Country houses for sale

Best cooking pans

Dear Mrs Danvers, We want to give a great friend a complete set of pans as a wedding present. Money is hardly an object (although, obviously, we prefer no gold and diamonds), as we want the best. Any recommendations?

Yes, two, both of which we use regularly. First, Le Pentole are beautifully designed stainless-steel, copper and silver pans from Italy and not remotely cheap at more than £100 for a large saucepan. Splendid to cook with, however, and with a 25-year guarantee. The other range is Meyer’s Anolon and Circulon non-stick pans (first recommended to us by chef Alastair Little). Having overcome our prejudice against non-stick, we are now totally converted. Neither scrambled egg nor cheese sauce creates any problem. These are made of hard, anodised aluminium, with a lifetime guarantee.

A bit cheaper than Le Pentole, with a large lidded sauté pan from about £40, and a set of five Circulon Infinite pans (this might be your answer) for about £140. You can order both from

Dear Mrs Danvers, I have some old-fashioned bowls (for bowling greens), made of very heavy dark wood. I don’t play the game and therefore have no use for them. Any suggestions?

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Old-fashioned bowls are made of lignum vitae which, as you say, is a very heavy, dark wood much used in the 17th century by the Dutch for furniture. I don’t imagine that it can be sustainably felled anymore, so you’re right to look after your bowls. Here are some ideas.

1) They are beautiful objects just as they are and would probably look splendid piled in a large Chinese bowl or under a console or dresser.

2) If you must demolish them, a good carpenter can make several small bowls for you from every one of your bowls. These can be excellent as salt cellars.

3) Lignum vitae is still in demand by restorers. You might think of advertising your bowls or contacting a local antique dealer. However, this is the least attractive option as there are lots of bowls still out there.