My endlessly practical friend Hamish (builds his own houses, sails the oceans single-handed, butchers his own meat and raises generous bees) excelled himself in the eyes of my children last summer by knocking up his own pizza oven.
During the course of three intense weekends, Hamish artfully toiled with brick, cement and vermiculite to create what looks like the type of white-painted religious shrine found on Greek islands but which, with the addition of a few logs and a match, quickly becomes a roaring furnace capable of cooking a pizza to perfection in about 90 seconds.
I subsequently spent the remainder of the summer being made to feel inadequate by my family for my lack of oven building skills – but now feel thoroughly redeemed for discovering a thing called Roccbox, a pizza oven that trumps Hamish’s DIY effort on every front.
Made by Dorset-based stone-floor-oven specialist Gozney – that has supplied its commercial units to top pizza outlets around the world, as well as to the Marriott hotel chain and Richard Branson’s Necker Island –the Roccbox is a brilliant, portable, multi-fuel oven that enables the production of perfect pizzas any time, anywhere, from your own back garden to the beach to the “glamp” site.
Although undeniably “portable”, the 20kg Roccbox (£499) is certainly no lightweight, comprising a domed, open-door oven made from layers of heavily insulated stainless steel and with a porous stone floor. Supported on three nifty, fold-out legs, it can be heated to a searing 500ºC using a choice of easily-interchangeable burners – one designed for use with wood, the other for attaching to a gas canister.
Either way, the Roccbox quickly reaches operating temperature and will cook a deliciously crisp-based pizza from start to finish in a single minute. Admittedly, it costs a little more than Hamish spent on his home-built effort – but I’d like to see him take that to the beach…