Decluttering. A word that strikes fear into the hearts of most of us because despite our best intentions, we invariably build up a collection of stuff that we didn't even realise that we had. Take the Mammy in law, for instance. She's lived in her home since she got married 50 years ago and has steadily accumulated a collection of crockery and collectibles. We always knew the living room was crammed full of pretty things but it all came to a head last week. You see, older houses need rewiring and the electrician was coming to move sockets. Work means moving stuff so she had to clear out the beautiful display cabinets and cupboards so that they could be moved. Let me tell you now that Buckingham Palace probably have less in their collection than what made an appearance. Sets and sets of dinner services which were passed down from her mother, a collection of glassware, some of which has been generously passed onto me, and some old pots from when she had a range cooker in the kitchen.
I've always hankered after a range cooker myself but our kitchen is just far too small to accommodate one of these stately beauties. When I was younger, I stayed in a friend's house for the weekend and their kitchen had a very elderly cream range in the corner. It was the most multi-purpose item I've ever seen and I was utterly fascinated by it. Socks were in an oven at the bottom, drying out. Toast was being made, a kettle was boiling, a casserole was bubbling away and it was heating the house too. We would have needed radiators, a toaster, a kettle, a hob and the back boiler to match it! Range cookers have changed over the years and my parents have a modern gas version in their home. I have to be frank, it was the one thing I really missed when I moved out and into our own house. I loved having a huge hob with 5 burners, two ovens, a separate grill and somewhere to hide all the frying pans. It was a culture shock, to say the least, to downgrade to an electric oven/grill and a gas hob : we couldn't afford a gas oven back in the day so electric it was... I still dream about having my dream kitchen with more storage than I could ever possibly need, heaps of counter space for making pastry and a shiny new range cooker like one of these from Argos. I'd even cope with a dual fuel one.
If you're thinking about getting a range cooker, what do you need to know? Well, it's not so different from cooking on a standard oven and hob but it's so much more flexible. Sizes vary, so you can choose one to fit the space available in your kitchen and make sure it incorporates all the features you need. The days of white or stainless steel are no more, with a whole rainbow of colours available so it can be as sedate or as standout as you want. Hobs can be gas, electric or induction. If space is at a premium, opt for one that is wider than standard so you get a larger hob space and big oven - perfect for that giant turkey at Christmas. Catalytic liners are great to help you keep the oven shiny and new. If money is no object, pyrolitic ovens are fantastic. Just remove the racks, turn on the cleaning setting and all the gunk just turns to ash.
If you stirfry a lot, consider a hob with a wok burner like in my parents. It really is so handy and the wok sits perfectly while the rest of the hob is free to keep cooking on. If you bake a lot, having two ovens and a separate grill will spoil you beyond belief. Just remember to set timers when you're using the ovens so you don't forget what you're working on. Oh, and remember that if you have an induction hob, you might need to change your pots and pans as they're not a fan of copper or aluminium.
That's my fantasy kitchen. What's yours?
In association with Argos