – here in the beautiful Herefordshire countryside.
One Mile Bakery The One Mile Bakery delivers handmade bread, soups and preserves within a one-mile radius of its kitchen in Cardiff.
Trish Maccurrach stock includes tripods, enamel hanging Kotlich/Bograc and colourful enamel cookware. Everything is suitable for camping and use on an open fire.If you have not discovered outdoor cooking yet, now is the time…
Illtud Llyr Dunsford Charcutier Ltd is an artisan charcuterie company which brings together British, South European and North American methods of curing.
Cwrtau Bach Farm grows greenhouse produce and creates award-winning homemade, artisan foods in the heart of West Wales.
Vivien Lloyd enthusiastic about the use of selected varieties of home grown ingredients to achieve the best possible flavours in high quality preserves.
Roadii Open fire cooking and campfire chat….the self contained firecooking system that beats a barbie anyday.
Blaenafon Cheddar Company are a specialist cheddar cheese company based in the World Heritage site of Blaenafon, South Wales. At present we produce fifteen very distinctive cheddars and four varieties of goat’s cheese.
Smokewood Shack Quality Smoking Wood, Charcoal & Grilling Planks for your Barbecue & Smoker.
Team Smoking Penguin The Smokin’ Penguins are are a BBQ team, competing in the UK
Luke Bawdon Polymath Products Survival and camping equipment
Marcus Bawdon BBQ guru and a great inspiration.
Alan Low ETI Thermapen thermometers are used worldwide in restaurants, hotels and kitchens – anywhere that perfectly cooked food is served.
As I get more gifts etc i shall add them to the list.
If you are a company that could give a raffle prize or food for the event please get in touch with me.
It is not every day that you do food for your step daughters wedding, most people go to weddings to eat food and party. I spent 16 hrs the day before and a few hours on the actual day of the wedding cooking, not your standard wedding buffet of chicken drumsticks and sausage rolls but 16 hr Pulled Beef Brisket, a four chill mixed bean vegetarian chill along with 13 litres of coleslaw, tomato and basil salad, roast root vegetables and peppers with rosemary then throw in sage and lemon thyme pan-fried chicken and as you see I had my work cut out.
As with 99% of my beef cooking I get it direct from the farm shop in Raglan, 3 large rolled beef brisket weighing in at around 12kg in total was to go in the ProQ otherwise known as old smokey.
Rolled Beef Brisket
Rolled Beef Brisket
As with cooking any meat it is removed from the fridge a good 30 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temp and to have its rub applied, this rub is my standard for doing beef brisket in the smoker, Smoked halen mon sea salt, piquant paprika, dried parsley, ground coriander, brown sugar, toasted garlic powder, onion powder. Rubbed over with mustard first before the rub.
Rolled Beef Brisket with rub
The smoker is brought up to heat of 230 f ready for by my calculations a 16hr cook, to get the beef to an internal temp of 190 f. When using the smoker or doing any BBQ cooking I try to only use the best lumpwood charcoal I can buy from sustainable sources, I do not want to taint my food with any nasty chemicals from instant lighting charcoal, I use a chimney starter to light the charcoal and this is by far the best way to start your BBQ. With the smoker lit and it only being 9 am it was a bit early for the usual tipple when cooking in the garden so it was time for coffee and tunes while enjoying the sun.
Once lit the ProQ can generally left to its own devices during the cook I only topped up the charcoal twice to keep up the cooking heat. Once the beef reaches its internal temperature I remove it from the smoker and wrap in foil with a rich beef stock to keep moistness. The rest period is at least two hours this allows all the juices and fats to settle in the joint before being pulled.
Pulled beef brisket
As the picture shows this is rich, unctuous and full of rich beef flavour. I have cooked this joint many times but this was without doubt the best I have done. The comments and feedback from all the guests was amazing, it was the first of all the food to be eaten with people not happy they could not have seconds. The vegetarian mixed bean chilli was a big hit as well with both vegetarians and meat-eater alike.
