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The very nice Nice Family

Tracy, Duncan & Molly Nice were kind enough to contribute the following images of their Aga, their own little Aga Saga and a recipe for no-knead bread.

The images provided by Tracy are available here:

The very first morning, Molly making toast.
The kitchen - 1.
The kitchen - 2.
The kitchen - 3.
The kitchen - 4.
The kitchen - 5.
Vancouver Island, snowfall.

[T]he kitchen. It's not everyone's cup of tea - no built in cabinets, no dishwasher (shock, horror!), but it suits us down to the ground! We moved to British Columbia 6 years ago from Devon. My husband's British, as were my parents however I'm Canadian born and bred. Like any Englishman, Duncan craved a little piece of land of his own so we purchased a typical "BC Box" house - a 1970's rectangular, featureless structure common to the West Coast of Canada. The drawbacks of the house didn't detract from the perfect 1 1/2 acres of property however. We now have sheep and chickens, an English Springer Spaniel and an Aga. All is good in our world!

Our non-traditional (unless you live in the 1930's, in which case it's state-of-the-art) kitchen evolved from my love of old wood, things worn over time, unique things. I also needed to create some character where absolutely none existed. We'd come from a 350 year-old cottage with huge beams, 18" thick walls and worn flagstones and adjusting to dark brown melamine, pink shag carpeting and plasterboard walls was just not in the cards. My husband had his barn and his chicken coop and his acreage - I was going to have my warm and homey, welcoming and different, kitchen - no matter what. It's taken 6 years but, I think I'm finally there.

I've never been a gadget-lover, and the Aga, the newest kitchen addition that arrived last November, is exactly what we needed. We've done away with our microwave, toaster and electric kettle. We've also cut down on our dryer useage as most week-ends will find clothes racks perched atop and in front of Clara (Aga's name). We have an electric version of the cooker and, with electricity being relatively inexpensive here in BC, we've found that although our energy costs have risen slightly (25 pounds per month) since the Aga's arrival, it is more than compensated by the savings we have generated by not eating out nearly as much and by purchasing ingredients for meals rather than ready-made meals.

I was lucky enough to own an Aga for a brief 6-months when we lived in the UK and I never forgot how easy it was to use, how it turned the simplest things (toast, chicken, vegetables) into the most incredible delicacies with utter ease. Yes, there is also the wonderful solidness of it. Like the anchor in your home. It was 9 years before I managed to get another Aga, but I never stopped planning for, thinking about and pricing out these cookers. Does it make anyone a better cook? General concensus is no. If you were rubbish on your old cooker, you'll be rubbish on an Aga. Having said that, I was never a great cook. Always needed to follow recipes. Always stressing about timing and quantities. Clara has removed that stress and by doing so, allowed me the freedom to enjoy and experiment. The result is healthier, tastier and much more frequent home cooking. Oh, Jamie Oliver has had a little to do with it as well (LOVE that man, never had a bad result with any of his recipes). I've also spent a lot of time on two very helpful North American websites (through Yahoo.com groups) - AgaLovers and PoshNosh - both contain a wealth of information for people considering purchasing Agas and people who already own them. PoshNosh evolved from the AgaLovers site, becoming more a resource for information about food than for information about the Aga, however geared towards people who are cooking on an Aga.

No-knead Bread Recipe

The simplest thing I make that knocks the socks off everyone I serve it to? No-knead bread. I got this recipe from PoshNosh however I believe it orginated in the New York Times newspaper. This is the "quick" version and, believe me, you really MUST try it to believe it!

3 cups bread flour (high gluten content - the brand I buy says it is for automatic bread makers)
1 sachet (8g) INSTANT yeast (not regular)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water

Combine the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Add water and stir to combine. The dough will be quite "shaggy" (I know, I didn't understand what this meant either until I tried it but, you'll see what it means with your first batch) but don't worry, it will combine as it rises.

Cover bowl and leave in warm area of your house/kitchen for 4 hours.

After 4 hours turn dough out onto a counter or board. You may want to oil the counter/board first as the dough is very, very sticky. Don't worry, it's supposed to be that way. Once you've turned the dough out, fold it over once or twice and cover it with plastic wrap (not completely round the dough, just over top, to allow the heat to generate again and make it rise again).

Place a large (5 quart or so) round or oval cast iron casserole/dutch oven with lid in the RO (or regular pre-heated oven at 450F degrees) to preheat for half-an-hour.

After the half-hour, remove the casserole/dutch oven, lift the dough, seam side up, into the centre of the casserole - don't worry about shape of the dough, depending on how you lift it might be round or oblong, it'll be delish no matter what - replace the lid then pop into the oven again for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake another 10-15 minutes until the loaf is golden brown.

Remove from oven, lift loaf from casserole, let cool then enjoy! I GUARANTEE you, if you try this bread you will amaze yourself, your family and your friends. All told, it's about 50 seconds of work - maybe a minute and a half if you include washing the bowl.

Slice it, toast it, butter it and prepare to enjoy something out of this world. Really.

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