Holly and David Jones of Manna from Devon Cooking School in Kingswear, Devon came north to London earlier this summer for some wood-fired oven demos at The Swan pub in Chiswick. I was wiser (and fuller) for having dropped by for a session.
During the early lunch workshop in the beautiful suntrap of The Swan’s beer garden, the duo fired up their Morsø Forno ovens (I want!) to show how versatile these sleek cast iron (not an oxymoron!) Danish wood-fired ovens are and how – with a little knowhow and bit of experience – a variety of dishes can be cooked in a wood-fired oven. With the Jones at the helm and a small band of media folk eager to cook, I learned to bake focaccia and pizza, roast a whole fish and lamb kebabs and even made dessert (raspberry and hazelnut empanadas) – all in a wood-fired oven.
The chief lesson learned from the Jones was that more than anything, getting “it” right when cooking with a wood-fired oven takes practice and use of your sense. Essentially it’s a chance to play with fire and have something yummy at the end of it for your efforts. One rule of thumb with respect to oven heat: If you can keep your hand in the oven for four or five seconds max, then it’s good for cooking most dishes. When it’s too hot even to stick your hand in at all, then it’s good to go for cooking pizza.
Now as summer seems to be yielding to autumn, I’m trying to hardest to make the most of time in my own back garden. More so, I’m keen to continue my education with Holly and David and check out their Devon digs on the Dartmouth estuary.
Established in 2005 and listed among The National Cookery School Guide’s top 50 cookery schools, Manna from Devon Cooking School is located at Fir Mount House, Higher Contour Road, Kingswear TQ6 0DE. Bed and breakfast accommodation is available with rooms boasting views over the River Dart and surrounding countryside. Find out more at mannafromdevon.com.
The Swan is located at 119 Evershed Walk, Acton Lane, W4 5HH. For details go to theswanchiswick.co.uk.