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I've been cooking. Chaos obviously reigned. The kitchen is a bomb site. I don't know if you've heard about it but on Twitter there is a bit of a huge movement going on called Sunday Baking Club. Each week the two great girls who run it set a theme, and this week it was "Bakes For The Boys".
Now, apparently some incredible stupid and presumably very miserable people who haven't told a joke or expressed laughter in their entire lives have picked on this particular theme as being "sexist", I personally disagree and think it's a great tongue-in-cheek theme and I bet there isn't a single complaint coming from the hundreds of blokes, be they brothers, sons, fathers, husbands, uncles, boyfriends or just pals, who are being cooked for today by the women in their lives as a result. I'm one of them, surprising Mr Rarr with a steak and ale pie.
Well, that was the plan. He'd been back from work for over two hours and I had to send him to Tesco Express twice and we were still no closer to getting the pie in the oven. But that's impromptu cooking for you! First I forgot the mushrooms and then I realised that the pastry I had defrosted had somehow managed to go off despite effectively having been stored by means of cryogenic freezing. But we WOULD have a pie.
While Mr Rarr made his second jaunt out to Tesco, I poured the pie contents into the pie dish (it was a pastry-top pie only, so a bit of a cheat) and popped the casserole dish I had used to slow-cook the meat in the washing up bowl. And I realised in a moment of remarkable soppiness that I love that dish. This review is probably a reflection of how I associate cooking with love. I have cooked some of my finest meals in this dish, it was bought for me by the person I love the most, my mum, and I get to cook for her and my beloved guy with it on a regular basis - for that, I am very lucky.
I suppose I could best be described as a rustic cook in my approach - I love autumn and winter for casseroles and pies, I love slow cooking if I'm going to cook with meat at all, I love Sunday roasts and sofa snuggles and cooking big family meals - and given that my family consists of two people other than myself, when I do get the chance to do it I make sure I do justice to the meat that is involved. For this, my Le Creuset Casserole dish has been a total legend.
A French company, Le Creuset produce cast-iron cookware in beautiful enamel colours. When it first launched, it was mostly recognised for it's "flame" colour - a bright orange. In more recent years, they have branched out with bolder colours which were a huge hit - the company already had a reputation for great-quality cookware, so the chance to "collect" them in you colour of choice was clearly a popular move. They have since moved into other product ranges such as stoneware, but their enamels all retain the same bold, high-quality charm.
Being made with high quality materials and probably capable of lasting a lifetime, the cast-iron Le Creuset products don't come cheap, but then you do pay more for quality. Is it worth it?
My wonderful mother gifted me an oval casserole dish one Christmas. It is in 'Coastal Blue' but also available in a range of colours including the very modern teal and a rich plum purple.
It is oval, with two handles at the farthest points of the oval, and can be used on all heat sources although it cannot be used in the freezer or microwave.
You also, really, do not want to drop this on your foot. It is solid cast-iron and it is high-quality and very, very hefty. It holds heat brilliantly and the lid fits snugly but is easy to lift off - the production is brilliant quality. But if you ever suffer a break in when you're making a late-night cup of cocoa, don't use the rolling pin, just clout them with this - they won't need to do an e-fit when the culprit is still out cold on your floor!
The lid has a black handle, which provides a nice colour contrast. To initially use, just remove labels and wash with warm soapy water - as this is enameled inside and out, that's all you need to do. The inside is a pleasing cream colour and beautifully smooth - I have never had trouble cleaning stains off of this and when I'm done washing it by hand, it looks as good as new. Not bad when I have used it for some heavy-duty cooking and had it for several years now.
One thing to point out is obviously that the weight won't make this suitable for cooking with children or for anyone with reduced strength or mobility. Also, while I'm on the finer details, the handles of the main dish are sufficiently "open" to allow a good grip even when wearing the required thick oven gloves - make sure you have a good grasp of this because it is heavy.
Be warned that to not compromise the dexterity of the black handle the maximum temperature you should cook at is 190 degrees. But to use without the lid the rest of the body can be cooked with at any temperature.
You are advised on the website not to heat an empty pan or use it to cut food within it as this could damage the enamel. Which would, frankly, be criminal. You should also be careful when stirring with metal utensils - a wooden spoon would be better, and far more in keeping with the traditional look.
I love the colour of my casserole dish. It is a deep, light blue - not a shallow enamel you can see through. The ridges on the lid look so classic and the branding is minimal and classy. Mine is the 29cm version and this can be bought on Amazon for £108 in most colours and this is a big discount off the standard £155. It was a big investment by mum and I always instantly think of her when I cook with it - it was a beautiful, thoughtful gift that has allowed me to cook consistently, trusting my equipment and enjoying the whole experience of cooking for those I love. It remains one of my favourite gifts from her ever, and I know that I will cook with it for many, many years to come.
