Helpful hints and tips for Christmas cooking with your AGA cooker to help you get ahead on the big day.
An AGA excels itself at Christmas, with its cast-iron ovens that provide radiant heat which gently cooks food locking in flavour and moisture for sumptuous roasts and delicious vegetables. The AGA cooker’s simmering and warming ovens come in to their own, as you can slowly cook sides and dessert or keep food warm, giving you more time to relax with your family.
For those with an older AGA cooker (with a single heat source) remember the AGA 80:20 rule. 80% of your cooking should take place in the ovens and 20% on the hotplates.
If the simmering oven is completely full of food cooking, allow a longer composite cooking time than for when cooking just a couple of pans, especially in the case of root vegetables. The cooked food will keep hot without spoiling.
Most vegetables can be prepared the day before. Peel potatoes and keep covered with water in the fridge, with carrots and parsnips in sealed container. Shred cabbage and trim tiny Brussels Sprouts, removing any discoloured leaves, then store in a sealed container with a little water in the refrigerator overnight.
To cook ahead:
1. Pre-roast the potatoes and parsnips the day before, until they just start to colour.
2. Drain off the fat, cool and then keep covered in the refrigerator.
3. Bring back to room temperature on the day, for several hours before finishing off on the floor of the roasting oven for 20-30 minutes.
4. Don’t place cooked roast potatoes in the simmering or warming ovens or they will not remain crisp. Place the filled ovenproof serving dish on the floor grid on the floor of the roasting or baking oven, with a cold plain shelf above to prevent them over browning.
AGA cookers are known for their large ovens, but we are often asked 'how big a turkey can I fit in my AGA oven?' The answer is, the roasting oven is big enough for a 13kg (28lb) bird.
When choosing your turkey or goose, you should bear in mind the number of guests you are having. For turkey, allow 450g (1 lb) per person weighed when plucked and drawn or 225g (8 oz) per person for boned and breast-only roasts.
For goose, allow 900g (2 lb) per person, weighed when plucked and drawn or 450g (1 lb) per person, for boned and breast-only roasts.
This allows for second helpings and a manageable quantity of leftovers that can be safely used up within two to three days. If you are short of refrigerator space, a car boot in December may be cold enough for the safe storage of an uncooked bird once you have taken delivery of it from your butcher. Alternatively, consider using an unheated room or an animal-proof shed or garage.
To re-heat your Christmas pudding on Christmas Day you don't need to re-steam it in the conventional way. Simply wrap the china, plastic or foil pudding basin in several layers of foil and place in the simmering oven all morning, next to the turkey if necessary.
Over several hours it will slowly heat through ready for serving piping hot at the end of your meal.
Custard and brandy sauce may be made towards the end of the morning and kept hot until wanted, covered, in the warming or simmering oven.
Keeping a large number of plates and dishes warm ahead of serving can be tricky.
If you have a lot of plates and serving dishes to heat, fill your dishwasher with all your china and put it on a heat only (drying) cycle, or on the shortest wash option. Do a test run beforehand, if necessary, to time the length of the programme, and then you can set the dishwasher off at just the right time to result in hot dry dishes ready for your Christmas meal. This tip never fails to impress onlookers.
Vegetable tureen lids and gravy boats are best warmed at the back of the top plate of the AGA, where they heat through without the handles getting too hot. Protect the enamel by using a Chef's Pad or cloth.
When cooking a lot of food on a AGA R5 Series model (traditional – oil, gas or electric), requiring a high temperature in the roasting oven, avoid using the simmering plate apart from essential tasks such as heating milk and making sauces and keep the simmering plate insulating lid down as much as possible.
In more recent AGA models, the hotplates are heated by separate electric elements and therefore do not affect the heat output in the ovens.