Holiday house, AGA, dinner party for 20 and NO idea!

(22 Posts)
Wishiwashelenmirren Tue 25-Mar-14 13:57:43

Mumsnet, I need help please. Have booked a holiday house for a family reunion, and cooking for a dinner party for 20 has fallen to me ('mug' tattoo on forehead...)

House duly booked, but when I saw the details the only cooking facility is an AGA?! Oh and a microwave. And a BBQ.
I have never EVER cooked with an aga! will the oven cool down if I gave veggies cooking at the same time on top, how I manage cooking times and temps??? What would be the least stressy menu?!mi had planned boned stuffed chicken but no idea if it's suitable for a aga and I can have it all cooked at the same time!

Utter Panic. Dh has suggested we buy in, but that's far too expensive, and a matter of pride if im honest. Just need help!
I have a few weeks to plan, so any advice would be very much appreciated!

AGA will cool down if you cook veggies on top. The idea with an AGA is to cook them in the oven. That is about as much as I know, but I am sure that an AGA expert will come along soon. Alternatively, do a roast, with roast veggies, and perhaps quickly doo some peas/beans on the top whilst the meat is resting.

Wishiwashelenmirren Tue 25-Mar-14 15:24:12

I was afraid of that, but thank you for the warning. Entirely my fault, it never occurred to me to check what cooking facilities there were. Nightmare. How on earth am I going to cook it all and not give someone food poisoning?

givemeaclue Tue 25-Mar-14 15:28:00

Cook a big chilli and take it with you, garlic bread, salad

ishouldcocoa Tue 25-Mar-14 15:29:42

Can you prep stuff before you go down there? Then you can reheat some stuff without any bother. Mary Berry is the original 'Queen of the Aga' and she has some great recipes.

I'd personally go for a nice casserole of some sort, assorted veg and potatoes that you can easily do, and a cold pudding or two that you can bring with you.

Also plenty, plenty of this wine

nilbyname Tue 25-Mar-14 15:30:35

I'm no aga expert, but I think a one pot type casserole/stew/tagine/curry would be best then serve it with good quality bread an salad.

Starter could be cold- could do cured meats, olives, sun blush tomatoes, dips and flat breads.

Pudding could be cold one too- delia does a fantastic chocolate torte recipe!

tb Tue 25-Mar-14 15:46:18

How many ovens does your Aga have?

If it's got 2, the roasting oven is at the top right, and the simmering oven below it.

If it's got 4, the roasting oven is at the top right, and the simmering oven at the top left.

The boiling plate is on the left, and the simmering plate on the right.

Veg - including potatoes - bring them to the boil on the boiling plate, let them boil for 5 mins max (spuds 10), drain the water, bang the lid on and put them in the simmering oven. They steam. On their own.

In the roasting oven, if you have the grid shelf on the floor of the oven, that position is about gas mark 6 - fine for pastry, shelf half-way up and it's about gas 9 - so fine for Yorkshire puddings.

If you want to cook anything like a Victoria Sponge, and you only have a 2 oven, you'll need the cold plain shelf - bit like a baking sheet. You put the cake tin on the grid shelf on the floor of the roasting oven, and the cold plain shelf about half-way up. It's ok for cakes that take less than an hour - longer than that, you start in the roasting oven, and then transfer the cake, placing the tin on the now 'hot' plain shelf and put it in the simmering oven.

The boned stuffed chicken will be fine in the roasting oven.

One of my favourite Aga recipes is a boned rolled shoulder of pork.
Score the skin about 5mm apart for crackling.
Put the pork in a pot, add a bay leaf and a few peppercorns, and a carrot and a quartered onion if you wish. Half fill with either water or cider, put on the boiling plate, bring to the boil, put the lid on and bung it in the simmering oven, for about 6-8 hours or overnight.

Remove the pork from the stock, and keep warm. Line a sieve with 2 sheets of kitchen paper, and dampen by running through with cold water. Strain the stock through this and you'll get lovely clear stock and all the grease gets left behind on the paper. Boil the stock down. Put the pork in the roasting oven - fairly high up to crisp the crackling.

