Tuesday 14 September 2010

A Wood-Fired Pizza Oven

It is an absolute bugger-load of fun playing around with a swelteringly hot oven, designed specifically to make pizzas so that they are bubbling and slightly blistered around the edges. When Scott of Capital Pubs said their new pub, The Actress in East Dulwich would have one, there was extreme palpable excitement, especially since I'm already a huge fan of some of their other pubs in the area (namely The Florence and The Victoria Inn). Even more so when he suggested we go down there and have a play with it before the pub opened.

I've long since coveted a pizza oven since Cassius was first born, but alas, my balcony in New Cross would not accomodate it. This was the perfect opportunity to try it out, cooking pizzas at 375 degrees centigrade and to have a little taste of their new menu. Cider-braised pork ribs, falling off the bone and charred around the edges, had us fighting over them while the dough was being rolled out. There was a twist to the tale though; in keeping with the new pub's British ingredients ethic, we were to bring a mystery one of our own.

Potato slices par-cooked with garlic went on the first base and were topped with grated Cashel Blue and Stilton. The dough was just thin enough to convey the starchy slices, a double-carb heaven. I imagine this pizza is best for sharing, as it was rich and gutsy.

Thinly sliced pieces of beetroot, our first mystery guest ingredient worked surprisingly well, mingling nicely with melting pieces of goats cheese.

When it was my turn, I produced samphire; its crunchy, salty quality would match well with a soft, delicate ricotta along with globs of brown crab, rounds of chilli and, when cooked, topped with white meat.

Drizzled with garlic oil, it worked well had it been a home effort. The crab worked deliciously with the samphire, redolent of the sea but the crucial juiciness was missing and it's not one likely to make the menu.

Better was the professionally made chorizo pizza, made with Brindisa chorizo. Far more balanced in flavour, and far better suited to please the masses.

The best of the mystery ingredients was thinly sliced pieces of pear, paired with some sort of ham. We all agreed that the sweet, succulent slices balanced with the salty meat and gooey cheese worked brilliantly.

There were other successes, mainly pork based, and one proper wrong one - a haggis and potato slice topped pizza. Still, you've got to try, right? A revelation of the night involved a sweet dessert pizza; a Starburst bar wrapped into a calzone. Molten chocolate dribbled into my hands with a hint of peanut. A perfect sweet end.

The Actress doesn't open until Monday, but with what is so far a simple, pared down menu featuring good British ingredients, they already look like they're onto a winner. Don't worry, I don't think they'll be forcing a haggis pizza on you any time soon.

The Actress (website to follow)

90 Crystal Palace Road,
East Dulwich
, SE22 9EY


Jonathan said...

Haggis pizza? I guess you've got to try everything once. We encountered nutella pizza in Sardinia which looked good. And I am delighted that little old Cassius got a mention. Bless his little clay socks.

I'm very intrigued by adding pear. I'm sure a few Italians will be getting very cross about the whole thing. But if that's the case they had better not come over here - kebab pizza with chips and tomato sauce is not considered uncouth!

PDH said...

I love those ovens, getting the pizza's on and off the paddles involves some surprisingly tricky wrist skills but really good fun! Looks a lot like the day I had at Fire and Stone trying out their pizzas as well. Pear and Ham sounds like the future to me as well!

Anonymous said...

You parcooked the spud? I wacked it on raw when I did it. Doesn't take thin slices of spud too long to cook at those temps.

Looks like a great fun evening though and gutted to have turned it down.

Anonymous said...

My little old pear pizza has found fame! Was tasty. Loved Jassy's fig and fennel salami one too. All about the fruit pizzas!

Looks like The Actress will be a welcome addition to East Dulwich - look forward to working my way through many a pizza in there.

Marisa Leaf said...

Ooo any idea how they made the cider braised pork ribs?? I'd lovely a recipe for that to try out! Sounds incredible.

Chris Pople said...

I think you were just all jealous of my haggis idea. If the Actress put it on their menu it would sell out, but of course they just don't want to pay me any royalties.

The pizzas were fun, but I thought the seared, juicy lamb was my favourite thing all evening. That oven is VERY good at cooking meat.

Tom said...

I wish south London had been like this when I grew up there. Sob sob..

It looks like pizza is London is getting better and better. Awesome

tobias cooks! said...

Great oven. Looks fab.

Hengki Budi Prasetyo said...

Anyhow, I like pizza whatever their kinds of pizza. Liz, You are English, can show me the origin cuisine of English, because I will try.

Dan said...

So jealous. Love a decent pizza, looks like such fun messing around with quality ingredients and wood fired oven and at someone elses expense. Cracking!!