First Pizza’s from the new oven

Had some friends last night – the ones that helped me build the foundation/base of the oven – and we fired the oven up and made the first pizza’s!  We also had some tasty bourbon and beers :)

first-pizzas2

first pizza'sFor toppings, I put out bowls of :

  • fresh basil
  • fresh rosemary
  • hot chorizo sausage
  • bacon
  • oven roasted red onion
  • oven roasted red pepper
  • smoked gruyere
  • pecorino
  • bocconcini
  • a tomato sauce (with olive oil, salt & pepper, garlic)
  • and some olive oil to drizzle over the pizzas prior to sliding them into the oven.

pizza-toppings

Worked great having a few wooden pizza peels for everyone to prepare their pizza’s on.

Learnt a few things :

  • Be fairly liberal with the cornmeal on the pizza peels.
  • Don’t prepare the pizza’s too far in advance of getting them into the oven.
  • Keep your eye on the edges closest to the coals.
  • I need some more tools to manage the fire and coals, as well as manipulate the pizza’s while in the oven. Tools with longer handles!
  • Need to set up some sort of rack/shelf near the oven to keep tools and heat proof gloves handy.

Also, I think that I’ll be reworking the oven entrance, and remove the 3 fire bricks.  In their place, I want to put in a larger, single slab of granite or soapstone.

 

Finish coat on the pizza oven

Applied the top coat over the straw insulation today.

Used a full bag of clay, a quarter package of iron oxide colouring, and a couple heaping spadefuls of sand to start – mixing that all with enough water to get the consistency of thick peanut butter.  I then mixed in about 1/5 of a bale of straw, all cut up pretty fine. Talk about a workout!

pizza-oven-finish-coat1x600After applying the finish coat, I applied a layer of red/black aquarium gravel that I had (and no longer needed) – kind of like a stucco.  Worked pretty good I think – we’ll see how the colour is – right now there are a couple thin spots that have dried, and they look more pink!  I might just mix up a thinner layer with more colouring to apply again :)

I’m also thinking that I might have more of the clay applied over the foundation down from the top – kind of like wax dripping down the side of a candle – still deciding though :)

 

I’m still working on a design for a steel roof structure to build over the oven – and protect all this hard work from rain and snow!

Insulating the Pizza Oven

Well, after getting the main dome of the oven completed a few days ago, I let the oven sit for a couple days, then carved out the door, and pulled out the sand – and it didn’t collapse!

I let the oven sit for another day, and then couldn’t resist building a small fire, to move the process of drying out along.

pizza-oven_first-fire

And no cracks!

Today I started applying the insulation layer – a fairly wet mixture of clay, sand, and straw.  I used fairly equal ratios of sand and clay, mixed with water until I got a consistency that was similar to a medium thick milkshake.  Then I kneaded in handfuls of straw.

Once the straw was completely coated in the clay/sand mixture, I added more straw, and repeated.  I wanted the straw clumps to hold together – so once I thought the clumps were just about not staying together, I quit adding straw, and kneaded a splash more water into the mix.

I then threw big clumps of the mixture around the base of the oven.  I want to try and build up a 4 – 6″ layer of insulation.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough clay to make the insulation mixture cover the entire oven.  So I’ll be off to Plainsman Pottery this week to get a couple more bags!  I’ll buy extra so that I can put a final finishing layer over the insulation.

pizza-oven_insulation_960

More Pizza Oven Progress

Well, this weekend was a bit of work!

Saturday I formed the sand dome, which acts as a form for the actual oven.  Used about 500 lbs. of sand!  The floor of the oven is an elliptical shape – 32″ wide x 36″ deep.  The height is 17″.  After shaping the dome, I covered it up with junk mail flyers – soaked in water.

pizza-dome-1

The following day, I built up the oven itself, making a lot of baseball sized balls of sand, clay and water.  The mixture wasn’t too wet – just enough to keep the sand and clay together.

pizza-dome-building

 

I did manage to get the form covered over completely – with a brief interruption by mother nature and some much needed rainfall.  In a couple days, I’ll lay out the oven door, and cut it out.  Then the moment of truth when I get to remove the sand form!  I’m planning on making the opening around 11 1/2″ tall, and 16 – 18″ wide.  Once the opening is made, I’ll build a door, and then add 3-4″ of straw and clay insulation to the exterior of the oven.

