Wood-fired oven recipes to inspire you

I always love finding new ways to cook and I was very interested in learning all about the versatility of the wood-fired oven. While everyone knows they’re great for cooking pizzas, that’s only a tiny part of their capability as David and Holly Jones from Manna from Devon Cooking School are on a mission to prove.

I was lucky enough to meet them at a recent workshop where they cooked a delicious menu for us in the stylish Morsø wood-fired ovens. Everything from beautifully light focaccia, succulent peri peri chicken, Greek-style kebabs and even a fruity dessert.

Wood-fired ovens

Up close on the stylish Morsø wood-fired oven

David and Holly hold wood-fired oven cookery courses at their school Manna from Devon overlooking the River Dart in beautiful South Devon – one of my favourite areas of the UK. It’s such an amazing area for food-lovers that’s well worth a visit. You can find out more on www.foodanddrinkdevon.co.uk

The Jones’ fabulous Wo0d-Fired Oven Cookbook is a comprehensive guide to how to cook with your oven, including plenty of inspiring recipes. Here are three to whet your appetite and motivate you to branch out and do more than make pizza in this amazing outdoor kitchen. Buy the book for £9.99 by clicking here.

Scallops with chilli and mint

Serves 6 as an appetiser

Like all fish, scallops respond well to the hot temperatures in the wood-fired oven – they get a good charring on the outside, which adds to the flavours of the recipe. By baking the scallops in their round shells you won’t have any dishes to wash.

12 large cleaned scallops with their shells, also cleaned

juice and grated rind of 1 lemon

1 tbsp chilli oil

2 tbsp olive oil

25g butter, softened

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

2 tbsp dried white breadcrumbs

salt and ground black pepper

4 tbsp roughly chopped fresh mint

fresh, crusty bread, to serve

Wood-fired oven recipes

Build up the fire in the oven until the temperature reaches 300°C/570°F. This will take about 60 minutes. When it is up to temperature, push the fire to the back of the oven with a metal peel or coal hook, and keep the door open to encourage a hot fire with high flames.

In a bowl, mix the lemon juice and grated rind with the chilli oil and olive oil, the butter, garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs. Season well.

Cut the scallops in half to make discs and put them with their roes back in the cleaned half shells. Divide the breadcrumb mixture over the scallops.

Put the shells on a baking sheet; use two if you need to. Place the baking sheets in the oven, as close to the fire as possible. Keep the door open and bake for just 4–5 minutes, until the tops are golden and sizzling.

Carefully move the baking sheets to the front of the oven, using a metal peel to do so. Pick up the baking sheets, but be careful to keep them level so you don’t lose any of the delicious juices.

Sprinkle the chopped mint over the scallops and serve immediately with some fresh, crusty bread to mop up all the juices, remembering that the shells will be very hot.

Roast duck with orange, star anise and cinnamon and roast potatoes

Serves 4-6

Duck, like pork, cooks beautifully in a wood-fired oven – the fat melts through the meat, keeping it juicy and tender, and the skin crisps up well. It makes a rich meal, so all you need to go with it is some braised red cabbage or a watercress salad.Wood-fired oven cooking

1 large duck, about 2kg

juice of 2 oranges

2 whole star anise

1 cinnamon stick

2 tbsp redcurrant jelly

1 small bunch fresh sage

1.5kg floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

2 tbsp canned duck or goose fat or olive oil

100ml red wine

600ml chicken stock

2 tbsp plain flour

salt and ground black pepper

Build up the fire in the oven until the temperature reaches 190°C/375°F, this will take about 40 minutes. When it is up to temperature, push the fire to the back of the oven with a metal peel or coal hook, and close the door to retain the heat.

Put the orange juice into a small pan on the stove and simmer gently with the star anise and cinnamon stick for 5 minutes to infuse the orange juice. Stir in the redcurrant jelly and simmer gently for 10 minutes until tacky. Remove the spices and season the liquid with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Prick the duck skin all over with a skewer. Generously brush the orange and redcurrant liquid over the duck. Put the bunch of sage in the duck’s body cavity.

Put the potatoes in a large roasting pan and spoon over the duck fat. Put the duck on a wire rack and place in the roasting pan, over the potatoes. Open the oven door and put the roasting pan on the oven floor.

