No two fires are the same. This I am finding out. I am trying to learn from my mistakes but it seems that each time I use the oven I correct a previous fault but find another completely new one!
Today, Cave woman built the fire up nice and hot using all the wood in one go. It worked. The dome turned white after only about an hour. Hooray. Cave Woman did notice that the cracks in the exterior of the oven appeared worse when the oven was hot.
This is worrying but after a little research on the internet apparently this is normal, it can happen and many people judge the temperature of the oven by the width of the cracks as the dome heats up.
I find this scary. But after close investigation Man just shrugged and walked away.
The dough for bread was already rising.
Learning from previous errors Cave Woman left the glowing embers in the oven right up until the moment the bread dough was ready to be baked.
To utilise the fierce heat from the embers I baked (roasted? Smoked?) a couple of aubergines until the skin turned very very burned, and the inside was as soft as butter.
The aubergines were then left to cool in a colander before skinning and squeezing gently to remove excess moisture.
When quite cool they were whizzed up in the food processor with some olive oil, garlic, yoghurt, cider vinegar/lemon juice, salt and pepper. This is the starter for our lunch. And will do for snacks later.
I should really have made flat breads to go with the aubergines but I didn't remember the aubergines until after all the bread dough had been made and instead we have Bridge Rolls.
Well. The first mistake was that I didn't wash the oven floor - because the last time I did that the oven cooled far too quickly. But this time I did remember to close off the chimney after the embers were removed... but ... I forgot that the bridge rolls are made with egg and milk and the sugars in these are inclined to burn.
The bottoms of the rolls are a bit burned, and the top is very brown but the insides were definitely not cooked. So Cave Woman used a cake cooling rack on the base of the oven to lift the bread up a bit and hopefully stop it burning further. The rolls were replaced and continued to cook without browning any more. Bread can be very forgiving. They turned out perfectly edible, including the burned bottoms.
The newest bit of kit acquired for use with the oven is the pair of welders leather gloves. They are a little large for Cave Woman's delicate hands but definitely do the trick.
The rest of the bread cooked in the normal 30 minutes or thereabouts time even though the thermometer on the door didn't rise above 100C.
The thermometer lies. It never shows the correct temperature in the oven and I am learning to trust my bare hands. A quick wave about inside the oven and I am getting to know whether it is too hot, not hot enough etc... A laser thermometer is on the next christmas list. The loaf from the tin had browned nicely on top but the free form loaves did not. The reason for this is a bit of a mystery. The dough is the same, however the free form loaves went in after the tin loaf was already half cooked... could the oven have cooled that much in that short a time? Cheese biscuits made with herbs and sun dried tomatoes went in next.
I put the hot embers on the bbq and once again we used them to cook lunch. A couple of pork steaks sprinkled with paprika and a pot of lentils. The aubergine and rolls were eaten as a starter.
Finally, as usual, a pot of soup is placed in the closed oven and left for several hours, it will do lunch for tomorrow along with the last of the rolls.
I have discovered that no matter how organised I get there is a point where cooking with fire becomes frantic. Once you start loading up the oven you are constantly checking to make sure things don't burn. If you have meat on the BBQ at the same time it is impossible to leave either to go set the table or prepare a salad... needs must share the joy of cooking with Man. Who to his credit had barely set foot into the outdoor kitchen from the moment I claimed it as my territory, but now is happily poking and prodding and turning the meat as it sizzles. Ah, its the little things!
Cave Woman tired. Man happy happy happy.