After a rather un-profitable car boot sale 13 years ago, I sloped off from my wonky pasting table and decided to blow my earnings on someone else’s junk. Stacked together on the grass under a Renault exhaust pipe were three cast-iron cooking pans, pillar-box red, with a cream inner lining, coal black rim and thick, smooth wooden handles. Embossed with circled numbers on their enamel-bases, they looked suspiciously posh and with one rogue lid between them, I figured they’d at least brighten up a communal uni kitchen. The legacy lives on in ‘the best tenner I ever spent’ story and My Le Creuset pans have travelled (and split many cardboard boxes in the process), to seven flats and houses since, and seem perfectly at home on various landing stoves, under the culinary watch of a rotating cast of housemates; bubbling away, heavy as a sack of potatoes, surviving weeks of baked-on white sauce and scrubbing up a treat every time.
The physical and metaphorical weight of this iconic brand dates back to 1925. Starting life in a French foundry headed by two Belgian industrialists, Armand Desaegher and Octave Aubecq, one of Le Creuset’s first designs was the cast-iron La Cocotte (French Oven) that today remains the company’s best-seller, available in a coveted spectrum of retro colours including teal, a creamy almond, and Volcanic Orange – officially Le Creuset’s signature shade.
Cookery writer Elizabeth David famously championed the brand throughout her range of then exotic post-war recipe books, including ‘French Provincial Cooking’ – ‘A Le Creuset cast-iron cocotte is suitable for pot roasting,’ she advises. ‘Le Creuset also produce a highly useful pot-roaster which goes by the name of Douxfeu, meaning literally “gentle fire.”’ The book underwent several revisions throughout the 60’s, chiming in with the launch of her cookware shop in Sloane Square which she set up with friends after spells in Greece, Italy, Egypt and India.
By this time, Le Creuset had seen off war-time invasions to the foundry by German forces, launching its first grill model the Tostador, followed by a fondue, a barbecue and a daring shade of ‘Elysees Yellow.’ Elizabeth David didn’t much care for the new hue and is said to have persuaded Le Creuset to create a blue, based on the colour of her favoured cigarettes, Gauloises. Her wish was granted and, in 1967, her shop was the first to stock the colour, showcased in neatly-placed nests of pots, pans and dishes.
Fast forward fifty years and the Le Creuset love bug continues to flourish in kitchens around the globe. From 1980’s Jam Pot (Marmite a Confiture) and an adaptation to ceramic hobs, through to to the silicone spatula and textile range that followed a decade later, the brand’s innovation is consistently underpinned by the jolt of warm nostalgia that only a Volcanic Orange casserole dish – or a trio of bright red pans – can set aflame to.
The Le Creuset range also features heart-shaped bakeware including chunky stoneware ramekins in fetching shades of cerise and cassis. This Valentine’s serve up a quick, rich pudding (any ramekin will work!)…
Heart Fondant Chocolate Cakes
- 100g of chocolate
- 100g of butter
- a knob of butter
- 3 eggs
- 50g of flour
- 100g of powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F (Gas mark 6)
- Butter the ramekins and sprinkle with flour to make it easy to remove the moulds later.
- Melt the chocolate and the butter together gently.
- Mix the sugar, the flour and the eggs in a bowl.
- Add the melted chocolate/butter mixture, and then mix well.
- Pour the mixture into the ramekin moulds.
- Cook for between 10 and 15 minutes. The fondant should be cooked on the top and very creamy inside.
- Remove from the mould right away, and serve with a scoop of ice cream.
For more information, visit lecreuset.co.uk