Close the door and roast the duck and potatoes for 1 hour, then take the roasting pan out of the oven. Remove the duck and rack from the roasting pan, drain off the excess fat and any juices into a measuring jug (cup), and turn the potatoes over. Replace the rack and duck, and return the roasting pan to the oven for another 30–60 minutes. Separate the fat from the meat juices in the jug, and set both aside.

Check that the duck is cooked by inserting a skewer into the thigh to make sure the juices run clear. The potatoes should also be cooked through and crisped up by all the duck fat that has been released.

Transfer the duck to rest on a platter. Drain the rest of the juices from the roasting pan into the measuring jug.

Put 2 tbsp of the reserved duck fat and the flour into the roasting pan and stir together on the stove. When the flour has absorbed the fat, stir in the juices from the jug with the red wine and the chicken stock. Keep stirring until it has come to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes. Season the gravy with salt and pepper.

Carve the duck meat and serve it with the gravy and potatoes and some braised red cabbage.

Cook’s tip

Any leftover duck is delicious shredded and served cold in sandwiches or wraps. Duck fat is great for roasting potatoes so do keep any left over in the refrigerator for just that.

Apple pie with spices

Serves 6

Another all-time classic, apple pie is delicious baked in a wood-fired oven, which crisps up the pastry on the top and the bottom of the pie, giving a crunchy outside and a tender fruity inside. Use the lower heat of the oven to cook the eating apples initially and then build up the fire to get a higher temperature for cooking the pastry. This recipe uses a mixture of dessert apples, which hold together well in the pie, and baking apples, which collapse more during cooking; the baking apples provide a contrasting tartness to the sweeter eating apples.

675g eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges

2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 2.5cm pieces

50g butter

50g caster sugar

50g light muscovado (brown) sugar

1tsp each ground mixed spice, cinnamon and ginger or 15ml/3 tsp apple pie spice

juice and grated rind of 1 lemon

2 pieces ready-rolled shortcrust pastry 30 x 30cm

1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt

clotted cream, ice cream or custard, to serve

Build up the fire in the oven until the temperature reaches 200°C/400°F. When it is up to temperature, which will take about 40 minutes, push the embers to the back of the oven using a metal peel or coal hook. Leave the oven door closed to retain the heat.

Put the apple wedges, butter, sugars and spices in an ovenproof dish. Cover the dish tightly with a lid or some foil, and put the dish on the oven floor. Close the door and cook for 12–15 minutes, until the apples are tender, stirring a couple of times during cooking.

Take the dish containing the apples out of the oven, and close the door to keep the heat inside.

Transfer the apples to a large bowl and gently fold in the lemon juice and rind. Set aside to cool.

Line the base of a 25cm/10in deep ovenproof pie dish with one of the sheets of pastry, pressing it into the bases and sides. Spoon the cooled apples in to the pastry-lined pie dish and spread evenly. Lift the second sheet of pastry with the rolling pin and carefully place it on top of the dish.

Trim the pastry, using a sharp knife, and crimp the edges together. Make a couple of steam holes in the top of the pie with the knife.

Use the trimmings to cut out some pastry leaves or any other pattern to put on top of the pie, if you wish. Stick them to the pie with the beaten egg and brush more of the egg wash all over the top of the pie. Place the pie in the oven for 25–30 minutes, until the pastry is cooked, crisp and golden.

Remove the pie from the oven, and rest on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm with clotted cream, ice cream or custard. Any leftovers can be reheated or eaten cold with a piece of good Cheddar cheese.

You can find out more about Manna from Devon by clicking here.


Recipe book review: Mountain Berries & Desert Spices

I’ve come to baking quite late in life and still find it quite miraculous! You mix wet and dry ingredients, stick them in the oven and hopefully end up with some delicious treat. Like magic!

Mountain Berries & Desert Spices by Sumayya Usmani offers a whole new range of baking opportunities as a journey through the sweet treats of Pakistan. Many and varied they are too. The book starts off with explanations of the exotic ingredients used and moves from delightful fruity dishes through puddings, biscuits, breads, pancakes, doughnuts, samosas, pastries.

The recipes are easy to follow and all the ingredients are readily available in the UK. If you can’t find them in the shops you will online. Here’s a beautiful recipe to tempt you.

And you can win your own copy of this marvellous book – I have two to give away. Find out how to enter below.

Cardamom and rose water marzipan lace

(Badam ki jail)

This Hyderabadi sweetmeat translates as ‘almond lace’ and the name conjures up visions of delicate white fairytale lace. It’s a festive sweet for celebrations and gifts. The art is in its making as the traditional methods are laborious and badam ki jail is always made in abundance. The mixture resembles marzipan, but it dries out quickly so you must work fast.

