My goals in taking on this challenge were to increase my cooking confidence and repertoire, and I've definitely achieved that. There are so many things I would never otherwise have tried, and I now have a heap of great recipes to call upon at need. I'm not afraid of trying new recipes, and if something goes wrong, well, I never pass up a chance to laugh at myself!
My Edmonds book is now well-thumbed and well-travelled, blotched and scribbled on, and generally looking like a proper Edmonds should. I've acquired a collection of Edmonds books and baking powder tins, as well as a cluttered cupboard full of bakeware. It's odd how many different-sized cake tins are required for the various recipes. You'd think they'd adapt them all to fit a few standard sizes.
So anyway, that's all 576 recipes completed. If it's in there, I've done it. If you find something in your Edmonds book that I haven't done here, then the chances are you've got a different edition than mine; they do vary quite a bit. Sometimes it's just the name of the recipe that's different, so you might find it if you look hard enough.
In some places, I've substituted ingredients, and often I've halved the recipes, but I find they stand up quite well to substitutions and short-cuts. Since Edmonds recipes do tend to err on the side of blandness, don't be afraid of adding extra seasoning or whatever you think a dish needs. Who's eating it, after all?
I need to stress that just because I didn't like something, that doesn't mean that everyone would dislike it. I've had several people defend recipes that I didn't like at all, and that's good evidence that the recipe is not to blame - it's just a matter of personal preference, or merely that I made one of my not-uncommon errors somewhere along the line.
The other side of that coin is, of course, that just because I liked a recipe, it doesn't mean you will. You just have to try them and decide for yourself!
There's no way I could finish up here without some fairly extensive summing-up. I've gone through and made a summary of each section of the book, with reference to the most noteworthy recipes and occasionally pointing out recipes that should be there, but aren't. Just a warning: I'm trying to review three years of cooking here. This is going to take a while.
Breads and Buns
I'm not great at breadmaking, but I've had one or two good outcomes. Chelsea buns are definitely the stand-out recipe in this chapter, and while the no-knead brown bread recipe was slightly ambiguously written, it produced a really nice loaf of bread. One thing I'd like to have seen in this chapter is a recipe for fruit bread.
Scones, Muffins and Loaves
The Edmonds scone recipe - particularly cheese scones - has long been a favourite of mine, though not everyone seems to like it.The wholemeal yoghurt scones were also a surprise success - much lighter than you'd expect from any wholemeal version.
The various muffin recipes are fairly old-fashioned, dating from before muffins became a popular cafe treat. They're smaller, plainer, and meant to be buttered. If you alter your expectations a bit, they're very nice. I like the fruit muffin recipe as a flexible basis for variation.
A well-made loaf with a cuppa is a lovely thing. Unfortunately, when I'm the one making them, they aren't so well-made. They always seem to come out overcooked on top. That said, there were a couple I'd recommend: banana loaf is a much more reliable alternative to the temperamental banana cake recipe, and oat bran date loaf is rich, moist and filling. Fresh lemon loaf is another good option.
Let's not forget pikelets, (because we all love pikelets) gems (an oldie but a goodie) and honey tea buns: (delicious if eaten fresh).
I'd better also mention the glaring omission in this chapter: why does the Edmonds book not have a recipe for that old Kiwi favourite, the sugar bun?
The Edmonds book has a great selection of those classic biscuits we all love: afghans and ANZAC biscuits are always a winner, and there's melting moments or shortbread if you want something a bit more buttery.
There are also a couple of lesser-known biscuits that I liked a lot, particularly honey oat biscuits and nutty golden biscuits.
I have a strong suspicion that the most-used Edmonds cake recipe across New Zealand is the controversial banana cake. I managed to get a decent result from this notorious recipe, but it would be a pity if people were put off by this one and never tried any of the other great cake recipes on offer.
There's the continental apple cake, delicious and moist (just make sure it's cooked in the centre - or use a ring tin) and the odd-looking but delectable lemon sour cream cake. The gingerbread was nice, and the plain-seeming date cake is surprisingly tasty.
Cupcakes are quick, easy and always popular, and the Edmonds book gives us a simple recipe with several variations. I've been in the habit of making smaller, bite-sized ones - if you do this, be very wary of the cupcakes drying out. The standard patty-tin size is much easier to get right. While we're talking about party food, don't forget chocolate bubble cakes - for the big kid in all of us!
