Thursday, 29 May 2014

In the beginning...

Charlie's Best Domestic oven pizza -  home made
All my life I have enjoyed Pizza. When I was kid my mum and dad would take me to Pizza Land on Union Street in Aberdeen for my birthday treat. I would get to eat a whole Pizza to myself! Washed down with a Coke. ...That was a long time ago.  I'm 38 now and since being married to an Italian wife my culinary experience has improved..a lot!
 When I first met Barbara my dish to impress was a fantastic fusion of flavour inspired by my drinking buddies. The ingredients were 1 packet of pasta, 1 lump of cheddar cheese grated and a can of beans. Method... Boil pasta, add the rest of the ingredients, stir so it doesn't burn onto the bottom of the pan too much. Eat.----(YUK) "I'm not eating that" she said.
I've come to really enjoy cooking and I'm pretty good at it I'm told. I have no training just a love of doing it. Italian food is one of my favorites of course.  Though I have never quite managed to make a real pizza taste anything close to what they can in Italy.  I also find that even in the restaurants in the UK very few come close to it. I have come to the understanding that this is down to the oven.  Domestic ovens just can't do pizza justice.

About five years ago I came across a website based in California called that has some fantastic pictures of Pizza ovens, sells pizza ovens and even gives you kits you can build yourself. They are very nice but very expensive. Understandably. However they also give away for free a plan to build an oven for free using your own locally sourced materials.
It is a lot of work and requires patience, time and a bit of muscle. But given it would cost many thousands of pounds to buy a pizza oven it is really the only avenue for me. I can not afford to buy one so I will try to build it as best I can and for as little as possible without compromising too much.  I am not aware of any other real Pompei style Pizza ovens in Aberdeen made from stone. If you know of one please let me know.

I have no building experience with masonry.  I'm not bad at DIY I've done all the works in my houses of the years. I make my living as an Accordionist. So if I can build this oven successfully it would be safe to say most competent people should be able to do it.

I am going to document my progress with photos and text and keep you up to date with the running costs. I hope it might inspire others in Scotland to build their own Pizza ovens and experience a real Pizza.

The design of the Pizza oven is thousands of years old and it is still the best way to cook Pizza. It's also sustainable and very cheap to run after the initial investment of building it.

I should also mention my oldest son Marco loves Pizza. I'm taking him to Pizza Express tonight for a Pizza. It's his 8th birthday.  He has been helping to build the oven and he will be a judge on whether I can make a Pizza taste better than Pizza Express, the one on Belmont Street in Aberdeen probably does the best Pizza I have tasted in this far.

 Here is a photo of a friends oven in Sardinia. We visited Gianluca last month in April. He recently moved into his new house which already has a Pizza oven and he hadn't used it yet. I convinced him we should give it a try. We weren't very organised but still we managed to pull off a great pizza with no experience with the oven or even a proper recipe to follow.

This trip was the last piece of inspiration required to trigger my 5 years of dreaming about building an oven in my own back garden.

Gianluca starting the fire. Kali the dog watching curiously.

The prototype

Here goes!

They cook fast!

Weel, that was Gianluca's oven in Sardinia. Very nice.  So what can I do here in Aberdeen if I want a genuine taste of ancient roman cooking in my own garden, where it won't matter if there's a power cut or not.

Here is our progress so far.... (Cost £0.00)
The site

The cheap labour

'Please sir, can we get paid now?'

The hole for the foundation. Not deep enough yet.
Building a frame for concrete 2.2m X 1.9m

The hole we dug right down to the hard clay for a good base. Approx 18 inches deep. The 6" X 2" wood I had lying around from a previous project so no cost.

Frame put into hole to check size.

Hardcore in hole for sound foundation.
 The re-cycled hardcore came from Leith's quarry, Cove.  I used 1.44 tons and picked it up in a large trailer. It cost £11.40. I had to wheelbarrow it in from the street as there is no vehicle access to the back garden. Who need's the gym?

Mesh for re-inforcing concrete being cut by my dad.
The mesh was lying around at my dads. No cost here again. Just a home made fish supper.
 Using a Vibrating plate to compact hardcore. My dad just happened to own one so no cost here again.
Finished hardcore ready for concrete.
 Damp proof membrane from Toolstation, Aberdeen Altens. 3m x 4m (£7.76)

Positioning frame and iron concrete re-inforcing mesh. Checking levels.

 Just used broken pieces of garden edging slab to keep a space between the 2 layers of mesh and the top and bottom of the slab foundation. Ready for adding concrete.

To make concrete I bought 1.82 tons (£49.19) of all in Concrete mix from Leiths. I picked it up in a trailer and barrowed it in again.  The mix is of 20mm gravel and building sand. You add the cement. I needed 10 25Kg bags from B&Q bridge of Dee @ £4 per bag.
 My dad owns the mixer..That's another haddock supper.

 The finished Slab for the oven base.

The Financial Cost So Far

  • £11.40 - 1.44 tons Recycled hardcore
  • £7.76  - Damp proof membrane
  • £40.00 - 10 x 25kg bags of mastercrete cement from B&Q
  • £49.19 - 1.82 tons of concrete mix (sand & gravel)
Total = £108.35


I haven't been counting the time. I did a bit then had to go do something else and have been on and off for a week. I think probably I spent minimum around 10 hours so far with the digging of the hole, getting the materials and mixing the concrete.

How do I feel?  pretty good. So far it's been easier than anticipated and I'm looking forward to seeing it take shape. It's a work in progress and I've changed my mind on how it will look several times already.  I can't wait to cook a Pizza in it.

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