Over the summer Jim turned forty and I decided to treat him to something he’s wanted for nearly decade… a brick outdoor oven. We first started looking at ovens like this when we lived in Cyprus in 2009 where they were known as Kleftiko ovens, but living in a military quarter meant they weren’t a very practical purchase and we’d almost certainly have had to leave it behind when we got posted. We were keen enough that we visited a few shops that sold them though and there’s a picture of us from the time with Jim looking wistfully at one*
So no oven purchase in Cyprus, but in the next 8 years Jim did acquire 5 barbecues (all of which we still have) good for one cooking niche or another, but none of them quite as good as an outdoor oven! In that time pizza ovens grew hugely in popularity in the UK, but I was determined that we didn’t want a temporary bit of kit that had to be stored out of the rain during the winter or that might deteriorate.
I did lots of research over the summer about what I could buy, but eventually decided trying to organise it all without Jim knowing was too difficult and too risky, so I let him in on the plan!
Together we settled on a 90cm x 90cm brick oven with a terracotta tiled floor, easily big enough for a couple of pizzas or a big meat dishes, but being a substantial construction it weighed 450kg and came with crane hooks embedded into the base. When we told our builder what we planned to buy, he laughed in our face, but we were determined! It arrived in August on the back of a lorry on a pallet.
Technically it was kerbside delivery, but the driver kindly wheeled it through our garage and left it at the back of the house, the remianing few feet of the journey were going to prove to be a bit of a challenge!
It stayed in that spot for several weeks while the base was built to hold it. You can’t dump a half tonne oven on just anything, so our builder constructed a brick base reinforced with concrete beams. It was topped with three paving slabs we had leftover from the patio resurface earlier in the summer.
With the base built all we needed to do was get the pizza oven on it! Our friend Dave who owns a log burning stove shop came over with a pallet truck to move it closer…
It was now in front of the base, but the next step was going to be the hardest part!
Jim’s big birthday arrived and we couldn’t wait any longer! We checked the combustion temperature of wood (!!) and decided we’d risk lighting the oven whilst it was still on the pallet… Amazing pizzas were duly served!
We used it several times over the next few weeks (including cooking pizza for all the kids at Theo’s birthday party) but we were still no closer to getting it on the base. We lost count of the number of people who suggested bits of kit like engine hoists which would raise the oven up, but all of them have bits that stick out of the front, so wouldn’t allow us to get it both up…and over!
In the end we had to hire a gantry and hoist. The wrong hoist was delivered, so Jim had to run out to a different hire company to get the right hoist and complete the lift in the day!
The entire operation took us about two months (with a lot of waiting around) cost four figures (!) and was far from straight forward, but it was a big birthday!! The oven was in place just in time for Alice’s second birthday so we cooked Kleftiko for lunch which was amazing… so amazing in fact that we ate all of it before I even thought to take a photo – ooops!
The oven has been in its new home for three weeks now and it’s no exaggeration to say that it has been lit (for one reason or another) every day that Jim has been home! We haven’t worked out exactly which dish we’ll be cooking in it, but we’re pretty certain it’ll be in use on Christmas day too.