Contact the owners of the cottage and ask them if Mary Berry's aga book is there. Could be worth asking them if they've got Aga pans, too. They're good as the lids are really tight-fitting, so good for steaming veg.

Hope you have a good weekend, and if you need any other help, just ask.

Wishiwashelenmirren Tue 25-Mar-14 16:51:49

Thank you so much everyone! And tb tg that explanation helps a huge amount. Doesn't say on the listing if it 2 or 4 oven so will contact the company, I have planned on taking my own pans etc as past experience in other houses has been less than satisfactory.
May I ask, would the roasting oven fit 4 boned chickens at once? Cakes etc I'll cook beforehand. Roughly what the temp of the roasting and simmering ovens? Just thinking of time factors really. Think I'll get that Mary berry book from the library ishould, might help me plan ahead more effectively.

tb Tue 25-Mar-14 17:36:57

Wish if you'd like to send me a link to the rental I can tell you if it's a 2, 3 or 4 oven one.

The roasting oven will fit 4 boned chickens all at once, in a single layer, too, poss with a little bit of juggling to get them in the large roasting tin all at once.

The only tip if you're using the plates quite a lot to start veg off, at the same time as using the ovens, you might need to turn the heat up a little bit.

There's a thermometer at the front, at temperature it's on the black line, so if you start with the mercury thread about 1/4" above the black line, then you shouldn't lose too much of the head.

The oven comes with a large and small roasting tin, each of which has a grid shelf to go in the bottom.

tb Tue 25-Mar-14 17:42:01

Pity that you're having chicken as a main course, as there's a lovely chicken and watercress terrine recipe in the Aga book.

One of the GH Aga books has a beef stew recipe, that's just browning some cubes of beef shin, adding a few sprigs of thyme, and about 4 finely chopped anchovy fillets. You then put a sheet of foil between the lid and the casserole and put it the simmering oven overnight. The anchovies melt down and make a lovely gravy.

What else are you thinking of cooking, and I can look out a couple of recipes if you like?

Wishiwashelenmirren Tue 25-Mar-14 19:27:31

Company has emailed back, it's a 4 oven, behemoth of a thing!
Ooh the beef stew sound wonderful, I need to lay hands on an aga cookbook! Starter I think something cold that I can prepare beforehand? With the chicken dauphinois pots, honey glazed carrots, broccoli, maybe game chips as well?
Thank you again, feel a bit relieved !

MillyONaire Tue 25-Mar-14 19:35:15

The Aga cookbooks will tell you that while on conventional cookers you cook 20% in the oven and 80% on the hob it is the opposite on an Aga. It definitely takes a bit of getting used to but so long as you think of preparing as much as possible beforehand so you can put stuff in the oven after. Also (assuming it's a two oven aga) the lower oven is for heating plates and keeping stuff warm and the top oven is for cooking. You can cook savoury and sweet at the same time without taste transfer. You might need to turn up the temperature if you're planning on cooking a lot. I'd be surprised if they didn't leave you Aga cook books for cooking tips. Does the house come with a gas barbeque??? Cold starter might be an idea too.
I love love love my aga and have to re-learn how to cook on a gas hob every summer when I turn it off. Enjoy your trip!

I would prep everything humanly possible in advance - so starter something that can be put on sharing plates in the middles of the tables (terrine/pate etc with nice bread), a casserole that's been basically cooked beforehand, it'll only get nicer for a day of rest (beef or venison sound yum), maybe dauphinoise potatoes but I'd probably par-boil the potatoes first to avoid the risk of raw spuds if the oven cools down, easy veg. Then a cold pudding - chocolate torte perhaps.

Cooking on a Aga CAN Be lovely, but I wouldn't want the pressure of doing it for 20 in an unfamiliar kitchen.

ShoeWhore Tue 25-Mar-14 20:44:35

I'd make a big lamb tagine before you go.

