Fire Up Your Oven

Fire Up Your Oven

As a nation, I feel we are far more passionate and creative when it comes to cooking, as perhaps we were 20 years ago. With the rise of celebrity chefs, TV shows, and interactive media there seem to be no limits as to what can be done in the kitchen.

With the help of Holly and David Jones, founders of the Devon Cooking School at Manna and authors of the book Wood-Fired Oven, Anish is introduced to the ins and outs of this latest trend.

Wood-Fired ovens or Forno a Legna have been around since the ancient Egyptian times. It is a long-standing tradition in many countries around the world and was originally the method used for cooking bread.

Available in a variety of shapes and sizes the wood-fired ovens are basically composed of two specific types – black and white, which distinguishes the method of cooking.

Black oven is where a pizza, bread or pasta meal is cooked in the same space as the wood logs that are being burnt, exposing the food to the ash, giving the food a smokey flavour.

White oven is when the food is cooked in a separate cooking chamber to where the wood logs are being burnt. The advantage here is that there is more space for cooking and cleaning out the ash is easier.

After serving as an officer in the Royal Navy followed by a decade as a management consultant David decided his heart was in cooking and to re-train as a baker. David believes that the use of a wood-fired oven is the best way to create a loaf with a perfect crust and texture. 

Holly studied at Leith’s School of Food and Wine. With twenty years experience as a chef, has written many articles and books about food, appeared on UK television, trained chefs from many organisations, run cafés and restaurants and answered questions as resident chef on the BBC’s Food website. Holly’s passion is cooking with fish and using a wood-fired oven means its naturally hot and moist surroundings unlock the perfect way to produce a great fish dish.

In May 2006 the couple combined their culinary experience and set up the Manna from Devon cooking school, where they offer classes in a broad selection of cooking techniques. Five years on the school is flourishing and the couple is sharing their knowledge in the form of a beautifully illustrated hard backed book.

Wood-Fired Oven Cookbook offers 70 recipes for incredible stone-baked pizzas and bread, roasts, cakes and desserts, all specially devised for the outdoor oven.

Classic dishes traditionally cooked on wood fires or in communal stone ovens are all featured, such as Boston baked beans, cornbread, porchetta, kleftiko and English muffins, as well as exciting new recipes such as scallops with chilli and mint and pear and almond tart. A number of the recipes can also be cooked in an Aga or conventional oven.

Included are menu suggestions and timing guides for making the most of your fired-up oven, and using the falling temperatures for slow cook casseroles and bakes.

Wood-Fired Oven Cookbook is now available on Amazon and in independent bookstores. 

Anish Suren

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