Preparation 30–40 minutes + overnight soaking

Cooking 10–15 minutes

Makes 8–10

The ingredients

1kg cups almonds with skin on

2 tsp rose water

1kg caster (superfine) sugar

4–6 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground

Butter, for greasing

500g icing (confectioners’) sugar, for rolling

To decorate

Edible silver or gold leaf

15g ground pistachios

The instructions

Soak the almonds in a bowl of water overnight. The next day, the skins should come off effortlessly.

Place the almonds in a food processor with the rose water and grind until they are very fine and paste-like, then place in a heavy-based saucepan and add the caster sugar and ground cardamom. Cook over a very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and leaves the sides of the pan. Transfer the mixture to a greased glass dish, cover with clingfilm and allow to cool to the touch.

Now form the mixture into 2 balls. Roll each ball out as thinly as possible, dusting both the board and the rolling pin liberally with icing sugar. Using a 5–7.5cm/2–3-inch cookie cutter (flower shape is best) cut out 16–20 shapes. Divide the shapes into two equal groups. On one of the groups, cover the surface of the biscuits with silver or gold leaf. Then using a tiny cookie cutter (such as hearts), make holes in the middle of each shape in the second group. Place these on top of the silver or gold leaf covered ones.

Dust with ground pistachios and serve or store in an airtight container for 2–4 days.

Recipe extracted from Mountain Berries and Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani, published by Frances Lincoln, an imprint of The Quarto Group. 

I’m regularly delving into this amazing book. First I made these lovely little sweet puff pastry biscuits called Bakar khani. Very simple, made from puff pastry sprinkled with ground cardamom, poppy seeds and sesame seeds. Sweet, spicy exoticness.

Win a copy of Mountain Berries and Desert Spice

The prize

Two copies of Mountain Berries & Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani worth £20 each.

How to enter

Answer the following question in the comment section of Eating Covent Garden.

What country is the inspiration behind Mountain Berries & Desert Spice?

A India

B Morocco

C Pakistan

D Iran

Terms and conditions

Competition only for residents of the UK.

Closing date for entry will be Sunday 2 July 2017 at midnight.

The winner will be chosen at random after the closing date.

The winner will be notified by email.

No cash alternatives to the prize will be offered. The prize is not transferable.

The editor’s decision is final.

Recipe book review: Savage salads

It’s always exciting to acquire a new recipe book for my ever-expanding collection. And I was certainly inspired as I started paging through Savage Salads to decide what to cook for dinner.

The book is the brainchild of Italian chef Davide and Swedish food expert Katrina and the recipes came about because of their highly successful market stall in London.

They came up with the idea after noticing a distinct lack of healthy food options in London’s many food markets. And they also cleverly decided to offer a range of salads that were more interesting than your average leafy collection, as well as being substantial enough to leave you full and satisfied.

The book offers so many choices, it really does take salad to a new level. It’s divided into the four seasons and encompasses a mind-boggling array of ingredients, all of which are easily available in the UK.

The recipes are clearly laid out and easy to follow and I loved the mouth-watering photography.

So far I’ve tried three recipes, all of which have got a huge thumbs up from everyone who sampled them.

From the autumn section I made this fabulous potato salad with new potatoes, apple, spring onion and wholegrain mustard. Such a lovely sweet and sour combination with great crunch. It was served with a perfectly grilled pork chop.


Something new for my potato salad repertoire

I love gazpacho and I love beetroot so it seemed a no-brainer to try this. Okay it’s soup, the book gets away with this by including what they call a Blitzed Salad at the end of each season. This is summer in a bowl, beautifully pink, sweet and health giving.


Gotta love a bowl of pink soup

My third choice was from the winter section. No, I’m not confused it’s just that summer hasn’t really turned up so I’m still looking to cook comfort food. Little lamb kebabs marinated in garlic, lemon juice and rosemary are served with roasted sweet potato and turnip and served with crispy kale. Wow! I’m making crispy kale all the time now, it’s so easy and tasty and so full of goodness.

IMG_3931 (1)

There’s also a range of dip, dressing and mayonnaise recipes to try out. I’m loving the sound of smoked paprika and lime hummus, or maybe a bit of watercress mayonnaise. Salads are certainly never going to be boring again – the book certainly lives up to its strapline: Fierce Flavours Filling Power-Ups.