Pizza Oven Progress

The other evening some friends and I gave up an evening of cards, foosball, and whisky drinking to instead demolish a stone and concrete planter in our front yard, and using the rubble from it, and a large brick planter in our back yard, built up the base for my pizza oven.  We still had some whisky, and enjoyed a great evening around the fire pit as well :)

Only bad part was me getting stung in the eye by a wasp that I upset when digging out the gravel from the demolished planter in the back yard. That was a couple days ago, and the swelling has come down – so I don’t look like Igor anymore!

Pizza oven base I didn’t use any cement/mortar for now – everything is just laid in place and we’ll see how it works out!  I ended up pouring all the bags of play sand onto the base and just lightly tamped it down.  I might be able to add more sand once I tamp it down a little harder, and level it out.  Next step will be to lay out the insulation bricks, and then the kiln bricks that will make up the actual floor of the oven.

Home Made Beef Pho

Home Made Beef Pho
Author: 
Recipe type: Vietnamese
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 8 cups beef stock
  • 6 cups water
  • 1½ lb ground beef
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered - divided use
  • 5" ginger piece sliced thinly - no need to peel
  • 6 star anise pods
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 4" stick of cinnamon
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 Kaffir Lime leaf
  • ½ cup fish sauce (divided use)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp plain sugar
  • 1 lb thin rice noodles, soaked in hot water and then quickly boiled
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 3 scallions, green parts only, cut on the bias
  • 12 oz rib eye meat, very thinly sliced - easier done if frozen a bit before.
  • 1 jalapeno pepper sliced thinly, maintaining seeds and ribs
  • 5 oz bean sprouts
  • additional fish sauce (to taste)
  • 1 bunch Thai (or in a pinch regular) basil
  • 2 or 3 tbsp srirarcha (to taste)
  • Lime wedges from 2 limes
Instructions
  1. Place the ground beef into a large dutch oven and barely cover with water. Bring to the boil over high heat, turn heat down and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes. Strain off and discard the water (and associated scum). Rinse the beef, clean the dutch oven and return the ground beef to the dutch oven. Add the onion, aromatics, fish sauce, salt and sugar to the pot, followed by the beef stock and water. Stir to combine as well as possible. Bring to the boil and then simmer for at least 45 minutes.
  2. Strain the beef and other solids reserving the liquid. Discard the solids. Strain the broth again, this time through cheese cloth until clear.
  3. Soften the noodles in warm water for about 10-15 minutes, then boil them for 1 minute.
  4. Layer the noodles, some thinly sliced onion (from the remaining quarter), the scallion tops, cilantro and beef into preheated soup bowls. Fill the bowls with steaming hot broth
  5. Serve accompanied by sliced jalapenos, basil, srirarcha, fish sauce and lime wedges.

Big changes in Alberta

The New Democrat Party of Alberta has been voted into power with a significant majority. After 44 years in power, the Progress Conservatives are now the 3rd, with only 12 – er, 11 seats (Jim Prentice quit the party, and despite being elected in his riding, quit that too).  The Wild Rose party is the official opposition, winning 21 seats.

results

Hopefully this means positive change for the majority of Albertans, and not just corporations.  Hopefully we’ll see real improvements to the quality of health care in our province, and real progress in getting out of the boom/bust cycle of the oil industry, and diversifying our provincial economy.

The New Democrats have been given a great opportunity, and a big challenge by Albertans – they have the opportunity to prove that we can be prosperous and fair to all, and  demonstrate to the rest of Canada that there are choices…

Beautiful bread boards!

This past Christmas, Chef Michael Smith showed a great looking bread board in a prize package he was putting together.  The board was a demi-baguette board, made by Apple & Acorn Woodworking, in Ontario.

I ordered one as a birthday gift for my Mom, and she loves it!  the craftsmanship of these boards is excellent, with a flawless finish, and there are rubber feet on the underside, so that the board doesn’t slide around on you.  The board was well packed, and shipped via Canada Post, which was very reasonable.  A nice added touch is that the board is inside a burlap bag, which will be useful if you need to store the board in a cupboard.  My mom is going to find a spot in their kitchen to hang the board up and display it though – it’s really too beautiful to tuck away :)

aa_demi-board

Gado Gado Salad

Saw this on the Jamie Oliver site, and had to try it out – whole family loved it!

gado-gado-jamie

The only thing I didn’t have on hand was some bean sprouts, and the prawn chips.  I wanted to use up some mushrooms that I had, so I sliced them up and fried along with the tofu.