I've blogged about cooking on my Aga before, back in the day when I used the oil fired Aga in our rented farmhouse in Oxfordshire, but it's one thing I get asked a lot of questions about. From overseas readers asking just what an Aga actually is and from people lucky enough to be getting a new Aga or moving into a house that has one.
So I thought I'd do a quick recap for anyone interested.
My Aga is a re-conditioned two oven electric model, is a lovely traditional shade of cream. They are also known as 'range cookers'. It is made from cast iron and filled with a kind of heat retaining gravel....
... as you can see in this picture when she was being installed.
They are so heavy they arrive completely in pieces and it usually takes a team of two guys a full working day to get it assembled and working.
This is something that is not a pre-requisite for Aga owners ... but you will find that if you have dogs and cats they will naturally congregate round this lovely great hulking beast of hot metal.
I find that cooking on an Aga is very instinctive once you learn which parts have what heat available and how to control that heat by moving your pans around.
There are two hotplates on top, the left hand side one is the boiling plate, once things have come to a boil you can move them over to the side of the plate so the whole of the bottom of the pan is not touching it, thus reducing the heat getting to the pan, or switch to using the other side which is the simmering plate.
For things like rice or boiled potatoes once they have come to the boil they are best transferred to the lower simmering oven, that way you can put down the lid and conserve the Aga's heat. Things cook beautifully this way and it means you are using your heat wisely.
You can also cook directly on the hot plates, using a non stick baking mat makes for easier cleaning up.
With both lids down I tend to put the heat proof mats on, this means that if something gets put on top of the Aga the lovely shiny lids don't get scratched. As you can see here we always have a kettle full of water sat at the back, this we use for washing up or whenever we need hot but not boiling water, I like to think it's a way of getting 'free' hot water instead of always running the hot tap.
The top oven on my two oven model is the roasting oven.
By moving the shelf into different positions you can control the temperature you are cooking at. For instance if you want to grill something, cheese on toast for example, moving the grid shelf to the top runners will mean that the intense heat of the top of the oven will grill things nicely. The lowest runner I use for cakes and if I want to 'fry' something I would put the tray or pan directly on the floor of the oven taking the grid shelf out completely.
To cook something like a pie, that would cook too quickly on it's top before the contents were heated through, or a cake that needs to be in the oven for over 30 mins I slide the 'cold plain shelf' onto the top runners, this is a solid heavy baking tray which when used this way protects what is beneath it just by being there. When not in use this is stored in my baking tin drawer ... to keep it cool.
The bottom oven is the 'simmering oven' and I mentioned this before. Things started off on the top plates can be simmered in here or casseroles can be cooked long and slow after having an initial boil. Meringues cook really well, although sometimes you need to leave the door slightly ajar to lower the temperature a bit. Again by moving the grid shelf onto the different runners you can control the heat you need.
The other door, which confuses a lot of people into thinking a two oven Aga is a three oven one, is simply the workings of the oven, and the controls for the heat you want your oven to store.
The thing on the top at the back of an electric model is the oven vent, my oven vents through pipes hidden behind the kitchen units to the outside, but this is the inside ventilation for those pipes.
Of course Aga's don't just cook.
I use mine for all sorts of things, apart from keeping the dogs and Ginger very happy with the constant warmth, I use it for drying washing, finishing off clothes you bring in off the washing line that have that damp or cold feel to them. The Aga gets them lovely and warm and ready to put away.
I did a good post HERE, telling about the things my Aga does apart from just cook.
But day to day this is how she looks, usually with a sleeping dog at the side, oven gloves at the ready, a towel and tea towel always warm and ready for use, hot water ready for pot washing and usually something tasty waiting to be brought out of the oven.
Being an electric model she can be turned off at will, and takes around 24 hours to get back to full working temperature. But that lovely steady warmth really is the heart of the home, and in the eighteen months we have lived here we have turned her off only once .... and missed her so much even though it was the height of Summer she was back on within days.
I was converted to Aga cooking over six years ago and I can honestly say it has made me a better cook, and although at our last rented place we had an electric 'normal' cooker, I put the hints and tips I had picked up from cooking on my previous Aga to use, making better use of the oven and using the hot plates a lot less.