Aga cooking

Oxtail stew

I have never before made oxtail stew.  Shocking really.  I tend to buy shin of beef for a stew but I spotted two lovely pieces of oxtail in the butchers on saturday and thought it was about time I tried it. I have always thought that oxtail was a cheap cut, but the butcher says that it is comparatively expensive as it costs about the same price as shin but of course has more waste with the bone. It is also very popular this time of year and the cow only has one tail. So apparently it’s not the cheap option.  However, bones give better flavour and this stew was tasty. It was quite a lot more work than a shin stew though, as the oxtail gives a great deal of fat, almost a mugful in this case.  So you need to make it the day before, chill it, then scrape off the top layer of fat that will have solidified on the surface.  I then chose to take the meat off the bone before reheating to make it easier to eat at the table.  I like to eat a stew with a spoon.

Britain is having a miserable weather week, rain and dull skies so stew is a popular comfort food. This week I read about Wendy’s beef cheek stew, which will be next on my list to try I think.

You probably do need to have a slow cooker or an Aga to make this stew as it needs about 8 hours  simmering away and this may be costly in a normal oven.

This is a general guide, put more or less in as you feel and you could add potatoes or pulses to make it even more substantial.

Serves 4

1kg of oxtail, separated into pieces (they can come tied in a bundle)
2 onions, sliced
5 sticks of celery, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
50g (2oz) flour
50ml madeira or sherry
900 ml (1½ pints) of good beef stock
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried mixed herbs, or a bundle of fresh herbs if you have them to make a bouquet garni
salt and pepper

Brown the meat well in a large casserole dish that is suitable for the hob and the oven, otherwise do the browning and cooking in a frying pan and then transfer it all to a casserole dish that is suitable for the oven or into a slow cooker. It is unlikely that you will need oil as the oxtail will release plenty of its own fat. Remove the meat to a plate. Add the vegetables to the pan  and cook until the onions are translucent and the carrot and celery are tender. Add the flour and stir well and cook for a minute or so.  Add the madeira or sherry and mix well and then gradually add the stock, stirring to make sure the flour is well combined into the gravy.  Add the meat back into the casserole dish, with any juices that may have gathered on the plate.  Add the herbs and season generously.  Bring to a gentle simmer and then place in a low oven (the simmering oven of the Aga) or into a slow cooker for about eight hours.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool before placing in the fridge overnight.  Skim off all the solidified fat and, if you wish, remove the meat from the bones.  Reheat the stew at a gentle pace until piping hot.  Serve in large warmed bowls with lots of bread.

Oxtail stew Read More »

Lemon meringue

First, I apologise for the poor quality of this photo.  It was after Sunday dinner and I was serving nine people a choice of either baked apples or lemon meringue ( or both if you are Mr OC) and they were anxious to dig in.  I felt bad delaying them whilst I tried to get a decent shot.  So I gave up and took this one. It doesn’t do the pie justice at all.  A lemon meringue is a thing of beauty, a crumbly biscuit base, tangy lemon filling and pillowy meringue – heaven.

I always use Mary Berry’s recipe from her The Aga Book (published by Aga Rayburn) as it is completely fail-safe and makes a very good pie indeed. You can make a biscuit base  or you can do a sweet pastry base.  Both are good but I think biscuit may just have the slight advantage so this is the one I tell you about here. Now, because I always make this in my Aga I am going to concentrate on telling you this method and then tell you how Delia Smith cooks hers so that you can use this information for whatever oven you have.

These instructions are for a 23cm loose base metal flan tin

Biscuit base:

175g (6oz) digestive biscuits
50g (2oz) butter, softened
Mary Berry adds 45g (1½ oz) demerara sugar but I don’t think this is necessary so I omit it.

For the filling:

2 large or 3 small lemons
40g (1 ½ oz) cornflour
300ml (½ pint) water
3 egg yolks
75g (3oz) caster sugar

For the meringue:

3 egg whites
120g (4½ oz) caster sugar


For the biscuit base, place the biscuits in a food processor and whizz to crumbs. Add the softened butter and whizz again until combined.  If you don’t have a food processor, then place the biscuits into a large plastic food bag and bash with a rolling pin (or similarly heavy implement) until crumbs.  Place the crumbs into a bowl.  Melt the butter and add to the crumbs and mix well.