SavageSalads_Cover high res

Savage Salads by Kristina Gustafsson & Davide Del Gatto, photography by Kim Lightbody, is on sale now. Published by Frances Lincoln (£16.99). More information on the book can be found here

If you don’t want to cook them yourself (though I really recommend you do),  you can visit them at one of their stalls. You will find them in Berwick Street in Soho from Monday to Friday, Stratton Ground on Victoria Monday to Wednesday and at St Giles in field market in Covent Garden every Thursday.

Recipe book review: Lebanese home cooking

Having been inspired by the many tasty and inventive vegetable dishes I ate on my recent cruise around Greece and Turkey, I was delighted when this book came through my letterbox.

Lebanese Home Cooking’s subtitle is Simple, Delicious, Mostly Vegetarian Recipes and it’s packed with wonderful ways with lentils, beans, aubergines, chickpeas, potatoes, tomatoes, rice, bulgur wheat…I could go on and on.

The book is written by Kamal Mouzawak who grew up in Lebanon and was the founder of Beirut’s Souk el Tayeb Market. So he knows what he’s talking about. Even paging through the book makes your mouth water.

I love Lebanese flavours and spices, too, and there’s plenty of that going on. And although the dishes look and sound exotic, the recipes are simple and often don’t have many ingredients.

I started with the spinach stew with pine nuts. Cooked with garlic and coriander (a staple of Lebanese cuisine), the spinach condenses down and absorbs all the flavours. And spinach and pine nuts is simply a heavenly combination in my book.


Health-giving spinach and pine nuts

I also made the chickpeas with yogurt, incredibly easy, especially as I cheated slightly and used tinned chickpeas.


Chickpeas livened up with garlic and tahini

This white butter bean stew was wonderfully easy to make and the flavours of the creamy, buttery beans (my favourite in the bean family), garlic, onions, tomatoes and fresh coriander producing a fresh and tasty dish to savour.


A heartily tasty bean dish

There are some great potato and rice recipes crying out to be tried – simple, genius ideas like mashed potatoes with spring onions and mint mixed through, beautiful bread and pie recipes and the sweets! I’ll be heading back in there soon.


A recipe book you definitely need in your kitchen

Lebanese Home Cooking is on sale from tomorrow the 5th of November at £15.99.

Get in there quickly and I’m offering you a discount too.

A special offer for readers of Eating Covent Garden.
To order Lebanese Home Cooking at the discounted price of £12.99 including p&p* (RRP: £15.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG380.
*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Recipe book review: Toast: The Cookbook

Sometimes there’s nothing you feeling like eating more than something on toast. Cheese on toast (with Worcestershire sauce obviously), avo on toast, Marmite on toast, egg on toast…we all have our favourites. Real comfort food that’s quick and easy to make.

These days it’s been elevated to a different level with the wide range of bread you can get. I often gasp at the displays in markets and bakeries with their beautiful loaves on offer. And the aromas to inhale are a joy to the senses.

Thinking back to my childhood days in Zimbabwe, there was only one type of bread available – the white loaf – and it was often stale. Now I’m so spoilt for choice.

Add to that creative toppings and you have a whole new world of toast opening up to you. Which is why I love this book Toast: The Cookbook by Raquel Pelzel.

It’s packed with great ideas for your toastie toppings, with inspiration taken from all over the world. Some simple, some more gourmet and complicated. And Raquel has the genius idea of making flavoured butter. Like in the first recipe I tried which involved tomato butter – now doesn’t that sound good?


Freshly made tomato butter with the rest of the ingredients for making my toastie treat

Spread your toast thick with this amazing butter and top with peppery, crisp radishes for a delicious snack.


The prettiest toast in its shades of red and pink

Another recipe involves an old favourite of mine – avocado. An often-consumed breakfast, sliced and spread on toast with plenty of salt and pepper. Or you can make a basic guacamole by mashing it with a fork and adding a touch of lemon juice so it doesn’t discolour. Then spread thickly on freshly made toast – and Raquel’s recipe tops it with a delicious crab/mayo combo.


Avocado goes perfectly with toast

Time for another buttery treat with this fabulously tasty pepperoni butter. Spread thick  and topped with sliced mozzarella, the toast goes back in the oven until the cheese melts and voila you’ve got a pizza toast to savour! That’s clever!

pepperoni butter

Pepperoni butter is a good thing to keep in your fridge

This is just a small taster of what’s on offer. You could try making macadamia nut butter infused with cardamom, oven roasted tomatoes and whipped feta, spicy lobster balchao toast or lemongrass kiwi toast with honey cream. Yes, even pudding toast.

