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 Lamb Skewers  
 Whole Sea Bass  
 Vegetable Gratin  

Lamb Skewers 

First up, simple lamb skewers... the grill trivet I used to cook the fish last time has proved useful and makes all barbecue food possible. Bearing in mind that the heat in the oven is very fierce, the skewers take very little time (these took around 8-10 minutes to get a good colour) it is essential to soak wooden skewers well or watch them go up in smoke, (or, as I did, play it safe and stick to steel ones). Remember also to make a marinade and set some of it aside to apply to the meat as it comes off the grill as the marinade that is on the meat will have succumbed by the time they are cooked. I boned and diced lamb shoulder meat as it has a lovely fat content that keeps the kebabs juicy, and marinated it for an hour in olive oil, crushed garlic, lemon juice, fresh rosemary, oregano and seasoning - together with some chunks of red pepper. 
For tabbouleh salad, cook 200g of bulgar wheat with 400ml of water (follow the packet instructions), drain and allow to cool completely. Add to this 4 chopped ripe tomatoes, a small cucumber, diced, crushed and finely chopped clove of garlic, lashings of freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste, and lots of finely chopped parsley and fresh mint and follow with 3 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. The salad should be very green with herbs so we're talking large bunches of parsley and mint. 
It's great served with crisp leaves of sweet romaine which you can spoon the salad into and eat outdoors as finger food - kebab in one hand, salad in t'other... 

Oven-Baked Whole Sea Bass 

What I cooked were whole sea bass (about 350g each - perfect individual servings) that I had gutted but left whole. To keep the fish moist during cooking, I stuffed slices of lemon and torn parsley and fresh mint into the cavity of each. I then slashed the skin diagonally 3-4 times on each side before brushing liberally with olive oil and seasoning with Maldon sea salt crystals. The fish were then arranged side by side (but not touching) onto a steel grill (borrowed from my grill pan). 
How long it will take for them to cook depends on how hot the oven is and how large the fish are - mine took about 10 minutes. I am a good, experienced cook and know by sight when something is as cooked as I would like it to be. It strikes me that because your food is for the most part visible, and you can also smell it, that the wood fired oven is excellent for educating the less experienced in how to judge how well done things are. 
Basic Pizza Dough - enough to make 4 generous pizza bases 
800g strong bread flour 
20g fresh yeast 
3tsp salt 
3tbsp olive oil 
525ml lukewarm water 
1 Crumble the yeast into a large bowl and pour the water and olive oil over. Weigh the flour and add to the bowl together with the salt. Bring the dough together into a mass with the help of a plastic scraper and turn it out onto a lightly oiled surface. The mix will be quite wet, don't let this worry you, it will become more elastic as you knead it. I say 'knead', I 'throw' it and turn it, lifting it up from the surface and over itself, to work the dough and introduce air. After working it vigorously for 5 minutes return it to the bowl and cover over tightly with cling film. 
2 Leave for an hour then turn it out, this time onto a floured surface. Knead briefly into a neat ball then divide into 4 equal pieces of dough. Turn these into neat balls and leave three of them dusted with flour and covered lightly with cling film to rest. Take the fourth ball and roll (or stretch over your hands) to make your first 12"pizza base. Once formed, lay this on an awaiting tray, dusted with flour or, preferably, semolina flour. You are ready to add topping - don't overload or it will be soggy and unappetizing - spread a sparing amount of tomato sauce (chopped tomatoes & olive oil with fresh basil & garlic reduced over a low heat for up to half an hour until thick). The rest is up to your own liking and imagination! 
 Suggested Toppings  
Have bowls of torn mozzarella, diced goats’cheese, spinach, olives, tuna flakes, thinly sliced onion, sun blush tomatoes, artichoke hearts etc etc 


This a great way to make use of the residual heat left in your oven after an afternoon’s pizza session… 
Baked aubergine makes an amazing Greek dip - melitzanosalata, and a slightly smoky flavour is essential. Be sure to puncture the aubergines with a knife in a couple of places as they have a chestnut like tendency to explode in the oven. I left my aubergines overnight after using the oven so it was medium heat when they went in, the result looked like leathery, deflated balloons - exactly what I was after. 
Split the aubergines open and scrape the roasted flesh out with a spoon, if areas of skin are blackened and come away with the flesh so be it as they lend depth to the flavour. Once you've got as much from the skins as you can, chop it roughly with a kitchen knife until pulpy. Add to this 2 cloves of juicy garlic, crushed and pressed to a pulp also, and plenty of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley. Add a generous slug of Greek olive oil and season with salt, pepper and plenty of freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste. Cover and refrigerate for a day to allow the flavours to mellow. 


Using the same dough as I did for my pizza I instead formed 12" circles and slathered them with creamy garlic butter (made with garlic, butter, olive oil, parley, & basil). Fold over as you would an omelet and press the edges together firmly with thumbs. Watching these little babies rise in the oven was most satisfying, and on this occasion we had it hot enough to cook them in little more than 3 minutes. 

Mediterranean Vegetable Gratin 

1 large onion, peeled & finely chopped 
2 cloves garlic, crushed & finely chopped 
1 aubergine, trimmed & cut into 2cm dice 
2 red peppers, trimmed & diced into 2cm chunks 
2 large courgettes cut into thin, diagonal slices 
4-6 firm but ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced 
1tbsp thyme leaves 
olive oil 
salt, pepper 
50g grated Parmesan 
25g fresh breadcrumbs 
a handful of fresh oregano leaves 
and a 28cm gratin dish 
1 Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the chopped onion and garlic for a few minutes to soften. Now add the diced aubergine and increase the heat to brown. Once colouring, add the diced red pepper and chilli flakes and cook a further few minutes until the vegetables are tender. Season to taste and spoon into the awaiting gratin dish. Level the vegetables with a spatula. 
2 Starting at one end, patiently arrange the courgette and tomato slices in overlapping rows as per 'before' image, then drizzle with olive oil and scatter with thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to the wood fired oven. Bake for 15 minutes or so, until the surface vegetables are shrinking and colouring. Now toss the fresh breadcumbs with a little olive oil until glistening and remove the gratin and spread the crumbs and Parmesan liberally over the surface. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes until crisp and golden. Add the fresh oregano as you bring the gratin from the oven and serve with rosemary focaccia. 
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