Cooking Without Gas

I don’t think I’ve really talked before about how much I love cooking. Here’s a hint: I really fucking love cooking. The past few years though I’ve been living on my own in houses where I didn’t like the kitchen. First there was my Dads place which had no heating – cooking for one in that kitchen was a miserable experience. Then there was the shared house in Oxford where I loathed to touch anything in case I caught ebola or AIDS or something. Earlier this year I moved into a gorgeous little flat in Banbury, but it had a pokey little kitchen with no windows so I still didn’t really cook for myself.

The fact is though, that I love cooking for other people and I’ve always enjoyed experimenting. I wondered for a while if I would become a food critic and then maybe a food photographer. I used to buy cookbooks because of the photographer rather than the chef (here’s a little link to David Loftus, Matt Armendariz and Penny De Los Santos for you…).

And some of my most inspirational books when considering this as a career route:

Living with previous partners has resulted in me shouldering the burden of most of the cooking in the house. Because I could actually cook and for some reason their mothers believed that they didn’t need to know how to. (Seriously Baby Boom Mothers – fuck you.) But it always came with lists of demands of how they liked things or what they didn’t like.

I pretty much gave up my dream of being a food photographer two years ago when I decided to turn vegetarian for lifestyle reasons. Soon those lifestyle reasons actually became health reasons when I discovered that my IBS seemed to be related to protein intake. I don’t eat meat, it makes me happy both ethically and medically. I miss KFC but I don’t miss bacon.

Then I started going out with Adam, who used to be a chef and who loves cooking. And less than a month into our relationship we were doing this at a LARP event…

_MG_2058web

_MG_2055web

I grew up mostly outside. When I was 18 I moved to Wales and spent most of the time that I wasn’t working as a lifeguard and swimming teacher either mountaineering, climbing or kayaking. After that I moved back to Essex and spent some time as an outdoors instructor and then an RAF civilian instructor where I taught rock climbing, high ropes, orienteering, mountain biking… etc. But the time spent teaching Duke of Edinburgh was the best.

All that (and that’s not even counting growing up doing Guides and Scouts) gave me an awful lot of time to cook on open fires and learn to love the slightly haphazard results that were bound to happen. I’ve pretty much cooked every way you can over an open fire. From putting tins of baked beans directly on the coals to doing some kind of weird gourmet roast dinner using an oven dug into the ground.

But I digress.

When Adam and I were looking for a house together we thought that an amazing kitchen would be top of our list of ‘must haves’. The reality is that we got a gorgeous house with a decidedly ropey and cold kitchen. The day we moved in we realised the oven had to be condemned because it had no door seals and only three legs. It was resting the back of the unit on one of those square block plug units. So we set about ordering ourselves a new one.

We ended up with a Belling FSC50DOP that we got on a pretty sweet deal from an online site. There was a bit of a saga with the electrical connection that was in the kitchen (old and out of date) but our friendly local electrician came round and fixed it all up for £30. Pretty good really.

The grill kind of sucks because the heat is all concentrated in the middle, but a double oven is really useful to us. And it’s a good, deep size in there. I reckon you could do a Christmas dinner for ten or so with absolutely no problems – including Yorkshire Puds.

When we were looking for what we wanted to buy, the discussion inevitably came up on Facebook. It seemed that everyone was in the ‘electric hobs are rubbish’ camp, which didn’t surprise me at all to be honest, I’ve heard it all before.

I didn’t cook on an electric hob until I was 21 and living with my Mum. And to be honest, they terrify me a bit. I’m always scared that I’m going to leave them on and cause an explosion or something. Plus I have a tendency to slop food around when I’m cooking and cause my arm hair to get burnt off as it explodes into little fireballs around the pan.

To me an electric hob is far more like cooking on coals. Yeah they’re less controllable when it comes to immediately turning up or down the heat, but you control it by moving the pans about on the top of the oven, like you do with a campfire or an Aga top.

A day or two after the oven arrived we were in TK Maxx and we found ourselves a griddle the same as the one here for just £16. Just in case you didn’t know TK Maxx always has amazing deals on cookware. They do Le Creuset for half price, you just have to keep going in until they have the stuff you really want.

The griddle now lives permanently on the front two rings of our cooker with the flat side up. It makes the most increible cooking surface. I know you can use them with gas but I’m not sure you’d get the same gorgeous, even heat from two gas hobs under it. I’ve been cooking with my Le Creuset Iron Casserole for almost ten years now and cast iron is easily the best thing to cook on. I didn’t even know how to properly season my cast iron until I moved in with Adam last month and it’s lasted all that time being knocked about by me and left to sit in water because I couldn’t be bothered to wash it up. I got it for £60 at the Le Creuset factory outlet shop at Freeport Braintree with vouchers from my 21st birthday.

We’re considering adding a second griddle to permanently live on our cooker top. We don’t use the rings for really doing anything else, so it does make sense. That way we can have one with the ridges showing and one with the flat top showing. But I have to admit, the flat top is easily my favourite to cook on.


I seem to be rambling rather alot. This is really a blog post to say how much I love cooking and food photography and then an excuse to put some pictures up that I took when I cooked breakfast this morning. The one saving grace of our kitchen is that it’s lovely and light with a great big window taking up most of one wall.

I don’t claim these to be masterpieces, but rather just some pictures I enjoyed taking today. And as part of my own little campaign to convince you all that cooking on electric is easily the best way to go about things. If you don’t mind a little smoke.

T he downside of course is that they take quite a long time to warm up. You have to heat cast iron pans slowly and on a low heat. You never need to turn them up hot because they hold the heat and radiate it well. I never turn my electric hob up past half way when using cast iron and it cooks wonderfully.

_MG_3148web_MG_3142web

Yup, that is a metal mixing bowl placed straight onto the flat griddle. One of the best things about it is that you can do things like that. Here it’s the butter and garlic melting in order to fry the mushrooms.

_MG_3149web

_MG_3157web

 

This was basically the remnants of our Christmas dinner. That’s sliced up chestnut nut roast on the right, with carrot and swede mash on the top left._MG_3163web

_MG_3167webI’ve never had such a clean fried egg as I can get on this griddle. Seriously. I have the most utterly overpriced Tefal frying pan with a special ultra non-stick teflon coating and those little cunts still stick every time. But this cast iron griddle… all you do is scrape away any bits of stuck food with the end of your spatula before drizzling a bit of oil on the iron and then dropping a nice fresh egg on top. Leave it a few minutes – don’t prod at it – and it’ll form a nice base under it which will slide off with no effort at all.

_MG_3169web

I was also amazed at how little cleaning these needed. I thought they’d be a mess. But the reality is that all it needs is a quick wipe over with a damp cloth followed by a bit of oil rubbed into it with some kitchen roll.

_MG_3170web