Place the crumb mixture into the flan dish and press down with the back of a spoon until   it covers the base evenly and goes slightly up the sides of the tin. Place the tin onto a baking sheet and place in the roasting oven of the Aga, or into a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6, for 6 minutes until lightly browned. Leave to one side whilst you make the filling.

For the filling:

Pour the water into a pan and bring to the boil.  Place the finely grated zest and the juice of the lemons into a bowl and add the cornflour and stir to blend. Pour in the boiling water and mix well, then return the mixture back to the pan and heat until the mixture thickens. Mix the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl and then add to the cornflour mixture and stir on the heat allowing it to bubble a few times.  Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool a little before pouring evenly over the biscuit base.

To make the meringue:

Beat the egg whites until forming stiff peaks and then add the sugar one spoonful at a time beating well after each addition.  You should have a thick glossy mixture when finished.  Spoon this over the top of the filling making little peaks, which will brown nicely and become crunchy, contrasting with the soft meringue underneath.

For the Aga, place the pie (still on the baking sheet) on the grid shelf positioned on the third set of runners of the roasting oven for 2-3 minutes until gently golden.  Transfer to the simmering oven for a further 15 minutes.  You can serve it warm or cold, it’s delicious either way.

For an ordinary oven Delia recommends preheating the oven to 150°c, gas mark two and cooking at this temperature for 45 minutes.

Lemon meringue Read More »

Chocolate orange marble cake

I have been craving something chocolatey and orangey for a few days now.  I can’t explain this craving beyond I often crave something choc orangey, or indeed choc coffee-y or choc cherry-y.  You get the picture.

Anyway, we have been invited to the neighbours for a curry night tonight so I thought I should take something sweet along with us. I thought about choc orange cupcakes or choc orange biscuits, but then thought about marble cake and decided that this was the way to go.

Marble cake holds good memories for me.  My mum often made it when we were children, especially for birthdays.  She would colour it like a rainbow using red, green and blue food colouring. That’s a tough birthday cake to beat in my view.

To make it extra special I have covered it with ganache, as this makes it more suitable for dessert it seems to me, but this cake is good just plain and unadorned.

200g softened butter
250g caster sugar
4 eggs
100ml milk
the zest and juice of 1 orange
300g plain white flour
3 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder mixed with 1½ tbsp warm water

For the ganache:
80g good quality chocolate
80ml double cream

Grease and line a loaf tin that measures 21cm x 11cm x 6cm.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the zest and juice of the orange and beat again to combine.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add the milk and beat again.

Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and fold in gently until well combined.

Spoon half of the mixture into another bowl and then add the cocoa and water mixture  to this half and fold well.

Then spoon blobs of each mixture alternately into the loaf tin and carefully level the top.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or on the middle shelf of the baking oven of the Four-Oven Aga for 45-50 minutes until firm on top and a skewer comes out clean.  Place the tin onto a wire rack and leave the cake in the tin for ten minutes and then turn out of the tin and onto the wire rack until completely cool.

To make the ganache, break the chocolate into a bowl and pour the cream into a small saucepan.  Heat the cream to just under boiling point and then pour onto the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth.  Spoon over the top of the cake.

I hope the neighbours like it.  Fingers crossed. I liked that piece I sliced off for the picture, I hope they don’t mind the missing slice.

Chocolate orange marble cake Read More »

Spelt, almond and chocolate biscuits

These little beauties are not radically different from my Chunky Chocolate Biscuits that I posted about last July.  This, I think, goes to show that whilst some say baking is an exact science, you can play around with the ingredients and still produce something good.  The important thing is to get the balance of wet ingredients to dry ingredients right.  It also has to be said that biscuits are more forgiving than cake.  Take the basic recipe and play around with it. If you don’t have spelt flour, use wholemeal flour, or oatmeal, or plain flour.  You can replace the almonds with oats.  The texture will be different but the biscuits will still be good.

This time instead of adding chopped chocolate to the biscuit mixture I decided to coat the biscuits with melted chocolate as soon as they were cool and it turns out this is a good plan because every bite is guaranteed to have some chocolate in it – always a bonus.

Some more advice is that if you are on a New Year’s diet (although why would you be?) try not to eat three with your coffee like I just have.

100g (4oz) softened butter
100g (4oz) light brown soft sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g (4oz) spelt flour
100g (4oz)  ground almonds
25g (1oz) cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder

100g (4oz) good quality chocolate, melted


Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until well combined.   Add the spelt, almonds, cocoa and baking powder and fold in until the mixture forms a stiff dough.

