Super Star Blue Stanley with a pile of wood awaiting use
The Super Star Blushstone looks right at home with modern kitchen cabinetry
Once upon a time, the kitchen was more than a room where meals were made. It was the original family room, and in the country kitchen the heart of the room was the wood-burning cooker.
Neglected during New Zealand's fling with cheap and plentiful electricity, cast iron cookers are back in vogue in our kitchens, not just in old villas but in newly designed or renovated houses, large and small.
Stanley Cookers is one brand bringing our modern kitchens back to the practicalities of yesterday. Correctly located, a Stanley easily heats a good-sized kitchen and family area; provides hot water (central heating as well if required) and keeps the dinner cooking even if the power goes off. However, New Zealanders are not installing the cookers just because they are practical, but because they look so good.
Richard Steele of Broady's Cookers, suppliers of the Stanley, notices a common thread with buyers of solid fuel burning stoves. "They're all such passionate people. It doesn't surprise me when customers mention they are collectors of, say, antique cars or have spent years getting their houses just so. To own a Stanley is to have a love affair with it."
A Stanley cooker typically inspires images of grandmother's country kitchen, a place where you could sit around and talk, relaxing in the warmth of the cooker amid the aroma of cooking. Succulent apple pies, savoury stews, the smell of fresh bread.... and a wood burning cooker. Grandmother's country kitchen was warm in more ways than one: it was a special, friendly environment, in which she cooked her famous old-fashioned meals.
Her secret is revealed when you see the magnificent stage she had on which to prepare her culinary masterpieces. As a cooker was going most of the time, there was always something frying, simmering, boiling or baking... so it was easy to prepare the extra courses needed for a big country meal.
Despite such nostalgic imagery, Stanleys are increasingly being bought for installation into very modern kitchens. Sitting alongside sleek kitchen cabinetry, the black and white cooker, for example, doesn't look out of place. Red and green models go hand in hand with the trend towards more colourful kitchens, while an increase in the popularity of the matt black model speaks of our yearnings for things natural.
All Stanley cookers have a cast-iron hotplate providing a large cooking area, which can sizzle, simmer soups and stews or accommodate a simple kettle or coffee pot.
The large capacity roasting oven, with its double glazed door and cast-iron construction, roasts superbly and evenly, sealing in the natural juices and flavours by the "indirect heat" principle. Without obstructive heating elements or flames, the entire oven can be used for cooking. The bottom of the oven is ideal for browning bread or cooking pizzas directly on the cast iron surface. Grilling of bacon, chops or simply cheese on toast is easy using the highest rack position.