They’re the perfect recipes for anytime snacks with a difference – and are also great for entertaining. Time to try some creative toasting!

Toast: The Cookbook by Raquel Pelzel is published by Phaidon Press and sells for £14.95.



Book review: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-Kept Secret: Sherry

I’m always inspired by Spain which was one of the reasons I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into this beautiful book telling the story of one of the country’s most important products – Sherry.  I had no idea what a huge subject it was and all lyrically explained here by author Talia Baiocchi whose love for this much misunderstood beverage and its history came shining through.

Sherry is a fortified wine that is aged in above-ground cellars called bodegas and includes in its spectrum the sweetest and driest wines in the world. How’s that for confusing? Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria in Andalusia form the 11,000 hectare Marco de Jerez where it is produced – otherwise known as the Sherry Triangle. And having taken a backseat for decades in the world of wine, its popularity is now hugely on the up.

Final cover

The book takes you through the history, different types, how it’s made and a tour through the sherry region, including detailed descriptions of all the bodegas to visit. Now there’s a good route to base my next holiday itinerary on.

It’s a fascinating tale and then of course there’s the sherry itself. My first taste of sherry was as an 18-year-old student in South Africa, sitting around the campfire playing drinking games with OB’s (Old Brown Sherry). It was sickly sweet, alcoholic and, most importantly (for us students) cheap. Oh and caused horrendous hangovers all round! I think everyone has their dodgy sherry story but that is not what the stunning sherries of Spain are about. The total opposite, in fact.

They taste surprisingly good and are extremely versatile, so go surprisingly well with a wide range of food. And there are a surprising amount of them. Well, I was surprised anyway. And they’re also fantastic for making cocktails and to cook with.

The book includes sections on these, too and I tested out several of the recipes. One of my favourite Spanish dishes is albondigas – tasty little meatballs served in a vibrant, silky sauce. I’ve eaten it many, many times and cooked several versions of it myself, too. But this one is the best one ever, the sauce is quick and easy to make and tastes heavenly. It’s a real wow dish, so I had to share the recipe with you.


The meatballs bubble away in the silken sauce

Albondigas al Jerez

Serves 6

For the meatballs

340g beef mince

340g pork mince

1 clove garlic, minced

4 tbsps chopped parsley

120g fine breadcrumbs

1 egg

2 tsps salt

1 tsp sweet Spanish paprika

1/2 tsp hot Spanish paprika

A few grinds of black pepper

For the sauce

4 tbsps olive oil

235g onion, grated

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp sweet Spanish paprika

1 tbsp plain flour

120ml dry amontillado sherry

240ml chicken stock

1/2 tsp salt

Combine all the meatball ingredients, except the olive oil in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Prepare a baking sheet covered with baking parchment. Shape the meat mixture into 18-20 meatballs the size of golf balls, placing them on the prepared sheet as you shape them.

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs to the pan in batches and brown all over to create a crust – about 6 mins. Remove and place them on a plate lined with kitchen paper to soak up the excess oil while you make the sauce.

In a medium pan over medium heat, heat 2 tbsps of the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sweat until they are translucent, about 5 mins.

Add the paprika, flour and remaining 2 tbsps olive oil and stir well to combine. Let it simmer for 2 mins, the sauce should have the consistency of a roux. Stir in the sherry and the chicken stock and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 mins. Season with salt to taste.

Add the meatballs and stir gently to coat them in the sauce. Cook for a further 10 mins over a low heat, adjusting the heat to maintain a rolling simmer. If the sauce gets too dry, stir in a bit more chicken stock.

Serve with cocktail sticks for spearing as a tapas dish or with vegetables as a complete meal.

A special offer just for you

I loved this book, it’s comprehensive, entertaining, extremely informative and captures both sherry and the spirit of Spain so perfectly I wanted to head straight for the airport! And the photography is beautiful, too.

Bring on some sherry-based trips, I say, oh and I really must try out some of those cocktails, too.

 As a reader of EatingCoventGarden you can get your very own copy for a special price. To orderSherry at the discounted price of £16 including p&p* (RRP £20), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG347. *UK only, please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.
Recipe extracted from Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-Kept Secret, with Cocktails and Recipes by Talia Baiocchi. Photography by Ed Anderson. Published by Jacqui Small (£20).