Shape dessertspoonfuls into walnut-sized balls and place onto a baking tray.  Leave plenty of room for each biscuit to spread.  Flatten each biscuit slightly with the tines of a fork.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the middle shelf of the baking oven of the four-oven Aga for 12-15 minutes until firm to the touch.  Leave to cool on the trays for five minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Melt the chocolate and spoon on top of each biscuit.

Spelt, almond and chocolate biscuits Read More »

Aga cooked turkey

I have had a stinking cold.  It’s the sort where only full bed rest will do, but life is just not going to let that happen and I do want to tell you about how my mum cooks the Christmas turkey.  I am only sorry I didn’t manage to post it earlier in the week. It is the best turkey I have ever tasted, moist and delicious.

The one in the picture above is from last Christmas but I never quite managed to post about it.  If you have an Aga then this is the way to cook your turkey.  This recipe is based on a 15lb (7kg) turkey.

Mum stuffs the cavity with two types of stuffing, usually prune and sausagemeat and apricot. You can stuff your turkey with your favourite stuffing. She then slathers the entire bird in butter and then on Christmas Eve night she cooks it for 1 hour in the roasting oven.  This gives it a good start, crisping the skin and bringing the internal temperature up.  She then turns it onto its breast and places it in the simmering oven under a tent of foil and leaves it there overnight. So it gets about 8 hours in the simmering oven.  When she gets up in the morning, and she is an early riser, she turns the bird over and places it back in the simmering oven for another hour or so. Then she checks the internal temperature with a meat thermometer to check it is cooked.  Then transfers the bird to the warming oven, where it sits happily until we are ready for our dinner at about 1pm.  The turkey is still hot and the juices have run back into the meat making for a very delicious turkey.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas.  I hope you all have a wonderful time. Kath xx

Aga cooked turkey Read More »

Ginger cake

“But baby it’s cold outside” – indulge me for a moment and imagine that I am actually Cerys Matthews and I have the rather lovely Tom Jones serenading me.  Oh well, maybe not.  Still it is cold outside.

On a day like this the only decent place to be is in front of a fire, wrapped in a blanket eating something comforting.  What could be more comforting than a sticky piece of ginger cake?  Well, very little actually.

This cake is good on the day it is baked but it is even better wrapped in foil and left for a couple of days until it reaches its sticky peak.

I am submitting this entry to A Slice of Cherry Pie’s Snowy Day Bake Off because we could all do with a little comfort when the weather is so bitingly cold. If you are reading this on the other side of the hemisphere – you lucky, lucky folk!

This time I have added pieces of stem ginger into the mix, which gives a lovely zingy bite to the cake, but if you don’t happen to have any in the cupboard, feel free to leave it out.  You can also use all plain flour if you don’t have any spelt flour, or use wholemeal flour in the place of the spelt.

This recipe is adapted from Mary Berry’s Gingerbread in The Aga Book, So I always use my small Aga roasting tin which measure 30cm x 20cm.  I line it with foil and grease the foil lightly.

100g (4oz) butter
100g (4oz) soft brown sugar
100g (4oz) golden syrup
100g (4oz) treacle
100g (4oz) plain flour
100g (4oz) spelt flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp mixed spice
150ml milk
1 egg
50g stem ginger, diced


Place the butter, sugar, syrup and treacle into a pan and heat gently until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.  Take the pan off the heat. Sift in the flours, baking powder and spices.  Measure the milk in a jug and break in the egg and whisk lightly to combine and pour this over the treacly mixture and flour and stir to combine well.  Add the stem ginger if you are using it and mix in well. Pour into the prepared tin and tip gently to level the mixture.

Place in a preheated oven at 170°c, gas mark 3, or the fourth set of runners of the baking oven of the Aga for 25-30 minutes until springy to the touch.  Place the tin on a wire rack and leave the cake to cool completely.

Sit yourself down with a cup of tea and enjoy a large square and think yourself very lucky that you aren’t a chicken. BBRRRRR!

Ginger cake Read More »

Apple pie in the Aga

A lady called Una contacted me to ask how to cook an apple pie in the Aga as she could not find a recipe online. Well I do love apple pie, it definitely ranks up there as yet one more of my favourites ( well I like my food, so there are a lot of favourites).  So as soon as I was given some apples by a friend I made this and have now finally got around to blogging about it so hopefully rectifying Una’s dilemma.

