Tandoori time

Tandoori time

Making your own tandoori oven is really simple. Why not make one yourself, and cook up some great meals on skewers?
No matter what shape or size they are, tandoori ovens work on a simple principle. They are made of clay, they are well insulated, they are cylindrical, and they curve inwards towards the top, to concentrate the heat. The top is an open vent for access and ventilation. A fire is built in the bottom, and there must be enough air circulation to keep the fire burning. The temperature inside the oven can reach up to 480 °C during the heating phase. Once the fire burns down, the temperature drops and remains constant for a long time. Naan bread is traditionally cooked by sticking it to the sides of the oven, while long skewers of meat and vegetables are placed in the oven where the heat simultaneously bakes, roasts and grills it. This combination cooks meat quickly, searing in the flavours.
Our simple DIY project uses terracotta pots as the base for a tandoori oven.

What you need

  • 1 very large terracotta pot (we used a 65 cm pot)
  • 2 medium terracotta pots of the same size (we used 30 cm pots)
  • 1 large bag of vermiculite
  • 1 small bag of stones
  • 3 pot feet
  • 3 bricks
  • The rim of an old terracotta pot, broken into three pieces

What you do

1 Use an angle grinder to cut the bottom off one of the medium pots.

2 Drill extra holes in the bottom of the other medium pot, to form the central base.

3 Place the large pot on top of the bricks, where you want the braai to be. The bricks help with the air circulation.

4 Place the pot feet in the bottom of the large pot. Place the three broken pieces of pot rim in a circle at the bottom of the large pot, under the medium pot – this prevents the layer of stones (see Step 5) from pushing under the medium pot and reducing airflow.

5­ Place the medium pot with the extra holes in the bottom onto the pot feet, and surround it with a layer of stones.

6­ Place a piece of grid in the base of this medium pot, to lift the ‑ re and improve air circulation from below.

7­ Pour vermiculite into the large pot, to form a heat-insulating layer around the medium pot.

8­ Make a small ‑ re in the base of the pot on top of the grid. Place the pot that you have cut the bottom off upside down on top of the ‑ first medium pot, and you are ready to cook.

The Gardener