We are now official AGA Ambassadors with a Total Control five oven electric AGA in our new kitchen at The Old Dairy. Our plan is to serve AGA suppers at weekends and run a series of cookery classes and demonstrations based around cooking with an AGA. For more details do get in touch!
THE AGA SAGA
What is it about an AGA, sitting proud as a peacock in a country kitchen, that makes grown ups go weak at the knees? Estate agents tell us that a house with an AGA will sell more quickly than one without. But why? You could hardly describe it as an all-singing, all-dancing cooker glistening with knobs and grills and fans. On the contrary it’s quite square and heavy and made of cast iron with a couple of lids that you have to keep lifting up to get at the hot plates and different ovens for certain kinds of cooking and it all seems a bit complicated and unnecessary when a modern, domestic oven might do just as well.
But this quirky, iconic cooker has a few surprises up its sleeve, as we discovered on a recent visit to the AGA foundry and factory in Shropshire, not least of which is a long pedigree that goes back to 1922. It was invented by a Swedish engineer (a Nobel Prize-winner no less) called Dr Gustaf Dalen, who wanted to create an efficient cooker to free his wife from the drudgery of constantly cleaning and fuelling an old fashioned coal and wood range. But the good doctor, who was blinded after an industrial accident, also wanted to cook on it so the lift up lids and the ovens with no temperatures to worry about made it ideal, for the essence of the cooker was simple. A small heat source that conducted various levels of warmth to different parts of the cooker, all made possible by the transfer of radiant heat via cast iron components.
This handy hot box had another plus point. Because it was always on, it turned out to be the perfect solution for warming up draughty old manor houses, farmhouses, vicarages and cottages. Not surprising then that over the last three-quarters of a century the British have taken the AGA to heart. For many it’s become a way of life. Long before central heating hit our homes the AGA took centre stage. Warm kitchens full of delectable cooking smells, clothes drying on and around it, endless amounts of hot water – the AGA became the king of cookers.
And not much has changed today except there has been a revolution in the way an AGA works. Of course it’s still a wonderful heat source, keeping kitchens toasty warm and turning out delicious food, from crusty bread to slow cooked casseroles and gorgeous roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. But the use of electricity as a heat source, instead of solid fuel, oil or gas, gave those clever engineers in Telford a few ideas. Why not allow the AGA to switch on and off at will, they thought. Why not send it to sleep so that it takes very little time to come up to temperature? And while we’re at it let’s give it a programmer that will do it automatically. Better still, add a touch screen control panel so that every part of the AGA is individually controlled. Finally, just to show how damn clever we are, let’s programme it to receive text messages from a mobile phone or via web access using a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone! Oh yes the AGA cooker has hit new, twenty first century heights.
And the good news is that the new kitchen is finished and we cook and bake in our five oven AGA for the coffee shop and our pop-up suppers. We also do AGA cookery demonstrations too.