What's your thoughts on AGA's? I'm guessing it's a subject that all foodies have preconceptions and opinions on. I know I certainly had. In a nutshell I thought that they were slightly scary, tricky to regulate the temperature of and difficult to cook with, but came in some gorgeous colours which looked stunning on the pages of glossy homes magazines. I also knew that Mary Berry was a big fan. That surely says something for them. No soggy bottoms in an AGA due to the radiant heat.
There's been an AGA shop in Aberdeen's Rosemount for the last 17 years. I knew it was there but had never ventured in. Surely you would have to already have one, or be seriously considering purchasing one, before you would cross the threshold. I've also spotted them at shows and events where the open frontage of the stalls have made them much more accessible to wander over and have a drool and dream about how amazing one could look in the right setting.
As a self confessed AGA virgin, I was excited but slightly apprehensive when I was contacted by shop manager Nathalie who invited me to visit the new Aberdeen showroom. The granite city team have relocated to new premises at 12b Back Wynd. Slap bang in the city centre just a couple of doors down from Nick Nairn Cookschool. The two floor 90 square meter shop provides a fantastic setting to showcase the full range of products. A far cry from the abandoned Hope shop on the Haudagain roundabout where AGA's were originally sold from in Aberdeen.
First surprise was that they stock so much more than just AGA and Rayburn cookers.There's a range of cool refrigeration, cosy stoves and a fantastic colourful collection of cookware, textiles, kettles, bakewear, KitchenAids and accessories. I immediately fell in love with the AGA Iconic range featuring a repeat print of six funky enamel shades. Even if you can't have the real thing right now you can aspire by way of a mug, oven gloves or apron covered in cute little mini AGA's.
The AGA itself is a true British design icon, instantly recognisable and still being made to this day in Shropshire, England. Each AGA is handmade for you to your chosen specifications. They have fantastic green credentials with 70% made from recycled materials such as car gearboxes, lamp posts, drain covers and old cast iron cookers. How lovely to think of an old much loved and well used AGA being reincarnated as part of a new one.
When you enter a kitchen with an AGA in you are immediately physically drawn towards its warmth and comfort. No moreso than within the first floor of the new Aberdeen showroom which has been kitted out with a beautiful fully operational demonstration kitchen from local Aberdeenshire company Lethenty Cabinetmakers.
A few of my preconceived myths were immediately busted. They are always ready to use at exactly the right temperature, there's nothing they can't cook and lots of interesting things that they can do that a conventional cooker would struggle with. My mind was somewhat blown by the fact that you can get an AGA with a 13 amp plug. It was even more frazzled when I discovered that there's one that you can control remotely with your iPhone.
It's definitely not a case of one size fits all when it comes to AGA's. There's a whole host of specifications to choose from when finding the one perfectly suited to your kitchen and lifestyle. Whilst they all have the traditional boiling and simmering plates and simmering and roasting ovens, the bespoke options afterwards are plentiful. 2,3,4 or 5 ovens. Gas, oil or electric fuel. AGA Total Control with state of the art control panel and independently controlled hotplates and ovens. AIMS - AGA Intelligent Management System. Stand alone or integrated modules to provide the additional versatility of gas or ceramic hob cooking.
I was very intrigued to learn some pretty amazing things that they can do. Make criss-cross toast on the boiling hotplate with the wire toaster rack, cook pizzas straight on the oven floor and fat free fried eggs on the simmering plate with the aid of Bake-o-Glide. Flavours of dishes won't merge in an AGA oven, you can open the door and your cakes won't drop, you can even use it to air and iron your washing.
The store had its official grand opening event today (24th April) where Dawn Roads, AGA Food Editor, cookbook author and AGA expert was on hand with a fantastic array of AGA cooked treats. Savoury Palmiers, Marmite & Cheese Whirls, Smoked Salmon Pesto Blinis, Cossack Potato Bites, Boursin Croistini, Coffee Marscapone Mini Meringues and Tipple Chocolate Mini Cupcakes. All washed down with celebratory fizz.
The opening event showcase continues over the next three days (Friday 25th - Sunday 27th April). Dawn will be demonstrating alongside a range of local producers and retailers including Around the World in 80 Teas, Haigs Food Hall, Sunnyside Home Farm, OCaykx and Oryza Sushi. They will be serving up duck eggs, tea tastings, sushi making and sake tasting, cupcakes, sausages and barbeque pulled pork.
Dawn will be whizzing through two demos on both Friday and Saturday. The Introduction to AGA menu includes sweetcorn pancakes with grilled bacon, oatmeal porridge, roasted finnan haddock, steamed rice, asparagus and goats cheese tart, AGA dried tomatoes and Aberdeen angus beef, mushroom and lettuce cups. For those with a sweet tooth there will be marmalade and poppy seed traybake, poached apricots and lavender shortbread. The Time for Tea with AGA demo includes beer bread, finnan haddock frittata, toasted brie and grape sandwiches, rhubarb and almond cake, rose petal roulade and coffee mascarpone meringues.
Do pay a visit to the new AGA shop in Aberdeen's Back Wynd. I can guarantee that you'll get a warm welcome. They might even let you cosy up to one. The big question remaining has to be if you were to get an AGA, what colour would you choose? I'm torn between Heather and Duck Egg Blue. 13 colours to choose from may be considered unlucky but any AGA owner will be sure to tell you that they are the lucky one.
Disclosure : I was commissioned by AGA to write this post. All views expressed are my own.