The English Aga


An Aga is as quintessentially English as a cream tea or a thatched country pub. But until this trip I had never really been on first name terms with one. I had boiled the odd kettle on my sister-in-law’s Aga but never actually cooked on one. Until now. Our first housesit in Devon had a huge 4 oven Aga and now our Northamptonshire Farmhouse has a two oven one, so it has been a baptism by fire for me.

Just to back track a tad, an Aga is a range cooker. They can be powered on gas, electricity or oil, in the old days they were coal driven. What I adore about an Aga is that they are always hot, so it is always deliciously warm in the kitchen, thus they are a dog’s best friend. In very hot summers, you can turn them off so having another oven is a must. But England being England it doesn’t normally get that hot to warrant turning them off.

There is no way to regulate the heat on  an Aga, except by using different ovens or plates. The top right oven is the hottest, and called the roasting oven, the one below it is the simmering oven. On the bigger models you have a baking oven and a plate warming oven too.  Up top on the left is the boiling plate ideal for boiling the kettle and the right plate is the simmering one for gentler heat. I have made terrific soups, roasts and scones in the Aga but I am not sure how I would go with a cake, so don’t ask me that!

My perfect Mary Berry Aga Cookbook scones. And please note Agas are a dog’s best friend, Tilly enjoying a ringside position.

One thing we have perfected is making toast. A bit like camping (not that I would know but James does) you put the bread in this wire holder and put it on the Boiling plate and close the lid. But stay close as it doesn’t take long.

No cooking smells!

One thing that has caught us out is that there are no cooking smells from the ovens. I used to know when my muffins were cooked because I could smell them. Not here, the smells disappear through the flue or vent pipe, so you either use a timer or have a good memory!

Great for laundry

Another thing I adore about the Aga is it is wonderful for airing clothes. And as one of our homeowners proudly told me, if you fold your T-shirts neatly and place them on the closed lid, the creases will fall out and you won’t need to iron them! I didn’t have the heart to say after 6 months travelling in Asia, we had long given up ironing T-shirts!

I am just hoping the rest of our English housesits will have an Aga for me to play with in their kitchen!

James making our morning toast on the Aga, and Tilly is back there again!