This week I went to my local Aga shop for a driving lesson. Well, that was how Sarah Whitaker, the Aga Lady as she is also known, explained it to the twenty or so of us who were assembled around her.
She stood, resplendent in her pinny and it transpired almost immediately that here was a woman who really knows her stuff. Not only that, she was delightfully witty and entertaining.
I have been to several Aga demos in my time, having been lucky enough to have one of these cast iron marvels in most of the houses we have lived in. Sarah was undoubtedly the best (and the other demonstrators were pretty good by the way).
So I sat, rollerball poised, and noted down some of her words of wisdom. Tips and tricks that many of you Aga owners will, I’m sure, find really useful. Fans already know that the Aga is a superior way of cooking. However as there are no temperature gauges, it is all about technique.
So here are ten top Aga tricks you’ll wish you already knew – happy cooking!
Get rid of the grid shelves and use the Aga trays that slot directly into the runners – this gives you far more space to cook food (Sarah produced an absolute feast in just under two hours, all cooked in one Aga). Secondly using the trays ensures food is cooked at the right height (genuine Aga recipes always state which runner you should use). There are four runners in each of your Aga’s ovens (whichever model you own) and you count down from the top – so runner 3 is third from the top.
Bake-O-Glide™ It is amazing. Non-stick, non-stain, non-taint, it saves about 80% of washing up and goes in the dishwasher. Any time you are using a tin, use a piece of Bake-O-Glide. Also brilliant on the simmering plate for fried eggs, pancakes etc etc and no need to clean the top of the Aga. Buy here.
Root vegetables Cut up your vegetables, put into a pan and cover with cold water. Put on the lid. Bring to the boil, a really good hard boil, on the boiling plate, then take a deep breath, drain off ALL of the water in the pan, replace the lid and put into the simmering oven. They are cooked in about half as long again as you would cook them on top, but the lids are down, the Aga is not wasting heat and you don’t have to be there. Works brilliantly if you are boiling potatoes to make mash – no more waterlogged or disintegrated potatoes.
Yorkshire puddings Cook these first when your Aga is at its hottest, put on a cooling rack and leave to go cold (this can be done the day before you want to eat them). Reheat for 5 minutes in the Roasting Oven and serve. Try this excellent Mary Berry Yorkshire puds recipe – it works every time.
Grilling – it is a fallacy that you cannot grill using an Aga. Use a roasting tin and insert the rack on its highest legs. Pop the food on top and slot in the Roasting Oven on Runner 1.
Toast Does your bread stick on your toaster rack? Easy solution – pop the rack on the Boiling Plate for a minute to heat up before you put your bread in it. If you flip one handle 360 degrees, you will find you have room for a thicker slice of bread. If you want to toast something with a sugar content like a hot cross bun, toast it on the Simmering Plate. If making a cheese toastie, use Bake-O-Glide™ directly on the Plate to catch any runaway Cheddar.
Frying an egg the fat-less way Put a piece of Bake-O-Glide onto the simmering plate, break an egg onto it and close the lid. In about 2 minutes you have a perfect egg, no fat, no frying pan, no washing up.
Pastry There is absolutely no need to blind bake when using an Aga. Use a Pyrex or ceramic dish and put it directly on the floor of the Roasting Oven. Definitely no soggy bottoms. BTW, if heating up a store bought pizza, it will only take half of the recommending cooking time on the packet’s instructions.
Melting /softening You can melt chocolate, honey, butter etc simply by putting the ingredient into a used (and washed) microwaveable yogurt (or similar) pot and leave on the ceramic top of the Aga.
Onions – if you have a pile of ironing airing on top of your Simmering Plate, you won’t want the smell of onions anywhere near it. Solution is to put chopped onions into a lidded saucepan on the Boiling Plate for 2 minutes and then pop into the Simmering Oven for 10 minutes. Result, perfectly softened onions. And daisy fresh ironing.
Before I made my way home, I bought one of these excellent spatulas made by a company called Zeal. With a specially designed flexible tip it is my new all round kitchen hero – and all for £7.86. Click here for full info on this little beauty.
Sarah Whitaker can give Aga cookery lessons for individuals or groups in your own kitchen. Click here for her website where you’ll also find lots more excellent tips on cooking with an Aga.