Wood fired oven cooking at Manna from Devon

Manna from Devon Cookery schoolI attended a wood fired oven cookery course at the Manna from Devon cookery school in Kingswear Devon in Spring 2015. Here are some of my notes from that day.
The Manna from Devon cookery school is in Kingswear, Dartmouth and in a great location. They have a purpose built wood fired oven kitchen with two sizes of Bushman Ovens from Dingley-Dell Enterprises. It’s a perfect place to learn.
David and Holly Jones who run the cookery school and day could not be more friendly or be better instructors. The whole environment makes for a great, sociable and fun packed day.
What I found really valuable about the course was not just the recipes and cooking but also the background information on wood fired ovens. Many of the people on the course already owned an oven, but as someone who did not it put a number of things in my mind about planning the oven I wanted to buy.
Following a brief introduction to what we would be doing, the ‘cooking’ began with lighting the ovens. David showed us how to build a fire and get this going to build the ovens up to temperature. We built a stack of kindling and lit this at the front of the oven (to get the most oxygen) before pushing the fire back into the oven dome.
Throughout the day there was a quite a bit of of talk about temperature and David showed us how to adjust the fire to increase and decrease and when to use the door to contain heat. David encouraged us not to worry too much about exact temperatures, but checking with the laser thermometer became a little addictive. Throughout the day we had the ovens heating up and cooling as we cooked various dishes.
We learnt a little about planning an oven build, to think about the site of the oven, being undercover, near the kitchen and the pros and cons of different sizes. All of this was invaluable for me as I was thinking about my own oven build at home. I also learnt a lot about accessories needed, from a strong set of gauntlets/gloves to the pizza peels, the custom made ‘blower’ (a length of piping with a plastic end!) to get the flames going, a small axe for chopping up wood, the type of wood you needed (kiln dried/low moisture), a tuscan grill to cook steaks over the flames and much more.
Perhaps what I learnt most was the wide array of recipes you can cook. It might sound obvious, but really anything that benefits from being cooked in an oven, or on/near hot flames at high temperatures. Having been excited about making pizza, I came away having cooked squid, scallops, fish stew, spatchcock Roast Chicken and vegetables, Rump steak, pitta bread, Aubergine Parmigiana, Empanadas and more.
It was an absolutely fantastic day, and the inspiration not only for my own wood fired oven at home but also the beginning of a project that became this website.

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