I was so pleased that it proved a success with everyone from Bride and Groom and all the guests that actually managed to get some, after all it was mainly done for those that did not eat hog roast for what ever reason as that was the days main act but when the best part of 30lb of meat and 15 litres of mixed bean chilli is the talk of the banquet that makes me a happy man.
Next on the agenda is my Charity BBQ that I am holding in my garden, doing more of the beef, pulled pork the bean chilli by request which shall be cooked over an open wood fire, the wood oven will also be in action that night doing my sourdough pizzas, outdoor cooking is not just for summer 🙂
This weekend the wood oven has been busy, Saturday saw it have its third light like most men when fire is involved it brings out some primal instinct that we all hold some deeper than others, each time I light the oven there is something comforting and enchanting watching the flames catch the wood and to see the shapes and colours move and change is somewhat hypnotic.
After a few issues with dough last week I have deployed a new method, I bought some plastic containers of 10 oz size as my theory that after proving and knocking back each 5 oz ball of dough would have enough room for its slow ferment in the fridge, the result was a success with the containers lightly oiled the dough for each pizza just filled the tubs. The base sauce I am trying to keep simple, Two jars of cirio rustic passata, one tin of chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 6 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon basil and one tablespoon oregano. I do not cook the sauce as the tomatoes are already cooked and the heat of the wood oven soon cooks the thin layer of sauce on the base, the secret is thin and well spread out so you can still see the white of the base through it.
Toppings for the pizzas consisted of various salamis, my spiced mince, peppers and jalapenos and a selection of cheeses.
trealy farm charcuterie
trealy farm charcuterie
Pizza cooking in wood oven
Wood oven pizza with charcuterie, jalapenos, spicy mince and cheese
In the words of my mate when he had one of these “forget Jamie you got the pizzas going on”
I kept the oven up to heat through the evening adding wood and then spreading it over the base to get it back up to Pizza heat, it was -1 and we sat in the garden around my large fire pit eating pizzas listening to music and enjoying a few drinks. I have no doubt I will be cooking out doors right through the winter.
After everyone had their fill of pizza I had shaped four loaves in various bannetons and left it for 30 minutes as i let the oven cool slightly to get it down to bread baking heat rather than its ferocious pizza cooking heat. I am still at the beginners stage with wood ovens and have a lot to learn but early results are very pleasing.
Wood oven cooked bread
wood oven cooked bread
The night had been long and after a few more drinks and some more logs burnt in the fire pit we called it a day.
Sunday was to be a roast for 9 and the meat t have its baptism of wood fire was a whole leg of lamb from Trealy farm. The oven was fired as per firing for pizza cooking a jenga tower built of kiln dried ash and lit with natural firelighters. Within 40 minutes the oven was up to cooking temperature I let it burn to build up residule heat ready for the lamb.
While the oven was heating the lamb was marinading in a rub of olive oil, garlic and fresh rosemary from the garden. The lamb was placed in a tray on a trivet of carrot, onions, courgettes and garlic, a large glass of wine and a cup of stock was added.
Whole leg of lamb.
The meat went in the oven with the temperature reading 280c this gave it that first burst of heat to get the outside browned the oven door was left open for this first cooking time after about 30 minutes the door was put in place the oven was reading just under 200c. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the joint and your ovens ability to keep heat, after 2 hours cooking the lamb was done to perfection being pink and moist, if you like it cooked more simply put back in the oven, it was still reading 160c when i took it out so could have easily carried on cooking for a more well done joint.
Roast leg of Lamb
The remains of a wood oven roast leg of lamb
With a smaller joint in a somewhat smaller tray i would have done the roast veg in the wood oven as well but with a whole leg of lamb in my largest roasting tray there was no room, the next roast will definitely have the veg in with it.
The result was a stunningly cooked roast of local organic rare breed lamb. Served with all the seasonal veg and washed down with a good rioja. A great end to a great weekend of wood oven cooking.
The outdoor cooking area
So it is finally in after about three years of umming and arghing over building or buying a wood oven I have bit the bullet and bought one, the main reason I decided to buy a prebuilt over actually building one was the fact I could move the oven if and when I moved.
Lots of research was put into the decision of which one to go for and the one I went for was The Stone Bake Oven Company Primo 60.