Apple pies, in my opinion, need a shortcrust pastry and a good cooking apple – preferably a Bramley.  Now I like my apple pie to be on the tart side of things so I am more sparing with the sugar, if you prefer yours a little sweeter then add another 25g (1 oz) of sugar.  You can make shortcrust with all butter, but I do like it with half butter/ half shortening or lard.  Make sure both are straight from the fridge and that your hands are cool, as warm pastry is not a good thing.

50g (2oz) vegetable shortening or lard
50g (2oz) butter
225g (8oz) plain flour
203 tbsp of cold water

2-3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
50-75g (2-3oz) granulated sugar


If you are using a food processor then tip the flour into the bowl of the processor, add the diced butter and shortening/lard and pulse for a few seconds until the fat is incorporated into the flour and the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add 2 tbsp of water and pulse again (you may need a little extra water or not quite that much) until the mixture starts to come together.  Try not to over process, you need to stop as soon as it starts to come together. Remove the blade and form the mixture into two flattened discs. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

If you aren’t using a food processor then make sure your hands are cool by running cold water over them.  Then place the flour and the diced fat into a bowl and using the tips of your fingers rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the water and then mix using a pallet knife at first and then your hands until it is a smooth dough.  Try to handle it as little as possible.  Divide into two flattened discs and cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

You will need a pie dish or plate. Mine is 20cm in diameter and 3cm deep.

Remove the pastry from the clingfilm and lightly flour the worktop and your rolling-pin. Roll the first disc of pastry until it is big enough to cover the bottom and the sides of the dish. Press it carefully into the dish.  Place your chopped apples into the dish and sprinkle with the sugar.  Roll the second disc until it is large enough to cover the dish. Brush a little milk around the edges of the pastry and place the lid of pastry on top and crimp around the edge to form a seal with two fingers.  Cut off any excess pastry. You can brush the top with milk too.

Place the pie on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden. In a conventional cooker, place in a preheated oven at 220°c for about the same amount of time. Allow to cool slightly before enjoying warm with lashings of cold double cream or custard. My mouth is watering at the very thought.

Apple pie in the Aga Read More »

Boiled fruit cake

With it being the summer holidays, the girls and I have done lots of picnics on our days out and this cake is excellent for picnics.  It’s easy to make, is very moist, lasts for ages and is absolutely delicious.  In fact Mr OC loves it so much he moans with joy when eating it!

I have adapted it from Jill Brand’s version in Best-kept Secrets of the Women’s Institute Cakes and Biscuits (ISBN 0 74322 111 7) and reading through her introduction for this cake now she also says it’s ideal for picnics, so I must be right.  Jill uses half and half wholemeal plain flour and self-raising flour.  I use half spelt flour, half plain flour and two teaspoons of baking powder instead.  The spelt flour gives it a lovely nutty flavour and texture.

Because I am lucky enough to have an Aga I make this cake in the evening and then leave it to cook slowly in the simmering oven all night and then check with a skewer when I get up and if I think it needs it I bake it for about 10 mins in the baking oven just to finish it off. It is deliciously moist this way and has the added bonus of filling the house with the scent of fruit cake with a generous dollop of mixed spice all night. But I have also cooked it the normal way and the way I will tell you about in the method below and it is almost as delicious.

For the mixed fruit I use whatever I have in the house, but it normally includes equal measures of raisins, sultanas and cranberries.  I have tried dates but I didn’t chop them finely enough and I found them a bit mealy.

450g (1lb) mixed dried fruit
200g (8oz) caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g  (4oz) butter
200ml (7 floz) water
2 eggs
100g (4oz) spelt flour
100g (4oz) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground mixed spice
50g (2oz) glace cherries, chopped


Preheat the oven to 160°c (gas mark 3) and line the base and sides of a 18 cm round cake tin.

In a large pan place the mixed fruit, sugar, butter, bicarbonate of soda and the water and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes and then take off the heat and cool for 15 minutes.

