The Aga experience

Many people who have an Aga today lived in houses that had an Aga in the kitchen when they were children. There seem to be lots of pleasant memories from childhood that are associated with having an Aga in the kitchen, and for many such people it is top of their shopping list when setting up home. One friend of mine used to sit up on the shiny lid that is on top of the range (not recommended ) when she was a child, and believe it or not she does the same thing some 30-plus years later. I was not brought up with an Aga in the house but both my grandparents and parents had solid fuel ranges and I still remember cooking breakfast in a big black cast iron pan on my grandmother’s red hot range. I also remember the constant need to get logs and logs and even more logs!

The success of the Aga in recent years has been phenomenal — what other kitchen item has remained essentially unchanged for over 50 years and is now more popular than ever? It is regarded by cooks as one of the very best cookers in the world and once you understand how to use it, the possibilities are endless.

I have had an Aga range now for 10 years, it is a ‘refurbished as new’ oil fired model and it would be number one on my shopping list if I were to move house. Certainly they are expensive, but what other household item has an expected working life of 30-50 years? Annual maintenance cost is about €100 and running costs on oil is about €15 per week, that’s running it 24 hours per day and providing an inexhaustible supply of hot water also.

There are four things that make it special for me:

The background heat which makes sure the house is always warm.

A constant supply of hot water.

You never have to think before cooking — it is always ready to be used.

It is practically impossible to burn whatever you are cooking.

There is a knack to cooking with an Aga and having made lots of mistakes over the years I decided to attend an Aga cooking demonstration in the Galway Aga Shop in Liosban Industrial Estate. I went to the Christmas dinner demonstration and it was excellent, entertaining, informative, and tasty. You get to taste everything that is cooked on the day. These demonstrations are particularly useful if you are thinking about buying a range.

If you do have an AGA then it is the most inexpensive way to cook as you are paying for it to be always on and consequently you should be cooking absolutely everything on it, even toast. There are different size ranges but the normal one with two ovens is more than ample for all but the largest families. The knack is in understanding how to use the different temperature ovens; it is quite different from cooking with gas or electricity.

My best purchase in the Aga shop was a large frying pan with a removable handle. It is actually very hard to find a heavy weight, non-stick, large pan with a removable handle. The normal way that I would use it is to brown fish/meat on the hot plate, then slide the pan into the oven and clip off the handle.

There are a few Aga demonstrations between now and Christmas — for details visit www.aga.ie or telephone (091 ) 721200 — the most useful one being ‘A Day in the Life’ on November 4 in the Galway Aga Shop. This demonstration includes cooking a full breakfast, toasted sandwiches for lunch, plus a full dinner and a cake or two.

All demos have a nominal charge of €20 per person at time of booking which is non-refundable. However, a €20 gift voucher will be given to attendees on the day of the booked demonstration and there are some excellent kitchen accessories in the shop. There are a limited number of spaces available for the demos so book early to avoid disappointment.

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