15 Jun 2010

Spotlight: Guenhwyvar { Domestic Goddess }

I'd like to introduce you to Guenhwyvar or Gwenie as she is known in my house.

Gwenie is a Domestic Goddess and fully deserves the capitalisation. She was named after Miss Pettigrew because, as Delysia says in the film, the woman can do anything. The spelling of her name is the Welsh spelling, as to be expected for a fab Goddess who lived on the Welsh border.

Gwenie came into being circa 1940's, no one's entirely sure when as all records about her have been lost but for an oldie she sure is pretty and you'd never guess by looking at her just how old she is.

Here's some pictures of Gwenie in action:

This is Gwenie when she first arrived. As you can see the trip made her go to pieces and it was a little while before she pulled herself together. Marigold (a butch, hairy biker type chap) was instrumental in putting her back together.

Since then we haven't looked back!

This is Gwenie, all done up and in her new home. Isn't she pretty? You'd never guess how old she was.

Gwenie originally ran on coal but the Aga Shop in Twyford fiddled about with her insides and now she runs on mains gas.

Aga's are on constantly, you don't turn them up or down or off ... well, you can turn them up but it can take an hour or so for them to reach temperature. Instead, you run them constantly at about 220°C and if you want it colder you put a sheet of food grade stainless steel in the oven which will absorb the heat you don't want.

Gwenie's currently running at about 180°C, I say 'at about' because there is no thermometer attached to the Aga, there's only a gauge to indicate how much stored heat she's got in her so most of the time I'm cooking with a lot of guesswork and frequent checks inside the ovens as she doesn't release any cooking smells (they go up the flue instead). This is Unfortunate as it means I burn a lot of stuff unless I'm really paying attention.

Gwenie's of the two oven variety. The top door on the right is her roasting oven, this is Very Hot Indeed. Inside there are various places you put things to make them cook at different temperatures. By placing a roasting tin on the floor of the oven and putting a shelf in it I can simulate a BBQ. Betcha didn't know that about Aga's didya?

The bottom door on the right is her Simmering Oven. Aga's work in the opposite way to normal ovens, most of the cooking you do with Gwenie will be done inside her rather than on the top. If I want to boil carrots for example, I would bring them to the boil on the Boiling Plate (the left plate on the top) and then put them in the Simmering Oven to finish off. If I wanted to I could put them on the Simmering Plate (right plate on the top) but the point of the Aga is to keep as much heat in as possible so opening the top lids to expose the plates is only done when necessary as it releases a lot of the stored heat.

In order to retain that heat Gwenie is stuffed with insulation. She's made of cast iron plates, enamelled a beautiful cream colour and then filled with loft insulation of the roll and pebble type (see big bags in first picture). She runs off a pilot light that just tops up her heat as required, a lot like an immersion heater. This means that, hopefully, she's not costing me a lot in gas (I've yet to have my first bill). This might sound a little expensive but I have no need for an electric kettle, toaster, toastie maker, slow oven, microwave or tumble dryer as she covers all those bases with the heat she's already got stored. Win, win I say!

Gwenie is excellent at multi-tasking:

Gwenie drying the washing and keeping Bear's butt warm

Drying the washing and boiling the kettle and keeping the wolf's butt warm
(see I told you she could do anything!)

Drying my clothes and making spaghetti bolognese

And finally, boiling the kettle and some potatoes whilst looking pretty

The weird metal round thing that kind of looks like a cross between a tennis racket and a snow shoe hanging from the shelf above Gwenie is what I use to make toast. I only recently discovered how to make perfect toast with Gwenie and promptly ate 8 slices of toast for lunch and tea. Roasts are divine with Gwenie because all the moisture is sealed in (the ovens are just big metal boxes after all). And don't even get me started on American Pancakes ... mmmmmmmmm.

Surprisingly the wolf loves her too, given how much fur he has I thought she'd run too warm for him but if I'm in the kitchen then so is he and inevitably he's curled up in front of Gwenie. 

Dear Gwenie, I don't know how I lived without you!

Thanks for stopping by,


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