Sunday, 3 December 2017

How to Train Your Aga (Aga Christmas Masterclass)

If you've seen my Dear House post from August, you may have realised that we moved house this year. The new house we've moved into is an old farm cottage and part of that package means it comes complete with an Aga. Neither my mum nor I had ever used an Aga before we moved into this house, so I decided to take her on an Aga masterclass so that we could make the most out of it - especially with Christmas just around the corner.

For those of you who don't know, an Aga is a type of cooker that never turns off. It has at least two different types of ovens (up to 5 on some of the larger models) and with hot plates on the top instead of a hob. Apparently the oldest Aga still being used in a home in the UK was installed in 1932, so they've been around for quite a while.

The class we went to was at the Aga shop in Bath. I booked it at the start of November for yesterday after chatting to a very nice lady on the phone and explained that we wanted a class suitable for complete beginners, but with Christmas in mind. The class cost £35 per person, our group size was about 15 people and it included a demonstration and tasting session with the 'Aga Cookery Doctor' Richard Maggs!

We were greeted with a glass of bucks fizz on arrival, along with a pack containing Richard's top tips on how to do Christmas with an Aga, talking through every step of the process and a handful of recipes he would go through during the class. The session ended with a full Christmas dinner in front of us to try, although some of the food which requires a longer preparation time like the turkey or the roast potatoes were prepared in advance and he just chatted us through what he'd done, although many of the foods were cooked right in front of us.

The idea of the class was for Richard to talk us through the different types of cooking ie. grilling, frying, that could be done in the Aga as opposed to actually showing us how to cook, but I know both mum and I certainly picked up a few tips and tricks that can be used in any kitchen!

One thing that I know mum is already planning on recreating in our house this year was his own take on devils on horseback (traditionally prunes wrapped in bacon), but with apricots instead. They were amazing! He also did sticky sausages using mango chutney which took about 30 seconds to do aside from the actual cooking time of the sausages and were a perfect little snack while we were watching.

Obviously being in an Aga shop, there's always the intention to try and get you to buy some of the products, although it didn't feel like we were having advertisements shoved down our throats at any point. There were a lot of things he used that he recommended getting for your kitchen that weren't even from Aga, such as his favourite type of lemon squeezer, so it actually felt like genuine recommendations from him.

That being said, there was a lull between the food coming out of the oven and being laid out to be eaten where we were encouraged to have a mooch around the shop and have a look for any cookware we might like. There was a discount available just for us on the day of the demo which increased in value depending on how much money was spent, and the lovely ladies at the Bath shop were on hand to give advice on what we should or shouldn't buy.

All in all, it was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, the food was incredible, I've definitely picked up some cooking tips I'm going to use going forward, and we both know how to use the Aga a bit better now! For £35, I do think it was quite good value for money, and Richard was an amazing host. I don't think there'll be many more spaces between now and Christmas but I know they run similar demos at Aga shops all around the country so you could always get someone booked onto one in the new year as their Christmas present - it really was lovely to do something a bit different.

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Maira Gall