Baking bread with mud: Hendrik Lepel pizza oven building workshop

When the Husband and I stayed at Gort na Nain in May, I admired Ultan and Lucy’s recently built outdoor wood-fired oven. A sturdy stone-clad structure that they can use to bake pizza and bread, it sits in a magnificent location, on the then-sunny patio outside their kitchen, looking across the hills to the sparkling blue sea. My interest piqued, they put me in contact with the builder, Hendrik Lepel, and I asked him to keep me updated about any future breadoven building workshops.

On one of my rare weekends that actually incorporated both Saturday and Sunday (two so far, this year!) Hendrik happened to be holding a workshop at the Mallow Racecourse, building an oven for the Garden Fair. So, with visions of savoury pizzas and fresh-baked breads dancing in my head, I promptly signed up. Alas, torrential rain on the Saturday put an end to that day’s workshop but Hendrik persevered and the following day saw a small group of be-wellied participants gather to build under a tarpaulin at the racecourse.

Despite even more rain, that evening we had completed all three layers over the wet newspaper-covered domed sand mould that Hendrik had shaped the previous day. The following week it was successfully used to cook the most delicious pizzas at the Garden Festival – I was working in town but several of my customers gave me great reports on how well the oven was working.

Hendrik’s next workshop will be taking place at Kealkil, near Bantry in West Cork over the weekend of 23-24 of August, is limited to eight participants and is priced at €120 per person, including lunch. For more information and for bookings, contact Hendrik at 086 8838400 or email kirdnehl@hotmail.com. As for me, I still have good intentions and am on a search for some subsoil to build my own oven. I just need someone to do some digging for me!

You can see some pictures of one of the first breadovens that Hendrik built on Irish Allotments.

Caroline

Caroline

Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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4 Responses

  1. Julian says:

    I thank you for the mention. It seems as though a few people are finding the site; so, with a little more effort on their part and ours, a few more allotments might get off the ground (as it were). If you can arrange a dry day in winter for a digging party, I’ll come and swing a pick for you!

  2. Caroline says:

    No problem, Julian – I know I’d be well-interested in an allotment, if I didn’t have a half-acre that I can’t currently keep on top of at the moment! Our garden seemed to do better last summer with a policy of benign neglect, especially as we could only work on it during the weekends.As regards the subsoil, I might yet have a source. We’re hoping to put an entrance in at the side of the cottage in the near future, weather willing, and I’ll be keeping an eagle eye on the soil that emerges from that.

  3. Mary says:

    I can smell the mixed grill roasting now :-)This reminds me that the Italian craftsmen living in our neighbourhood aren’t getting any younger. So if we want it to be a local effort (I should be careful what I wish for), it will have to be sooner, rather than later and in a perfect world, similar to Heinrik’s second photo, made of gorgeous Central Otago schist.It’s a great project, good luck with your oven!ciao

  4. Caroline says:

    I was just reading Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Meat cookbook and there’s a small section on cooking meat in these ovens. Good to have reminders of your plans every so often! Although, this summer in Ireland the weather hasn’t been very conducive to any outdoor activity. Roll on the hoped-for Indian Summer!

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