Beat in the eggs.  Sieve the flours, baking powder and mixed spice into the boiled fruit.  I add the cherries to the flour whilst I am sieving them so that they get a good covering of flour in the process and this helps to stop them sinking to the bottom of the cake when cooking.  Add the cherries and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the tin and either cook in an Aga in the way described in the introduction or in the preheated oven for 1¾ – 2 hours until a skewer comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Boiled fruit cake Read More »

Aga meringues

Aga meringues with lemon curd

After I made lemon curd, I had five egg whites ready to make meringues.  They are a real treat and are delicious when made in the simmering or warming oven of the Aga. They don’t last long in our house, as the girls both love them, well they are balls of sugar so of course they love them.

You can either cook them in the simmering oven which takes about two hours or you can leave them overnight in the warming oven, which makes life very easy indeed.  I always make my pavlova in this way too.

For every egg white you will need 50g (2oz) caster sugar.  I always use golden caster sugar (which is less refined than white sugar) which gives them a lovely caramel hue.

5 egg whites
275g (10oz) caster sugar


Line a baking tray with silicone paper.

Whisk the egg whites in a scrupulously clean bowl (I always wipe a cut lemon around the bowl to remove every bit of grease) until they form soft peaks when you lift up the whisk.  Add the sugar a teaspoonful at a time, whisking in each addition before adding the next.  The mixture will become stiff and glossy.

Place spoonfuls onto the baking sheet.  Place in the simmering oven of the Aga for about two hours and then place on top of a tea towel on top of the lid of the of the simmering plate to completely dry out.  Alternatively place in the warming oven overnight and they will be perfect in the morning.

Serve with whipped double cream, fruit, chocolate ganache or indeed lemon curd.

Aga meringues Read More »

Aga method lemon curd

Regular readers of this blog will know that I made lemon curd a few weeks ago. Very delicious it was too, but as I have an Aga it was quite hair-raising trying to save it from becoming lemon flavoured scrambled eggs.  This was because I was trying to save time and I was making it directly in a saucepan rather than in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.

When I went to judge Shropshire’s Tastiest Sausage, the event was held at an Aga shop and the great  thing about Aga shops is that everyone who works there is very knowledgeable about cooking on an Aga.  I spoke to the Sales Advisor, (who is a trained chef and offers one to one demonstrations on how to use an Aga), about my difficulties with my lemon curd and he suggested I read Richard Maggs’ The Complete Book of Aga Know-How as he has a method for making lemon curd in a jar in the simmering oven.  Now, I have cooked on an Aga since 1995 and so thought I knew quite a lot about the art of cooking on an Aga, but this book has been really useful in revealing tips about conserving and controlling heat that I hadn’t really thought about before.

The Aga method for making lemon curd worked really well.  It isn’t a recipe that is done and dusted in half an hour though, but it is one that means you can just leave it to do its thing and it is great if you are doing other things in the kitchen, so you can be there to add the ingredients and give the jar a shake from time to time.

I used Mary Berry’s recipe from The Aga Book, as I think it is a winner, with just the right amount of lemon.  This time though I used 5 egg yolks and made meringues with the egg whites to eat with the lemon curd.

For this recipe you need a sterile kilner or large jar.  If you are using a kilner jar remove the rubber seal whilst making the curd.  Richard Maggs suggests that you can store the curd in the same jar as you make it, but he obviously isn’t as messy as I am, so if you too are a messy cook I suggest sterilising one or two jars by washing them and rinsing them very well and then leaving them in the simmering oven (or a low oven at about 140°c) for twenty minutes.

100g (4oz) butter
225g (8oz) caster sugar
3 lemons, the finely grated rind and juice
5 egg yolks or 3 whole eggs, beaten


Put the butter and the sugar in the jar, close the lid and place in the simmering oven for 30 minutes.  Take the jar out and add the rind and juice of the lemons.  Put the lid back on and give the jar a good shake.  Put it back into the simmering oven for another 30 minutes. By this time the sugar should have fully dissolved, if it hasn’t help it along by swirling the jar. Now you will need a small hand whisk or a fork and you will need to beat the eggs quickly into the mixture and continue to beat for one minute.  Put the lid back onto the jar and place back in the oven for a further 1 to 1¼ hours.  Give the curd a gentle shake and then leave to cool.  I was concerned that it wasn’t thick enough but it does thicken quite a  bit whilst cooling. When it is cool transfer to clean sterile jars if you feel the one you made it in is just too messy. Store in the fridge and eat within two weeks.

May 2014: I have been requested to link to Aga Living as this is a recipe from Mary Berry’s Aga Book.

Aga method lemon curd Read More »