Monday, 22 February 2010

The Object of My Affection...

Before we moved to the U.K we were aware that the AGA symbolises and epitomises the heart of the home in a lot of English country houses.

When we came over for extended visits and stayed in houses where one was installed, we marvelled at the flexibility of these cumbersome objects - not only cooker but hot water heater, clothes drier, plate warmer, take the edge off cold shoes and boots gadget, cat, dog and human bottom warmer & a myriad other things besides!

This is the shiny fire engine red one in our current kitchen (complete with old fashioned drying rack above)....AGA have recently re-introduced this colour after dropping it from their range for a while...When we were looking for somewhere in the U.K one of the pre-requisites on our list was that architecturally, the house should be as far removed as possible from the homes in Sydney & preferably with character and an AGA. All very fine ideas until the day we moved in and I realised there was no other oven and all my cooking would henceforth be done without access to knobs, dials or temperature controls! I hastily made my way to the nearest bookshop and read up on what Mary Berry and other AGA fans had to say...For the first few days, it looked like this rather a lot - lots of washing drying over it but no pans actually ON it!

This is a stylised version of what it usually looks like (the pile of ironing is usually quite a bit bigger!) Quite a lot of stuff can actually be taken off the drying rack and folded, put on the 'cool side' as below and doesn't need any ironing at all...don't make the same mistake as I did & try to double up the amount of airing space - the left side is the 'hot side'....if anyone has a remedy for very bad scorch marks on white sheets, please let me know.....

OK - I don't want to bore you all to death with the technology but just briefly, this is a summary of the way it all works: (I'm only talking about the version I'm familiar with but there are other options available such as additional hobs/ovens & they can be adapted to suit whatever fuel you have available. We don't have gas at this house so the AGA runs on oil).

Looking at the AGA from the front, the left side hob is the 'hot' one and the right side hob is the 'cool' one (or boiling/simmering whichever you prefer!) The oven at the top is the roasting oven (at a constant temp of about 240 - 260C) and the bottom oven is the simmering oven (constant temp of about 115 - 135C). (No temperature control apart from a little gauge which you can see below the chrome bar - this should be at the optimum point always and can be adjusted with a switch in the control box - bottom left). The AGA principle is that you move the food from hob to hot oven or hob to cool oven (or both in tandem) - thereby controlling the speed at which you are cooking rather than the temperature of the oven (does that make sense?) If you know you are catering for a crowd the following day and will need the oven hot for roasting or 'grilling' you can hike up the temperature in just have to then be careful not to open the hobs before you need the oven as if you do, the heat escapes and your oven is rendered too cool - not a happy situation when you have eight people seated at the table expecting roast lunch with all the trimmings (I am speaking from experience here!) The general rule is that (opposite to a conventional cooker) you should be cooking only 20% on the hobs and 80% using the always hot ovens thus retaining the maximum amount of heat.

Now I should tell you at this point that I absolutely love the AGA and wouldn't want to be without's like any other new relationship - it just takes a bit of getting to know each other and being aware of maybe a few little foibles and quirks...Once you've got that all under your belt, it's plain sailing.....until baking day anyway.....If I were putting in a new AGA I would definitely opt for the version which has a dedicated baking oven. Alternatively, you can have a conventional oven for baking only and do everything else in the AGA. The AGA shines when it comes to roasting & simmering - the bottom 'slow' oven is just terrific for cooking casseroles (brought to a simmer first on the hot hob) and rice is a doddle - bring to a simmer, put into the simmering oven and leave until needed (within reason)! Ah, that brings me to another point...because of the way the AGA is constructed, there is no smell emanating when you are cooking...AGA actually maufacture a magnet which reads 'I'm Cooking' - you stick it on whichever oven is in use and (apparently!) it reminds you! I've lost track of the number of times LAB has gone to put something in the roasting/grilling oven and found some pieces of charcoal left from the night before....luckily, nothing seems to combust, it just turns black (though I'd better not speak too soon)....
There are now all sorts of jazzy colours to choose from as well as the usual range of suspects:

How about this from Emma Bridgewater?

And finally, some wonderful kitchens built around the heart of the whole house, the AGA....

I just put this pic in to show you - if you don't have a rack above it, you can buy an airer which sits across and does the job wonderfully (no scorch marks!!!)

This is a large four oven version with extra gas hob to the side:

This one a completely different look - large four oven version again and with additional hob at the side but not the traditional AGA look at all...just shows you can put them into any setting and they still look at home....

This is the version which I have & probably the look I prefer - I love the warmth of the textures - terracotta & wood...

Another completely different take:

I like this look too - clean & uncluttered with the warmth of the red AGA at the centre:

So there you have it - my guide to living with and loving an AGA! Now, have to run before I burn another lemon cake.....This is specially for Meredy & Jeanne (hope I have covered it all!!!) Happy week of cooking everyone whatever sort of cooker you know and love........s


  1. I adore my Aga, but like you, wish I had the four version so I could get the baking bit right, however I do seem to being doing better with pastry, I think each Aga has it's own personality and once you are familiar with it you tend to make less errors. xx

  2. I'd never live in a house without one again. I like the coloured ones - mine is yellow, and your red one is super. I have the matching electric cooker so that we can turn it off for a few weeks in summer and have extra cooking rings, but I miss the range when it's off even when the house needs no heating at all. I've created fine scorch marks too!

  3. Oh how I would so love one again... Had one years and years ago (in a past life... i.e. when married to Ex Husband!) and still miss it to this day .... Nothing beats AGA toast either. I think I suffer from permanent AGA envy in life :-) !

  4. I loved this post totally Susie & you made it all so easy to understand. I reckon AGA should hire you immediately as a Consultant, you'd boost their sales no end. I saw a pale pink AGA once & adored it.
    Millie ^_^

  5. Oh Susie, I am very jealous, I have always dreamed of having an Aga.

  6. We dont have an AGA, but when we first moved to London and were looking at homes to rent... we saw quite a few!

    I loved the look of them and after reading your post, I wish I had one now.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Susie...big oohs and ahhs from me!

    I am not a technical person and hate to read manuals on how things work but if you wrote them I would be one happy lady indeed.
    I love seeing your AGA...great colour and the illustration is so sweet. Polka dot AGA...very cool but not sure I could wake up to it every morning.

    Have to say I could happily see myself with family and friends in any of those kitchens. Our house in Sydney had a kitchen cupboards painted in the same french blue colour. Nice memories.

    Well, I thank you very much for this post. It is everything I hoped it would be.

    I like your strategy for finding a house...must remember those features, perfect!

    Jeanne x

  8. Hi Susie
    Well I've always loved the look of the AGA.. can you buy them in Sydney?.. I often see them in magazines but perhaps that is OS mags...

    Well.. I think we all want an AGA now that we have read your post!!! Such a good looking, warm and humble home feeling piece of equipment.. and now I know it's as good as it looks!!! Great post.. xx Julie

  9. Oh Susie, I can't begin to tell you how much I LOVE this post. I'm going to bookmark it and come back to it again and again. Your Aga is just.....well, it's perfect of course. As I absolutely knew it would be.

    If I ever move to somewhere like the Southern Highlands (a dream of mine), I would insist upon an Aga. I might have to sell a kidney to afford it, but you've convinced me that it would be totally worth it.

    Thank you for giving me the warm and fuzzies on what's been a looooong day. Meredy xo.

  10. Hi - I am catching up on posts! Just to say - adore the Age - the white kitchen is my favourite - I know its probably heretic to say so as its the least 'country' but still...
    Would never ever be without one once you have had one!