My favourite dishes to make are my own venison casserole recipe although I have also used it to make soups, pie fillings and other casseroles. It is also sufficiently sized to make batch cooking convenient - with just two of us in the house usually, it makes sense to do so when you're using electricity to slow cook. Also, I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that batch-cooking something with beef, such as a chilli, often taste better the day after - and with the lid so secure and well-made, you know you can leave this overnight without having to worry.
I can honestly say I have never cooked a duff meal using this - it is beautiful for slow cooking and the heat retained by the metal means that going back for seconds results in still readily warm food without moisture loss, as the lid fits so well. The enamel on the inside has never been dyed by use and I cannot speak highly enough for the quality of the product. I hope to cook my wonderful mum many more wonderful meals from it in thanks that she introduced this admittedly heftily-priced item into my kitchen but you truly do get what you pay for, and this could well outlive me - if having kids were even remotely in my life plans, I could see this being used by my own daughter.
So yes, this is as highly recommended as it can be. The quality just cannot be bettered and it will remain one of my favourite items of kitchenware for as long as I am capable of cooking, for both practical but more importantly, sentimental reasons. To me, this sums up family cooking.
Oh, and the pie was really, really awesome. If there's a more popular girlfriend in all the Midlands, I'd be very surprised!
More of my cookware fetish I am afraid! This time the large and gorgeous oval Le Creuset casserole dish.
I have a number of Le Creuset items in my collection in the cassis colour which is a beautiful aubergine/purple. These oval casseroles come in a range of bright colours and sizes. The one that I own in the oval range is 27cm which I was lucky enough to receive as a gift. They are also available in 23cm, 25cm, and 29cm.
This is one of Le Creuset's famous cast iron oven pans and it weighs a small ton. It features the famous graduated glazing which is enamel on cast iron, very hard wearing and easy on the eye. As with all Le Creuset products, it has the embossed name across the top on the lid. I love the retro design, apparently these pieces have kept the same design for 80 years. To get the stunning shiny glaze the pieces are fired at 840°C which gives a very strong and hard to chip finish.
The casserole has a central black knob on the lid made out of some form of heat resistant plastic. As with the rest of the cast iron range the casserole dish can be used on all hobs, including ceramic and halogen. The casserole dish can also be used in the oven and this is how I usually use it. The handles are decent and easy enough to grab but the pan conducts heat well so be careful.
This pot has a large 4.7 litre capacity so is ideal for family cooking or for batch cooking. I find that the lid and cast iron do reduce cooking times for most things.
The enamel surfaces are not suitable for dry cooking. It is suggested that you use some form of oil/butter etc to cover the base before you start to cook as dry cooking can damage the enamel. The pan will take longer to heat up than a standard one due to the thickness of the cast iron, but once it is hot it stays that way for a long time. It cooks evenly and reliably and can be efficient on a lower heat setting than most so it costs less to cook. Le Creuset recommend that you do not use metal utensils (again these may damage enamel surface) instead the use of silicone, wood or plastic is preferred. Care needs to be taken when you have finished cooking too, allow to cool before you wash it to avoid cracking the glaze and do not use scourers or wire wool. I love cooking on an enamel surface and have had no problems getting any food residue off of this once soaked in soapy water.
These can be placed in a dishwasher but the company warn that repeated dish washing could fade the enamel so hand washing is best. The base pot is grill safe and can withstand high heat either on a stove top or in an oven. Obviously it is not suitable for microwave use due to it being metal.
I use these for veggie lasagne, curries and all one pot meals. The are great for any kind of shallow frying of onions etc and due to the even heat distribution make wonderful cheese sauces. The are VERY heavy though, particularly when full so care must be taken when moving it from oven to table.
All Le Creuset products are made to a very high standard and this is no exception.
The casserole does not absorb odours and is stain resistant. There is a lifetime guarantee.
I have owned mine for 3 years and it has not scratched or been damaged in any way. These should last for yonks.
* Available in a range of bright colours
* Care and use booklet included
* LIFETIME guarantee
* Non scratch glaze
* Do not absorb odours/ stain
* Solid cast iron
* Oven/ aga/ hob safe
* Easy to clean
* Strong and durable
Well these are expensive and I could never have justified the price had I not been given one. These start at around £100 and go up to £140 so do shop around. They do sometimes come up in sales and on offer. There are many stockists including Amazon.
