Dreaming of an earth oven – part 1

www.earthovens.co.uk started it – a Sunday afternoon’s lazy random browsing on the internet clicking from link to mindless link, and all of a sudden I’d found my new project – I wanted an earth oven!!! So I enrolled on the course, last May, on a rainy Herefordshire weekend, and spent two days with 8 fellow dreamers learning how to build a traditional bread oven out of mud. A fab weekend it was too, despite the inclement weather – excellently facilitated by the knowledgeable and laid back Richard Scadding, and hosted in a friends idyllic converted chapel in the Marches, complete with existing bakehouse and earth oven, which produced some fine baked goodies throughout the weekend.

digging the foundations
digging the foundations
mixing concrete
mixing concrete
tapping and smoothing
tapping and smoothing
the finished foundations
the finished foundations and bakehouse

Anyway, that was 2008, enough deliberation. I have been champing at the bit for over a year now, and finally my own project is under way – I’m aiming to finish in time for Lammas, the ancient harvest festival celebrated by baking a loaf with autumns first grain, on 1st August. Check out the Real Bread Campaign for other events happening in celebration of Lammas.

I’ll be hijacking loafonline to chart the highs and lows of the project over the next few weeks, and if anyone wants to get involved then drop me a line at info@loafonline.co.uk – any willing feet for puddling, or bricklaying expertise will be gratefully received! I’m also hoping to share the finished oven too, not just keep it to myself, perhaps get some community baking going – so if this sounds up your street, do get in touch.

This weekend, with a little help, the foundations got dug, and the concrete got poured. I’ve also had a shelter/bakehouse built by a carpenter friend, which eventually will have a sedum roof on top. The foundations are a foot deep as I think the plinth and oven combined will potentially weigh a couple of  tons! As the photos show, the plinth is circular and about 4 foot across. The concrete was poured on Sunday and is nice and hard already so I should be all set for starting the brickwork this weekend, I’ll let you know how I get on!

Tom.

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Taste of Birmingham 2009 Review

The OrientalThis was loaf’s first year at Taste of Birmingham. We went on opening night (Thursday 9th July), with a small budget, on the hunt for real food from Birmingham and the Midlands. Cannon Hill Park was sunny and inviting, though the atmosphere was a bit like a high-powered networking event – packs of after-work suits stood around sipping champagne on expenses; loaf feeling a little out of place like we’dforgottento get dressed.

Anyhoo, the hunt began after loaf exchanged it’s meagre funds for the equivalent in crowns (the official event ‘currency’ – 1 = 2 crowns). There seemed little point in having crowns (a variable exchange rate might make it more interesting) and some of the stall holders were unofficially ignoring it and taking cash with raised eye-brows.deli - taste There are 16 or so local restaurants represented, serving out three dishes each – the busiest were the big names (Simpson’s, Filini, Cielo), and those with the most descriptive menu’s (Thai Edge, Lasan, Fushion Brasserie). Mal Maison were twiddling thumbs most of the night – their menu (‘Mal Burger’ et al) could have fitted into one SMS to the organisers the night before the event.Disappointedby the absence of Turners and Purnells (loaf was assured they’ll be present on Saturday and Sunday), loaf opted for Simpson’s delicate and sweet carpaccio of sashimi tuna with summer fruits scented with basil and verjus syrup, followed by Thai Edge’s hearty lamb penang with jasmine rice.

The Small Producers Market uncovered one or two local producers – Just Oil producing rapeseed oil in various forms from it’s farm in Staffordshire, and the excellent Purity Brewing Company from Warwickshire, but the most exciting producer was Freedom Lager, a Staffordshire brewery claiming to be the only lager-only microbrewery in England. Both their organic lagers were smooth and enjoyable, and the company owner was selling the stuff, and clearly passionate about his product. With the strong influence of Heart of England Fine Foods on the festival, loaf hoped to have seen more local producers than there were, but then the festival is more big business than earthy and organic, so maybe that was a turn off from some of the smaller artisans.

ticket

The entertainment highlight of the nightwas watching ‘Bobby’ sing Georgia on the BRMB stage, accompanied by the Jam House band – Bobby was a regular punter over here on holiday from LA, and was plucked out of the crowd to strut his stuff, a magical moment!

There’s still time to head down there for the Saturday or Sunday sessions, and it’s certainly worth a look around.

Photos courtesy of Greensnapper Photography


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