Hola y Buenos Dias.....I'm so glad to have found this forum and look forward to learning and sharing. I started my first fire in my new oven yesterday and reviewing posts has already helped with my anxiety and education...thanks!!
My wife Vaughn and I love to cook. We prefer gas to electric for indoors and enjoy outdoor BBQ. My speciality is making Paella over a wood fire which I've done for as many as 60 people. We are fortunate enough to enjoy a Villa on the east coast of Spain and purchased a wood fired oven over a year ago. I have been coming to Javea (Xabia) Spain for 35 years since my parents built a villa here and retired in the late '70's. They had 30 great years here. (Are you familar with the Fallas of Valencia? The burn over 500 statues in march among continuous fireworks! talk about pyro's)
I finally installed the oven last spring. It is a package oven unit built in Spain and found in the hardware/building supply stores here. The one we bought was damaged/cracked but it will not impact the finished produce. It is a one meter diameter oven (inside) with a small hearth and frontal chimney with damper. The door is a removable cast steel panel with twin dampers and an inspection hole. Basically a round formed firebrick dome, built on a firebrick base with a steel collar and rings for lifting. It has a coating on the outside. It comes with a concrete stand/base.
I installed the oven in a corner of two concrete walls outside on a terrace. I then put some forms in the three corners formed by the round oven and the two walls to pour some concrete on and plug these openings. I purchased a product called "arlite" which is lightweight clay balls used for gardening and insulation purposes. I used "yeso" which is basically plaster of paris as a binder. (First attempt was a disaster as I mixed the balls and the plaster in a cement mixture...what a mess since it set up too fast.) Then I just worked up an outer form and poured the clay balls inside as I worked it's way up. I used the plaster of paris mixture to cement the balls in place and also some chicken wire to help the support. I used a lot of the clay balls and the finished produce it pretty large. I ended up by skinning the whole oven with two layers of cement.
So this lump of an oven cured for 8 months in the hot spanish sun. Yesteday I started a small fire and continued to feed it for 24 hours finally reaching the clear/white phase inside today. It's been a fun first day after waiting such a long time...I think 18 months since purchasing due to remodeling work on the old villa. I've got a digital laser thermometer which has been great.
What I've learned the first day is causing some modifications. I am going to build a warming oven under the unit since the hearth base is accessible and it's warm under there. By enclosing this space I can help retain heat under the hearth and have a useful place for slow cooking, heating plates, drying foods, etc. I'll have a door made to fit the opening I create.
The rest of the base is used to store firewood. We got a load of olive wood today. Other wood available is pine and orange. Interesting...
Again thanks for your posts, they've helped. Any questions or comments are welcome.
We're so looking forward to a weekend of cooking. I need to look at recipes now!
No what should be on my menu list??
Start with some Pizzas or Cocas/coques (small pizzas)
Roast Lamb, maybe some chickens
Eggplant, red peppers and onions
Halved red onions with honey and balsamic
Bread of course.
What are some of your favorites?
Michigan and Javea. That's quite a combination. We had a house outside Denia for years, so I can picture where you are -- we still know families in Xabia (and can even remember the spraypainted Valenciano over the road signs). Not many Americans down that way -- how did you find Javea?
It's still winter, so I am guessing your oven is a little damp. If you burn a nice series of daily fires for 3-5 days to take the moisture out, your oven will cook better and better. The orange wood will burn much better than the pine. You can do roasts and vegatables -- and empanadas. There is a great thread on this forum on empanadas from Argentina. You should read it; very fun. Correct me if I am wrong, but don't empanadas originate from Spain?
I will wait to hear if you start making rice dishes in your wood-fired oven. The home of Paella is about 30 miles from your house, so you have it all. Welcome aboard; I can't wait to hear more. Send photos!
Well James, it can be a small world sometimes. Yes, Denia is just over the hill under the Montgo we both share. It's where we enjoyed our first fallas about 25 years ago! We still love the main street of the town and go to the market there.
....a little family history.
I was born in Singapore to an American mother and a British father. My mother was born in Illinois, learned fluent spanish going to school in Mexico and spent time in Colombia and Guatemala where she was with the American Consulate. She transferred to Burma. My father was born in Derbyshire, was a military engineer in India and transerred to Burma. They married in Burma and moved to Singapore where they had 3 sons before moving to Toronto where they had a fourth son.
On a trip to Spain in 1969 they found Javea, enjoying a seafront cafe that is still there. They built a small villa on the hill overlooking the port and purblo of Javea. Their villa was built by a woman architect/builder in the traditonal Cordoban style with valenciano ceilings and hand made floor tiles.
We first came here in 1977 after we were married and spent a few months. We used to walk to the Javea market! At that time there was no piped water so we had a deposito and trucked in water. Fireplace and portable butano heaters. Franco was in power and the Guardia Civil travelled around with maching guns on motor bikes. Lots of elderly people with missing limbs from the Spanish Civil War. It was quite an experience.
Now 35 years later Spain has changed from a backwards country (with open sewers and garbage dumps all over) where much was done by hand and few modern vehicles to a world class economy where Audi's, BMW's and Mercedes are commonplace. There has been incredible growth and change in Spain as there has in many places. My parents both passed recently and we purchased the villa from the estate.
Javea is a special place that has avoided the seafront high rises and keeps all buildings up to 5 floors so the views are great, of the sea or the mountains. It's changed a lot but there are still many touches of Spain and great aspects to the town and Costa Blanca coastline. There are numerous great restaruants, many using wood fired stoves and ovens. One on the Plana uses a rotating wood fired oven. Our favorite is the one in Gata.
I want to thank you for this website and this forum. I have found a lot of valuable information quite quickly. I did not know FB existed when we found our oven (that I found in Denia) but am glad to know you now.
They still paint the road signs and buildings in Valenciano too! And yes, I think empanadas are from spain, we buy them in the shops here...spinach, tomatoe and anchovies. They also do some small pizza about 5" round with similar toppings.
We'll be adding some recipes too.
So when do you come back to Spain so we can spend a day cooking?
Oven Photo...as promised
I will be finishing both sides with countertops, BBQ and sink to make this our outdoor kitchen area.
Photo is from the first day we cooked with the oven...8 pizzas and 4 loaves of wheat bread.
I'm still smiling!
Re: Spanish Dreaming and a rich heritage
(M) Jim, your description of life in your Spanish town is a fascinating read! I spent 2 years in Vienna but had no masonry oven :(
(M) I'm looking forward to Moor pictures ;)
Re: Spanish Dreaming
Marcel, James....here is a picture of Javea, also known as Xabia in Valenciano and sometime in the past as Jabia. My mom was a historian who wrote a few books on the area....There are Roman salt works by the sea here, Visigoth cemetaries under the town hall. The main road around the town was at one time the medieval walls of the city. Note the fortified church in the center of town. A slice of Iberian culture to be enjoyed.
Re: Spanish Dreaming
Glad to read your posts but sad I can't actually see the views and eat the food. I spent many years in Toronto and now live in the country to the north and east. So, I guess it really is a small world. Keep the posts coming.
Jim (the Canuck one)
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