A big and heavy casserole dish with retro styling and practical design. Very heavy and sturdy, will last a lifetime if cared for. I absolutely love mine and it sees a lot of use.
Summary: Beautiful luxury cooking pots.
I have a number of Le Creuset items in my collection in the Almond colour range. I was given the 27cm oval casserole dish as a present and they are currently retailing on Amazon for £95.60 (September 2012). They are also available in 23cm, 25cm, and 29cm.
The dish is almond in colour with a black central knob made out of plastic, though it can be used in the oven and it has small handles on each side to allow you to carry the casserole dish around the kitchen.
The Le Creuset cast iron range is very heavy and once you have loaded it with a stew or casserole they are even heavier, so they are not suitable for every one to use. As with the rest of the cast iron range the casserole dish can be used on all hobs, including ceramic, halogen, induction, gas and oil/wood, and they come with a life time guarantee. The casserole dish can also be used in the oven and is dish washer safe, it cannot be used in a microwave and cannot be but in the freezer. The pan is not suitable for dry cooking, so it is best to add a drop of oil if you are frying onions etc, this is because the enamel would be damaged, also as they are made from cast iron the pans seem to take a little longer to heat up than other pans that I have used, heating the pan on a medium heat and leaving it that way seems to allow me to have an evenly distributed throughout the cooking process. It is also best to use either wooden or silicon spoons, not metel for stirring so that you do not damage the enamel base of the casserole dish. Once I have finished with the pan I leave it on the counter to cool, and Le Creuset also advises that you do not plunge the casserole dish into cold water whilst it hot to prevent damage. Also you should not use abrasive cleaners or cloths to clean the pan. I find that if food residue is stuck to the bottom of the pan a good soaking in warm soapy water always lifts of the residue.
We are a family of 3 and the pan is plenty big enough for us, I have done a casserole for 6 before and still had room in the pan for more food. I tend to use the casserole dish on the hob mostly, leaving it to simmer gently, but I get just as good results when using it in the oven.
Overall I would recommend the oval casserole dish to others, as it is great to look at and is easy to use the only downside really is the weight of the pan, although they are expensive I think they are a good investment.
This review will also appear on Ciao! under the same username.
This versatile pot is perfect for cooking both in the oven and on the hob. As an AGA user le creuset is invaluable proving to be an essential piece of kit for any AGA owner.
On the hob: Only a small amount of oil is needed to stop food from sticking and to start the frying process off, particularly when cooking chopped onions or meat this method provides even cooking. The pan can easily be de-glazed so no flavour is wasted without damaging the pan. The pan can also be cleaned easily with an overnight soak, easier than expected not being non-stick.
The casserole dish can also double up as a steamer. Whether its cooking vegetables or to soften onions it cooks them fast without burning. With vegetables just a small amount of water is needed to steam to perfection.
In the oven: Using the dish in the oven is perfect for casseroles and stews as the pot provides an all around heat steaming slightly giving meat a fall apart, tender texture.
I'm a little bit of a food snob and very choosy over the utensils, pans and pots I use in the kitchen. I am by no means a budding chef but I enjoy cooking for my friends and family. Le Creuset is a house hold brand name but with a touch of luxury and one of my families favourites.
No wonder they offer a lifetime guarantee!
Le Creuset began producing its first porcelain enamelled cast iron pots in 1925 from its foundry in Fresnoy le Grand, France. It is from this base that Le Creuset continues to produce its world famous cast iron pots.
*Price and availability*
This pot can cost £130.00, however if you visit the outlet stores; you can pick it up for around half the price. However the latest colours will probably not be available. I went to TK MAXX who often have Le Creuset products in and found this pot in red. It cost me
£26.00, which is fantastic value. I never let on to my guests the real price however!
The casserole dish comes in a variety of colours, the one I have is red and the shade is called cherise. The pot is made from cast iron which is extremely heavy. On the plus side of this, it is definitely built to last. The pot is 29 cm wide and holds 4.7 L, which works out at about 6 portions of casserole, rice etc.
It has a homely feel about it and when I place it on the table using two oven gloved hands wrapped around the two handles I think it evokes the image of a hearty well cooked meal. The enamel finish makes the pot look attractive and makes the pot easy to clean after use. It also prevents food sticking and becoming baked on. Similarly, inside the pot, the interior is a smooth gloss finish in a sand colour. This will clean easily by hand or by dishwasher.
