THE PIT OVEN IS THE OLDEST FORM OF OVEN ON THE PLANET. GIVEN TIME, THESE HOT UNDERGROUND HOLES TRANSFORM EVEN TOUGHER JOINTS OF MEAT INTO MELTINGLY TENDER FAVOURITES.
Braising is the classic way of cooking
larger pieces of meat marbled with fat and sinews. The key to braising is a pot with a tight-fitting lid which allows cuts like pork roast and leg of lamb or all types of poultry to cook in their own juices at a low temperature for hours on end. Anyone who doesn’t want to limit themselves to braising in the kitchen can take it outside – and build their own pit oven (provided they don’t mind breaking into a sweat). Interested? All you need is a spade, some stones, turf and soil. And if you think this all sounds a bit adventurous, in Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, it’s a popular tradition enjoyed with friends and family – not least due to the fantastic flavours which develop.
For building an earth oven you need a spade and some field stones. Keep the strip of sod to close the hole afterwards. Tip: A fireproof roasting dish keeps the roast nice and clean.
Use a spade to dig a hole in the ground that is roughly 50 cm deep and twice as wide as the roast. Line the bottom and the sides of the hole with stones and then make a wood fire in the pit which burns down to produce sufficient embers. While the fire burns, prepare the meat (see recipe booklet). You can wrap the meat in banana leaves or soaked parchment paper, or use an oven-proof cooking pot.
Once the fire has burned down, take a few of the hot stones out, place the meat or pot on the embers and then cover it with the rest of the hot stones. Close the pit with cut grass and earth. A kilogram of meat will be ready around two hours later. If it rains, transfer the whole thing into the kitchen and use a clay pot to braise the meat (two hours at 200 ° C).