This is from an email I received from Angela who lives in Southern Italy. She has lived there for the past 13 years and has been learning to cook with wood. She has sent me pictures, information and recipes which I have included. The following is from her emails.
My oven pit is a common kitchen item here, but with the older houses. The newer ones do not want hassles with wood smoke and cooking because it is a very slow cooking method but nothing beats the flavor. the shape is a cross between a hexagon and a arrowhead with the base height of just over 2 ft from pavement up, about 3’3″ deep from tip of triangle to outer border, it is really a weird shape the triangle walls are about over 2 feet. The best way I can describe is a block arrow. The opening has a roll down metal door.
Recipes as you can see are cooked in terracotta pans, cast iron is harder to find here. But you must 1st ‘bake’ the pan before using or will crack when you cook with it the 1st time, this is done by placing boiling water in it and then placing in a hot water bath all night. Then it is ready.
As far as recipes, you can do all with them that you normally cook on stove or bake in oven.
Beans——soak in water all night or use baking soda soak for an hour or two rinse and place in terracotta pan that has a terracotta cover, add a clove garlic, a bayleaf or two, about 2 tomatoes quartered cover with water and place on a tripod that has hot coals under and around. That’s it. keep those hot coals going, (every now and then I remove pan refresh coals place tripod and pan back in place) keep checking and keep adding water if it starts getting low, have to keep them covered in water, I usually keep another terracotta pan in there as well so that I add hot water as needed. both these need covers to avoid getting flying debris and dust in. Then taste test, when they are almost tender I add salt and pepper to season and allow the water then to simmer down so I get a thicker sauce instead of bean soup, choice is yours. Then serve it in a variety of ways, alone with side of toasted Italian bread, with a drizzle of olive oil or a drizzle of bacon fried oil or over rice or over elbow pasta. But this is the base recipe.
Alternatives, use chick peas instead, done same way or Lentils.
Another, any type of cut up beef pieces, I like using lamb for instance, Place lamb in dish add onions potatoes (quartered or diced) carrots celery, whatever you want, olive oil, white wine, about a cup of water,(with liquids enough to half cover but not too much to make soup) and spices that you like(I use bay leaf, sage, rosemary and a pinch of oregano) again it is a personal preference. Add 1/2 bouillon cube just to give a pinch more flavor. Easy on salt tho, that cube can pack much sodium, add pepper. Place on tripod over hot coals also keep coals also tucked around bottom border, not that much otherwise cooks and burns too quickly, keep checking every now and then, when tender ready to serve. There is absolutely not to it. (and if u really want to enhance flavor put all ingredients in pan—liquids and spices mix add beef and let marinate stirring every so often. Keep in fridge all night then next day add veggies and cook)
Fire cooking is just time consuming, because you have to keep an eye over it and stir and also refresh coals as needed. But nothing beats the taste. You can do this with an ordinary fireplace put it must be deep enough or the sides far enough out that u can have a fire going on one side for coals and then on the other you have your dish.
As soon as I get more fotos uploaded will send. and try to get more recipes out to you, sorry if I don’t have exact measurements but I am a ”pinch of this, pinch of that” type cook. hahahahahaha I rarely use them. I have started cooking this way last year, so I am a novice, for the newbies I recommend start off with beans, that way is something goes awry no loss didn’t cost you a lot to throw out. Here’s a laugh, my 1st meat dish was lamb, so tender and flavorful rivaled any chef. I thought great am getting hang of this. My next dish was Chicken, oh yes tender and flavorful, so tender that even the bones fragmented, I had literally cremated the bird. hahahahaaha, oops, maybe I cooked just a weeeeeeeeeeeee bit to long! Better luck next time……hahahaha Still edible and was great but ya had to chew slooooooowly risked cracking a tooth when encountering a small piece of bone. So cook times vary because the heat is never constant like in a traditional oven. How many coals u have, then they start going out, need to refresh coals, so there are no set times, that is why it becomes a lengthy process.
Hopes this gives you some ideas.