Wishiwashelenmirren Tue 25-Mar-14 20:50:40

Hmm, collective view is stew of some kind over chicken? I can easily prep the chicken beforehand, would fill with asparagus and Parmesan, wrap with Parma ham then roast (smaller than boned chicken, cooking time less haphazard). Maybe do that and that lovely beef shin stew tg mentioned above. A vege terrine of some sort ?

tb Tue 25-Mar-14 21:04:35

Milly the lower oven in a 2-oven Aga is a simmering oven and goes up to gas mark 3. It's only in a 4-oven that you get a warming oven.

Wish as it's a 4-oven you have a warming plate - for warming plates, keeping a casserole warm etc, boiling plate, simmering plate

Ovens - top left simmering oven gas 1-3
- top right roasting oven gas 6-9+
- bottom left warming oven gas 1/2-1
- bottom right baking oven gas 3-5

However, simmering ovens vary a great deal in temperature.

I'm on my third Aga. The first was a coal to gas conversion 2 oven, and the second was a 2 oven gas one. My current is an electric 4 oven with the top warming plate (the one without a lid) being exchanged for 2 gas burners as it reaches 40C in summer where we live. Their simmering ovens were about the same temperature.

The simmering oven on my current Aga is really hot, and is too hot to leave casseroles in overnight - especially ones with tomato in, as they start to burn and the tomato becomes bitter. My Christmas cake - an Aga recipe, but not a Mary Berry one - takes about 5 hours, but in the other 2 Agas took 12 hours as per the recipe.

When you're cooking the broccoli, don't leave it too long in the simmering oven as it can quite quickly go dark green, a bit bitter and mushy. I might think of microwaving it tbh.

Here's the beef recipe - it's in the Aga Winter book - serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
700g braising steak cut into smaller steaks - or shin cut into cubes
350g onions sliced thinly
25g anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped finely
2 tbsp capers chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp fresh thyme - plus extra for garnish.
1 tsp mustard

Heat the oil in a casserole on the simmering plate and brown the beef well a few pieces at a time. When all the meat has been browned, stir in 60 ml of cold water to losen any sediment from the bottom. Return all the meat.
Add the onion, anchovies, capers, capers, herbs and mustard.
Mix together until combined thoroughly.

Crumple a sheet of greaseproof and wet it, or foil. Open it out and press down over the meat. Cover the casserole with a tight lid, and cook on the floor of the simmering oven for 5-7 hours until the meat is meltingly tender.

Garnish with some chopped thyme, or you could use parsley.

tb Tue 25-Mar-14 21:06:20

Wish I wouldn't hesitate to do the chicken - and you could easily fit 4 into the large roasting tin.

Wishiwashelenmirren Tue 25-Mar-14 21:15:34

tb thank you! I'm going with the chicken and a stew then, Dh happy as he would prefer beef, MIL happy as she likes the chicken - here's hoping it all cooks ok!
Thank you so much to all for taking the time to advice an aga novice!

tb Tue 25-Mar-14 22:01:58

Wish It's a pleasure, and all you have to do now, is to let us know where it is as we can turn up - will bring own plate, cutlery and glass wink (Don't worry, I live in SW France, so a bit far to come.)

ScaryMcLary Wed 26-Mar-14 12:52:56

Another easy option could be a couple of legs of lamb. We arrived on holiday to discover an aga and I had to wing it for 16. I browned them, covered them and chucked them in the aga in the morning before we went out, and by dinner time they were slide-off-the-bone perfect. I guess we must have got lucky and put them in a slow cooking part of the oven?

DystopianReality Wed 26-Mar-14 13:14:45

What about a huge gammon joint, put it in the bottom oven (no need to soak) put in at about 10 pm night before, it'll be meltingly delicious by midday, recipe in Mary Berry's Aga cookbook. then you don't use the roasting oven, freeing it up for roast potatoes/dauphinoise. I would serve a really nice large salad.

AgaMum Wed 09-Jul-14 14:49:07

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