Deep pan, crisp and even - I had pizza in the garden on Christmas Day and loved it

Nick Richards, right, enjoying pizza for Christmas with friend Steve Wood in London

Nick Richards, right, enjoying pizza for Christmas with friend Steve Wood in London - Credit: Archant

There wasn't a turkey in sight for Nick Richards this Christmas Day as he opted for an al fresco festive feast with friends

No, I didn't burn the turkey, no it wasn't a takeaway and no, it wasn't an anti-social meal for one.

It was a decision taken at the end of this year's scorching summer to do Christmas a little bit differently on a day when most people don't actually venture outside for more than a few minutes.

I will explain.

For the last decade I've spent most of my August bank holidays in a corner of south-east London not far from what was once the Millennium Dome.

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My friend Steve has a birthday at the end of August and it usually involves a party with a food theme.

Over the years we've had Indian, Mexican, American and this year it was Italian, largely because he'd just bought one of those outdoor pizza ovens.

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Despite coming at the end of a record-breaking summer, this year's pizza party came with a side order of rain. But it got us all thinking - what if we could replicate that carefree summer feeling in winter. More specifically, could we do it on Christmas Day?

It would join the ranks of other non-traditional Christmas Days I've enjoyed this century - the one in the Channel Islands, the one eating fish pie in London and the one eating steak sandwiches on a campsite in New Zealand.

But this was the most different Christmas dinner I've ever had, and I have to say the most relaxed, stress-free and joyful one ever.

Along with my wife and two boys, aged six and three, we were invited back to London for Christmas as part of a hotch-potch gathering of people which totalled nine adults and eight kids under eight. Later, the next door neighbours came round too

Shorn of the festive timetable, it was a rolling feast.

The pizza oven stayed on kicking out its 260C heat, providing a focal point which to gather around. Nobody cared what time it was, nobody said: 'We'll do dinner for 4pm'. Nobody was left in the kitchen peeling sprouts, trimming parsnips, chopping carrots or doing that weird tin-scraping dance when you make gravy using the dregs of what the turkey was cooked in.

Most importantly, nobody felt left out.

The TV stayed off (sorry your majesty), the music was cranked up and new friendships were made while we created a pizza revolution.

Pizzas were assembled in seconds with toppings such as sprouts, figs and pigs in blankets and we ate them over several hours in between dancing in the kitchen, playing with the children and watching the youngsters bounce around on the trampoline late into the night.

It was so liberating not to have to lubricate my body in readiness for a food avalanche. We didn't have to sit at a table with kids who have the staying power of a dog at a doorbell convention and I didn't have to retire to the armchair with a 5,000 calorie debt, fall asleep and wake up to board game Armageddon.

At 7pm, while most of the nation had inhaled a calorie intake that would run Hertfordshire for a week, I was burning off more calories than I'd eaten, throwing some questionable dance moves to music from Vanilla Ice to Guns N' Roses.

I realise having a traditional sit-down Christmas dinner is a key part of the big day for a lot of people but for me it splits the day in half – everyone seems to enjoy the bit before dinner but is too fed up to move afterwards.

I don't feel like I missed out on anything this year. I had a blast.

And I if need any festive feedback on how it went, I just need to remember that lovely look in my six-year-old son's eyes when he'd voluntarily stayed up until 1am and was totally broken inside but I know he'd had a Christmas Day to always remember.

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