Primo 60 wood fired oven
Oven being fired
The oven arrived on Friday afternoon and was in place and fired up that evening to do a trial run prior to its official christening on Saturday night. I had ordered for delivery the same day a large builders bag of kiln dried Ash they were the perfect length for the oven so only needed splitting down to wrist sized pieces ready for the first lighting. After around 35-40 minutes the oven thermometer was reading just under 400c at the base and the top was clear of all soot so i knew it was at a temperature to start cooking. That morning I had made up over 7kg of dough ready for Saturday and this was in the fridge slowly fermenting to improve the crust flavour I had learnt this from my making of normal doughs in the past for standard oven cooking. My basic dough for pizza is this and it has never let me down.
500g Strong white bread flour
320g room temp water
15g fresh yeast
50g olive oil
This weight of dough would make 6 5oz pizza base of 12″ that resulted in a thin base and a bubbly light crust when cooked.
For the first attempt we decided to keep it simple and as during my research had read over and over less is more and the crust is the star of the show not the toppings these are just guests to the party, we went for cheese and tomato a plain old Neapolitan, i made up the sauce with fresh organic cherry tomato, diced tinned plum, shallot, garlic and fresh oregano this was made in the front of the oven as it had got up to heat so it had taking on a lovely smoked aroma, the sauce was blitzed down to a smooth consistency.
The sauce was spread thinly over the base leaving around an inch of base clear around the edges then topped with torn mozzarella, cheddar and a fine grating of parmesan.
The first wood fired pizza
While I was cooking more pizzas the first comment I had was Oh my god I am never going to Dominos again, this from an 18 yr old pizza lover who had said they would have to be good as he loved dominos.
Wood fired oven and kotlich
I am glad we had that little trial run before cooking over 40 on Saturday night for friends and family as it was a good lesson on amounts of topping and using the peel, how they make it look so easy is a mystery to me and I know I have a lot to learn in the art of cooking in the heat of a wood fired oven.
The pizza prep and cooking
As per usual i went a bit OTT in the prep and had enough various toppings for more like 150 than 50 pizzas varying from ham to chorizo, spiced minced beef, award-winning charcuterie from Trealy Farm cheeses of around a dozen varieties along with peppers, balsamic caramelised red onion, the addictive candied jalapenos from The Preservation Society, veg of varying kinds and 8 litres of the base sauce I had made. Add to this chicken wings and pieces that had been marinaded and coated in a spicy seasoned flour and 1.5kg of mussels to cook in the kotlich, nobody was going to go without.
Once we started we were doing the rolling adding the toppings and cooking the pizzas in under 4 minutes now that is fast food but not junk fast food good honest home cooked food. One of my pleasures in cooking is seeing people enjoy what I make every comment was along the lines of they were the best pizza they had ever had.
Once I had fed everyone pizza some of the guests seeing off 2 or 3 large pizzas I placed a large oven tray with the marinaded chicken pieces. I had brought the oven temp down and cooked the chicken for around 15 minutes then finished it off on the grill pan that goes with the tripod and firepit from The Outdoor Kitchen that sits next to the oven this added a delicious smoked aroma to the chicken, these were served with a rather spicy dipping sauce made from the base sauce and the a little kick added with jalapenos and some sauce from Diggidy Dog, this led to one of the younger guests making a boast that he could eat hotter so two pieces of the chicken that had already had some sauce on going to the kitchen and getting a liberal dousing in limed hot sauce, after eating his comment was “my actual face is burning” .
All guest fed and on the journeys home I finally sat down next to the fire pit and had a glass of wine. I had about a kilo of dough left in the fridge so at around 11.30 I shaped into two boules and left for 30 minutes. The oven was still reading at 250c this around 7hrs after first lighting it. So it had gone from raging hot pizza cooking at around 450-500c to roasting chicken and onto bread oven.
wood fired oven bread
Light airy awesome crust wood oven bread
This was my first foray into cooking using a wood fired oven my only regret is that I should have done this years before, I have a feeling the main oven in the house will now be used a lot less.
Keep checking back for further exploits in my journey of wood oven and outdoor cooking.