The tight fitting lid keeps flavours in and keeps warm for hours. It's excellent heat retention qualities mean that only low to medium heats are needed to ensure even heat distribution
The pot can stand up to severe amounts of heat. It can withstand temperatures up to 190 degrees Celsius. You can freeze it and its dishwasher proof. It is ideal for casseroles, stews, pot roasting and perfect for preparing soups and rice dishes, even for baking.
When you bring your pot home, firstly remove all labels. Wash the pan in hot soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly.
Do not cut foods directly on any enamel surface.
Electric hand held beaters or mixers should not be used in any cookware. Permanent damage to all surfaces will be caused.
After use always cool a pan for a few minutes before washing in hot soapy water. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Do not fill a hot pan with cold water or plunge into cold water as thermal shock damage to the enamel may occur.
If there are food residues fill the pan with warm water and leave to soak for 15 - 20 minutes and then wash in the usual way. Nylon or soft abrasive pads or brushes can be used to remove stubborn residues. Do not use metallic pads, or harsh abrasive cleaning agents, as these will damage the enamel and polished trims.
I like the adaptability of the product. The pot can be used in the oven or on the hob and cooks your food equally throughout, making the food tastier. I use my pot for stews, baking, risottos, cooking vegetables and sauces. Due to the size, I have even used the pot to steam a whole chicken!
Le Creuset state that the cast iron is 9 percent lighter than the leading competitor.
Whether this is true or not, it is still very, very heavy. It does annoy me sometimes that it is so heavy as getting it out of the oven when it is hot can be a bit of a chore. Nevertheless, as I said above; it is built to last.
The main advantage I find of using the pot is the way it conserves heat. Once hot it requires only a low to medium heat setting to maintain a good cooking performance. It can even be removed from the heat leaving the food to cook in its own heat. This is good news as not only is it energy efficient and less gas is used on the hob; it also keeps the food warm for longer on the table. A great advantage for all the gannets who like seconds helpings!
I'm really happy with the product and would recommend it to anyone looking for a pot with multi uses.
My husband brought his with him when we got married, and treated it like the holy grail! I was a bit skeptical, well, needless to say, I agree! It's amazing! I love that I can put on the stove, sautée some onions, throw the rest of things in and then wack it in the oven! So much less to clean up! And so solid, we learned after it fell in our kitchen and the dish was without damage the tiles needed to be replaced! I am sad at the price otherwise I'd buy more! But you pay for quality - this I'm sure will see my grandchildren well! That and to be honest, one large oval is so versital that we don't need another!
I will echo the other reviewer, it's a shame not to be nonstick. And having to be gentle with scrubbing it out, is not alwayd easy. Ours has got what I'll call the aged look! But things come out, even if takes a little time, it is so worth it!
I am a comfort cook. There, I've admitted it. I don't DO gourmet...and I don't do haute cuisine. What I am in the line of is big, calorie laden, steaming bowls of comfort food. I am the queen of stews, casseroles, cassoulets, hearty pasta sauces and pot roasts. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that a hefty cast iron pot takes pride of place in my kitchen. What is perhaps surprising is the fact that it has almost become an extension of my person, something that I am loathe to ever consider doing without, and for which no alternative will suffice.
Le Creuset is a name synonymous with quality and style, and as they are at pains to point out, it genuinely is used by professional chefs the world over (just look at any TV chef's kitchen for long enough and your guaranteed to spot one). They are very distinctive, with the pots in question in round or oval shapes, always in very vibrant colours on the outside (we currently have a deep, royal blue, but I am determined to get one of the lovely turquoise ones when I move out at the end of the year), and a cream colour on the inside. They are made out of cast iron and come with a LIFETIME GUARANTEE.
And here is the bit where my opinion comes in - you DON'T need the guarantee - this genuinely will last a lifetime. I use mine on a gas hob and in the oven on a daily basis - it's more than 10 years old, but you'd never know - it still shines like new and there's no damage (some slight discolouration to the inside but really - that just adds to the character!).
The price tag on these will undoubtedly put some people off but I can assure you they more than pay for themselves. The convenience of not having to transfer things into different dishes to move them from the hob to the oven, the classic style and the longevity of the product are more than recompense for the price. They also add to the feel of any kitchen, and should be displayed, PROUDLY, as they give the room an air of rustic charm and domesticity that you just don't get from 'regular' kitchen equipment.
(See - a design classic, your room's focal point, and a genuinely useful pot - I think it's already paid for itself!)
One small downside - as you'd expect with a cast iron pot, there's no non-stick coating, and while you don't really need one, it does mean you need a good glug of oil before starting to fry anything and you should take good care when cooking at high temperatures on the hob for extended periods of time - otherwise it can take a good half hour of elbow grease to get it really clean!