Friday 19 September 2014

Really and truly I shouldn't be writing the blog on our wonderful clay pizza oven. It was dreamt up, designed, created, built, wept over, laughed about and ultimately completed by our team of wonderful volunteers. I have however, benefited from its use and so I feel qualified to write this blog now that most of the participants have moved on.

So... where to start? Perhaps at the very beginning. November 2013 we attempted to build a clay oven. It failed. The reasons for this were

  1. We tried to build with clay in the rain
  2. We tried to build with clay in the rain

What we learned from this is 'Don't build with clay whilst it's raining'

July 2014 – Success!

The base was built from meticulously cleaned, recycled bricks from our recently demolished house. 

Clay was initially dug from the ground and an area created for the cleaning of the clay. This proved far too difficult and everyday deteriorated into clay fights or phallic modelling classes. Basically the dirt was too stoney. 

Finally Patrick and Ben arrived at the genius idea of digging the clay from the bottom of our wildlife pond. Galloping with excitement (not forgetting the obligatory arm swinging), they began. We all watched with baited breath and fingers crossed that the water wouldn't start to drain from our pond with each fresh extraction of clay.

Luckily after about a week of removal and eight dirty, wet, slightly disgruntled volunteers, we had enough clay, a full pond and a date to begin 'the build'.

We first laid some fire bricks, reclaimed from a local church which was undergoing refurbishment, onto the base. After this we then surreptitiously stole a small amount of sand from the beach to make a mold for the oven. From this we learned that even a small back pack of sand carried for 1.5 miles is a heavy load!

We covered the sand mold in wet newspaper and began the first layer of clay. The clay needed to be around 7 or 8 cm thick on the first layer, so we started to build around the bottom. Gradually the oven took shape and we let it dry in the British summer time.

Whist drying, Tano made a beautiful chimney from clay and wire to allow the smoke out. We then covered the oven in more recycled bricks, creating an arched doorway at the front, using more clay as mortar.

When this was dry, all the sand was scraped out and a fire was built to dry the clay and burn off any left over newspaper.

Finally the day arrived when we could eat pizza, but where was Stefano when we needed him? Never mind, with Spanish, French, Dutch, Australians and English we managed to light the fire and make siliceous pizza. This was our first attempt, so we ate at around 11:30pm by which time a few celebratory bevvies had been consumed and the pizza, although delicious, was definitely under appreciated.
Fast forward a month and we gain a genuine full blooded Sicilian (Australian). With vast amounts of pizza and cooking skills he lit the fire 2 hours in advance and we took up dough, tomato sauce and toppings for DIY pizza night. These were spectacular and cooked in around 4 minutes... Success!

A big thank you to everyone who helped on this project.

Tano, Patrick, Ben, Florian, Ryan, Arthur, Cedric, Thomas, Marleen, Jess, Coral, Kai, Jowan, Antoine, Fernando, Nathan, Anna, Alex, Simon, Sara and Glenn Candy.

And a huge special thank you to Ade and Sam for helping so much with the roof of the oven and supplying the delicious toppings of our 3rd pizza night.