Rayburn Cooking with Dick Strawbridge

After a full military career, and a successful spell in industry, I became a full time television presenter and author in 2003.  Interestingly, people who come up and chat to me see me as lots of different things.  To some I'm Colonel Dick from 'Scrapheap Challenge' to others I'm the eco-engineer from 'Its not easy being green' or 'Planet Mechanics', but, depending on what television you watch and enjoy, I could be the chap on 'Coast', or that bloke with a moustache that invents things/blows things up, more recently I tend to be the one from 'Celebrity Master Chef' or the 'Hungry Sailor' that sails around cooking and having fun with his son.  To be fair, I am all these things, and I believe life is for living and enjoying; if you are not smiling you are doing something wrong! 

When I was given the opportunity to be an ambassador for Rayburn I didn't hesitate, I have always been proud of being British, and our heritage, and, not surprisingly, as an engineer I know the value of owning and using quality tools.  Having a Rayburn just makes sense to me; who wouldn't choose British engineering that is designed and built to last a lifetime?

Autumn Cooking with Rayburn

Dick Strawbridge reflects on fond memories growing up with a Rayburn

It's probably fair to say we are all products of our history, and it is our experiences that shape us. My life has been a voyage of discovery and I really hope I never lose my curiosity about the world around me. As an engineer, I have a fascination for how things work and really appreciate clever design; in fact, if I'm honest, I have to admit to being somewhat fussy, and believe it is best to invest in quality rather than buying something cheaper (usually at least twice). If you combine this 'selectivity' (it's nicer than saying fussiness) with a fierce pride in being British, you'll understand my soft spot for quality British products. When I was asked to give my thoughts on Rayburn, I was delighted, as we have a relationship going back a very long time …

When I was young, my family moved to an old, run down farmhouse in the hills of County Antrim, and the idea of having a Rayburn was not even debated. The independence of being able to burn the trees that fell down every year - plus knowing that even when cut off by snow there would be heat and the ability to cook - made it the obvious investment for the farm kitchen/snug. Of course, since the Rayburn was on anyway, it was also put to good use for the cooking, and somehow the kettle was always only a few seconds away from boiling, so it would be slid across and a cup of tea would magically appear for anyone who popped in. I know my mum cooked all sorts on her Rayburn (I can't remember people ever turning up without there being a cake or some pancakes that they could have with their tea - I'm sure its common all over the country, but you always get 'something in your hand' when you get a cup of tea in Northern Ireland). However, one of my earliest cooking memories is of mum roasting a huge home reared turkey, which was smothered in butter and wrapped in streaky bacon and muslin. Our turkeys were always huge, as they tended to be the ones mum's customers were not too keen to buy, and let's face facts: with seven children, we would have made short work of anything but a big turkey at Christmas!

Over time the wood burning Rayburn was replaced by an oil-fired version for ease of use and interestingly the row of old beech trees had mostly fallen down so it seemed timely. I'll be writing more about my experiences on my gas-fired Rayburn, however, it's great to see the circle of life as my eldest son James and his family have recently moved into a house in a village in Cornwall and inherited a Rayburn. I'm sure its much older than him but he is loving it and exploring the fun of cooking on a cast iron range. We are all swapping recipes and every Sunday he has been experimenting with slow cooking - it won't be long before he is giving me and his granny advice!