Would you consider a wood-burning stove? Well, wood you?
Staying at my Dad’s gorgeous house in southern Tasmania is always a treat. The nights are crystal clear and perfect for star and nature spotting, the days are spent sailing, walking or
snoozing reading in the sunny spot in the library. And at every meal my stepmother Judi produces the most amazing food – much of it based around local produce and influencers (like Gourmet Farmer Matthew Evans, who lives in the vicinity) – and all cooked on her wood-burning stove.
That’s right, in their newly-built, award-winning home, Dad and Judi opted for a classic wood-burning stove over the latest in induction cooktops. Of course they’re not completely bereft of modern conveniences (there’s an electric kettle for the endless cups of tea we seem to consume, and a state-of-the-art wireless sound system) but there’s something pretty special about being the first one up in the morning and heading into the kitchen to light the stove. (JD seems to enjoy sleeping in more than he enjoys lighting the stove!)
My Dad keeps a very well-stocked woodpile (a common sight in Tassie) and chops kindling every couple of days (any visiting grandsons are always keen to have a go with the axe, much to their mothers’ horror), so everything you need is always by the stove, ready to go. In the chill of the early morning, it’s great fun to coax a tiny flame into a fire that you know will be responsible for breakfast, lunch and dinner later in the day.
So, what’s the story with a wood-burning stove like an Aga or a Rayburn?
“A clean-burning, wood-fired Rayburn uses indirect heat technology to create a stable, controllable heat source. Heat is transferred from the fire to the heavy, heat retentive castings by the radiation, the top of the oven being heated by flue gases passing over it. A unique triangular box under the oven reflects upwards to distribute heat across the floor of the oven. Inside, a special convector duct ensures that heat is conveyed to all parts evenly.”
That’s from their website and what it really means is that cooking on a wood burner is easier than you think – you’re not thrusting your hand into an open flame to guess the temperature. You can control the temperature with various flues and dampers and there’s a temperature gauge as well. The cooktop at Dad’s place is a combination of a solid plate that’s heated by the fire and conventional gas burners.
“Mounted into the top of a Rayburn is a large, cast-iron hotplate, underneath which are deep fins angled directly above the fire to collect and concentrate the heat. The heat is then graduated across the hotplate from left to right. The hotter left side being perfect for fast stir-frys and quick boiling – just slide across to simmer. And, as many a Rayburn enthusiast will confirm, its superb built-in griddle makes it perfect for toast, toasted sandwiches and pancakes etc.”
Once again, Dad and Judi have proved us all wrong by using a wood-burning stove on a daily basis and making it look easy. I tried to get Judi to admit there was something it couldn’t do and she came back with, “really, the only thing we’d change would be putting a stone hearth in front of it. As you can imagine it gets pretty warm and that’s slightly warped the timber floor that runs up to it, but that’s such a minor thing that we’re not worried.
Another benefit of the Rayburn is the fact that it works wonderfully to heat the living room and kitchen as well as perform as a stove. In fact, in the middle of winter, between the stove, the fireplace and the double-glazed windows, it can get a little warm in here. We’ve been known to have the doors open on a winter’s evening to stop us from wilting.”
One of Judi’s favourite recipes is this raspberry yoghurt cake from Matthew Evans – enjoy!
What do you think about having a wood-burning stove – up for the challenge?
How do you heat your house? Are you an axe or a chainsaw type of girl?