For many years I had lusted after an Aga – the stored heat cooker so popular in middle-class English kitchens. Living down on the plain made it impossible to ever contemplate one. It was not really cold enough in the winter to justify having a permanent source of heat quietly throbbing in a corner of the kitchen and my discovery of the astronomical price tag quickly put paid to any thoughts I may have had about beginning a campaign to break down the husband’s steely resolve.
But I wanted one.
Our eventual decision to move up into the chilly reaches of the Onkaparinga Valley, coupled with the discovery that Aga’s could be bought as reconditioned, second-hand units caused new hope to spring in my covetous little heart and I quickly began shopping around. Even second-hand and slightly shabby, the object of my affection was still priced pretty stiffly and my attention was diverted to the Irish brand of slow combustion cooker, the Stanley. For just a few hundred dollars less than the used Aga, I could purchase a new Stanley which was a deal that I decided could work for me! The long-suffering husband was less than thrilled to discover that my new
toy essential cooking appliance would mean major carving up of the cabinetry in the shiny, new kitchen, but eventually he just sighed and signed the cheques.
Stanley is a wood-fired slow combustion cooker and we light him sometime in April every year and he quietly burns until around about October, day and night. He suffuses, not only his corner of the room, but half of the house with a lovely gentle heat that draws people into the kitchen and encourages them to warm their hands, feet or behinds in front of the oven. Stanley has two ovens – a hot one and a cooler one for slow cooking, two hot plates on top for boiling, frying etc and a warming plate which is a perfect place for the kettle to sit ready to be called in to action. Having a permanently preheated oven makes it that much easier to quickly mix up a cake or some bread for lunch boxes or afternoon snacks and casseroles and roasts can be prepared in the morning and left in the slow oven to quietly bubble, ready to serve when everyone comes in cold and tired at the end of the day. Either oven is also a perfect place to dry wet shoes and socks – although putting them in the oven and closing the door has proven to be a mistake in the past!
Life with the wood stove is not completely perfect – there is always wood to be brought in, splinters to be removed from fingers (mostly mine) and a minor degree of soot to keep at bay. And all that baking does tend to settle around one’s middle and hips. But, minor inconveniences aside, we love that Stanley makes those crisp, dark mornings easier to face and all through the freezing winter of the Adelaide Hills our kitchen is a cozy, inviting haven with a truly warm heart.
As my thoughts turn, with the turn of the season, to baking, I like to try to vary my output a little. If the decision was left to my offspring, there would be a non-stop stream of chocolate laced goodies flowing from the ovens – not that there is anything at all wrong with chocolate! But sometimes the occasion calls for something savoury rather than sweet. These delicious little bits of buttery wickedness are perfect with a drink and make a change from packaged snacks. They are an old fashioned treat, probably a bit ’70’s, but I like to add some chopped, fresh herbs to freshen them up. I have used rosemary just because I love it, but thyme or oregano would be just as nice. I make these in the Thermomix, but any good food processor will whizz them up very quickly. It is important to keep the dough and your hands as cool as possible and not to over-process the dough. I store opened bags of grated cheese in the freezer and a great cheat if you need to whip up a batch in a hurry is to use this as it will make the dough very cold. If you want to try and reduce the fat a little, you could substitute some of the tasty cheese for grated parmesan – but only use the good stuff, not anything out of a shaker!!!
ROSEMARY CHEESE BITES
100 gms cold butter
100 gms plain flour
1-2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 tsp cayenne (more if you are braver than me!)
Speed 5, 15 seconds until resembles breadcrumbs.
100 gms grated tasty cheese
Speed 5, 15-20 seconds until just comes together in ball.
Wrap in plastic wrap and put into fridge for 1 hour.
Roll into small balls, space evenly on tray, press down with fork.
Bake 180C for 15 minutes, until golden.
Printable recipe ROSEMARY CHEESE BITES.