Friday, April 6, 2012

Ten of the Best

Back when I'd finished my first 100 recipes, I wrote an entry listing my 'top 10' so far. I'd actually intended to do these at regular intervals, but never got around to it. Then, a few weeks ago, a reader particularly requested an updated top and bottom 10. I decided to wait until I'd reached another nice round number - namely, 400 - and then make my updated list.

My main reason for avoiding those regular top 10 lists is that it's just really difficult. I've now completed 400 Edmonds recipes, and I've got to choose just 10. Recipes I've made recently are fresher in my mind, so it's been quite hard not to overlook earlier ones.

The resulting top 10 list shouldn't necessarily be seen as a list of Edmonds' tastiest recipes - taste is important, but there are other factors as well: I also like a recipe to be reliable, useful and easy. I have not listed these in any particular order, since I found it hard enough to choose 10 from all my favourites - I honestly don't have a no.1 recipe, so you'll have to try them for yourself and choose your own favourite.

I love these - not only are they incredibly tasty, but they're also simple to make, and are a useful way to get rid of leftover egg whites: as long as you have a sheet of flaky pastry in the freezer, and a jar of jam in the cupboard, there's no reason to have extraneous egg whites sitting in the fridge.

The recipe uses raspberry jam, but I've also made them with apricot, which is just as tasty. The trickiest part of this recipe is preventing the macaroons from sticking to the patty tins. Using non-stick muffin pans instead (I also use teflon muffin-liners) makes them much easier to unstick.

I've used this recipe any number of times since I first tried it. The benefit of this recipe lies in its flexibility: it can be used as a guide for just about any kind of pot-pie. You can adjust the ingredients to what you happen to have at the time, and it comes out great whether you make a single large pie or individual ones in ramekins.

One thing to watch out for with this recipe is that the gravy tends to be a bit runny. You can reduce the amount of liquid, or thicken the gravy before spooning it into your pie dish. Either way, there'll still be a bit of liquid - so it's best to serve your pie with some bread for mopping up the gravy left on the plate.

My initial list of 50-odd awesome recipes, which I slowly whittled down to 10, was quite heavy on the desserts and puddings. I didn't want to make my whole list desserts, so I made myself choose just one. (Other contenders included lemon meringue pieupside down pudding, and marinated strawberries.)

I chose the cheesecake because I'm a big cheesecake fan, and I love  anything lemon-flavoured, so this one was right up my alley. Packing the base into the tin is probably the only tricky part; after that, it's dead easy - and very, very tasty.

If you're making up a plate of nibbles for some kind of social gathering, it's hard to go wrong with a cheese ball. It's amazing how a simple combination of ordinary ingredients can make something that everyone (except cheese-haters and the lactose intolerant) enjoys - usually repeatedly, as it's very moreish.

A homemade cheese ball is a bit of a novelty these days, and very well worth the minimal effort required to make it.

This recipe is the only survivor from my original top 10. This is partly because I've come across some even better recipes in the subsequent 300, but mostly because I tried to avoid putting in the same ones - there's no point in repeating myself. I couldn't leave this recipe out of my current list, though, as it's always the first recipe that comes to mind when someone asks me about the best recipes in the Edmonds book.

This is rich, hearty, ideal winter fare, which has the advantage of also being quite cheap to make. Get good quality bacon bones, and when you're picking the meat off, take your time and be careful not to put any gristly bits back in the soup.

We're all familiar with nachos and enchiladas, but this was a Mexican recipe I hadn't come across before. It's pretty much a tortilla topped with a number of familiar nacho-type ingredients, along with a cumin and lime dressing. It's so easy to throw together, and if you're anything like me, you'll find yourself wanting more of that dressing.

A word of warning: do not do a partial job of this one, leaving out an ingredient or two, because the overall success of the dish depends on all of those flavours combining. I've tried once or twice to make something roughly similar using this recipe merely as a guide, but the results haven't been anything like as good. Follow the recipe.

If you've read much of this blog at all, you'll be shocked to see a sponge recipe on this list, because as we all know, I'm terrible with sponges. The thing is, that's exactly why this one is on here. In spite of my general  inability to produce a decent sponge, I've actually found I get decent results from this uncomplicated recipe.

I've used it three times now: admittedly, I undercooked my lemon sponge version, but the cooked bits were fine, and I had an excellent result when I resorted to this recipe in order to replace my disastrous light-as-air sponge. I've still got the 'orange sponge' variation to go, and (unlike the rest of the 'sponges' chapter) I'm perfectly confident of a good result. If you want to try making a sponge, use this recipe. Just don't underbake it!

I had difficulty choosing between two jams for this list. I settled on apricot because it's my favourite flavour of jam, though actually, I rate raspberry jam just as highly.

I'd never made jam before beginning this challenge, but I now have a whole collection of jams that I've made but never eat. I'm not much of a jam eater by habit, but I had no trouble using up the raspberry (a lot of it was used in various Edmonds recipes that call for raspberry jam) and I'm getting through the apricot alarmingly quickly: its rich, fruity flavour is just irresistible, and I find myself using it for everything from glazes to pastry fillings.

I didn't have high hopes of a decent curry from a cookbook which, for all its good points, tends to be a bit old-fashioned. It was quite a shock to discover the Edmonds lamb curry was richly flavoursome, and absolutely delicious!

Curry recipes often have a list of ingredients as long as your arm; very off-putting to a beginner. The Edmonds version produces a generically authentic result without requiring extensive and/or exotic ingredients.

This is one of my most-used Edmonds recipes. I often whip up a few when I find myself with leftover egg whites - the recipe can be adjusted to however many egg whites you happen to have.

Meringues are very easy to make, keep well, and make a popular and easy dessert. Don't assume you have to eat them with cream - I like mine with a little Greek yoghurt and some passionfruit syrup: Yum.

So that's my current top ten best recipes. Keep an eye out for the bottom 10 - coming soon!

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