I think I’m starting to get the hang of this cooking with fire lark; each time I use the pizza oven I seem to get better at managing the fire and getting it to the right temperature. So fuelled by this confidence and the prospect of a glorious late summer lazy Sunday morning I decided it was time to branch out and cook something over than pizza. What could be better than a wood fired oven brunch cooked and eaten al fresco?
My wonderful colleagues at work bought me this awesome wood fired oven pizza oven cookbook when I changed jobs and it has ideas for menus and cooking days at the front. Perfect to get you to start thinking about how to make the most of your oven every time you fire it up cooking different things as it heats up and cools down.
Taking inspiration from the book the plan for brunch was to make some English muffins and serve with slow roasted tomatoes, chipolata sausages, smoked bacon and scrambled egg. The challenge (and fun) about cooking in this way is you do need to plan ahead a little as it’s not as simple as just turning on the cooker, so the schedule looked like this:
8am – make the dough for the muffins and leave to rise
8.30am – light the pizza oven then prep the other dishes
9.30am – put the tomatoes in the oven, in a relatively cool spot on the side. Roll and cut up the muffins then leave to rise again.
9.45am – put the sausages in the oven (probably would have put in earlier if fatter sausages).
10am – put the muffins in the middle of the oven
10.15am – take the muffins out of the oven and put the bacon in.
10.30am – feast on brunch in the sunshine!
I’d never even contemplated making English muffins until 2 weeks ago but they’re now a firm favourite, so quick and easy to make and only need proving for about 90 minutes in total. These big, fat, fluffy piles of warm breadiness are a long way from the packets of Warburtons muffins you buy from the supermarket I can tell you. Henry and Matilda love helping me make them, I get them rubbing the butter into the flour and then they of course help me with the kneading. Then after the first prove they can help cut them out using a round cookie cutter. They take less than 15 minutes to cook and can sit to cool a little while you finish the rest of the cooking, not too long though because you want them warm so you can melt the butter in when you spread it.
The only other real prep that needed doing was chopping in half some tomatoes from our greenhouse and sitting them on a sliced red onion (also from our veg patch). Then I drizzled (love that word) some rapeseed oil over and sprinkled on some chopped thyme and some black pepper. This then goes in the oven in a casserole dish to slowly roast, I love tomatoes like this anyway but the onions went really sweet to go with it and give a nice kick of flavour to the breakfast.
The only thing I didn’t cook in the oven was the egg, but actually could have done that fairly easily if I wanted. What I really love about this way of cooking is the theatre of it and getting the kids really involved. They can help with the prep work and then see it actually being cooked right in front of them in the oven. I’m also enjoying the challenge of fire management with the biggest learning being to chop my logs much smaller. That way you can add ones that are 2-3 inches thick every so often, these catch light quickly and help keep a relatively stable temperature going. If the logs are any larger it just swamps the fire and absorbs all the energy, but too much smaller and they just burn out quickly.
As a final little bonus we knocked up some meringues quickly and put them in the oven once everything was cooked. This falling temperature is ideal for cooking them and was about 150 degrees when we put them in. I then blocked the doorway with some bricks (this winters job is building a door) and left it for 4 hours. When I came back they were cooked perfectly and the oven was still 60 degrees so shows the insulation etc works. We had them for our pudding in the evening and they were perfectly chewy with a very delicate hint of smoke that I really quite liked.
Now to see what else I can get cooked in there before the last of the summer sun leaves us.