There is only one baking recipe in the Edmonds book that can claim gluten-free status: rich chocolate cake, which is made with ground almonds instead of flour. It's nice (and has a liqueur option for the grown-ups) but that's not much to work with if you're stuck with a gluten-free diet, which is more and more common these days. It would be great to see a section somewhere of gluten (and/or dairy) free recipes, or perhaps a page of hints as to how recipes can be converted for special diets.
Finally, it's got to deserve a mention: where's the lolly cake? How can this oh-so-Kiwi recipe be omitted? Actually, I have a very good idea why, (it uses packet products not produced by Edmonds) but it's a great pity, all the same.
Not everyone likes fruit cakes. I do, but some are definitely better than others. The best Edmonds ones are fruit cake and tennis cake, and the ginger ale fruit cake is pretty good too. There's also a sultana cake recipe that bears a strong resemblance to my Oma's delectable version - if you take my advice and up the essences a bit, you'll find this one just as good.
Slices and Squares
Slices and squares are probably my favourite kind of baking. They generally keep longer than cakes, and are quicker to make than biscuits.
One old favourite of mine is albert squares, mostly for nostalgic reasons - I used to make it as a kid. Apple shortcake is deservedly popular, and ginger crunch needs no introduction. Also worth a mention is the refrigerated apricot and lemon slice, an easy, no-bake recipe which would make a great base for experimentation.
Brownies in the american style have become extremely popular in recent years, but there's huge variation of tastes and textures out there. My preference is for a brownie that has a slight crust but is soft and slightly chewy on the inside. By these standards, the Edmonds chocolate brownie has the right texture, but would need some added cocoa to get enough chocolaty flavour. Personally, I think the coconut chocolate brownie is better.
The stand-out omission here is tan square. You find it in every bakery and cafe - why not the Edmonds book?
We all know I'm not great at sponges. I've improved slightly since my early attempts, but there still remain several recipes I wouldn't try again! On the other hand, there's one that I have found to be extremely reliable, even to someone as sponge-challenged as myself.
That recipe is the three-minute sponge. It's as simple as a sponge can possibly get, and even I get good results out of it. There's a couple of variations as well, which is why I know it comes out great every time (assuming you bake it for long enough).
A second sponge that came out not too bad is the plain sponge cake recipe - it wasn't all that high, but was good enough to make some very successful lamingtons!
Baking with Edmonds
I'm not much of a fan of these cake-mix recipes. Don't get me wrong - cake mixes make reliably delectable cakes, and they're a good option when you don't have time for things to go wrong. What I dislike is these contrived recipes designed to make you buy a product. In most cases the recipes have a much less appealing result than if you'd just used the cake mix for its intended purpose.
This is not true of all the 'Baking with Edmonds' recipes - both the jaffa cupcakes and the strawberry butterfly cakes were delicious. Cake mixes definitely make even better, moister cupcakes than the basic 'from scratch' Edmonds cupcake recipe.
Fillings and Icings
I'm not much in the habit of icing things - so many icings are sickly and sugary, and do nothing but add fat and sugar to what you're eating. Of course, I don't think I'm in the majority here - for many people, the icing is pretty much the whole point. Anyway, some things just aren't complete without it.
There's a basic white icing in the Edmonds book that has a number of flavour variations. Mostly I tend to avoid this very sweet version, but on some things it's ideal. Butter icing is more my sort of thing, and I tend to use this for cupcakes and similar. Melted chocolate icing is an absolute winner, and there's a pretty good cream cheese icing in there too.
As for fillings - the only one in there I'd recommend is mock cream. It sounds revolting, but is actually a fairly pleasant butter-based filling - certainly nothing like the tasteless artificial stuff you get in supermarket sponge cakes.
Pastry is one of those things I'd always just bought as needed, without ever considering making my own. Even now, I'd turn to the supermarket for flaky or puff pastry, because it's such an effort to make, and my results were never very good.
Sweet short pastry, on the other hand, is dead easy to make and comes out almost exactly like the bought stuff. Choux pastry is another good one - it takes a lot of mixing, but it's not difficult, and then you can wow people with your chocolate eclairs and cream puffs.
If you're making something savoury, food processor pastry is a good option: it's a variation of the plain short pastry, but comes together much more easily in the processor.
Along with the recipes for making pastry, there are some that give you examples of what you can do with it. I make Christmas mince pies to these basic instructions every year, and coconut macaroons are among my all-time favourite Edmonds recipes.
It would be cool to see some filo recipes in future editions - perhaps not the pastry itself, but recipes using it. Baklava anyone?
The soups chapter opens with a selection of stock recipes. They all work well enough, but if you have trouble getting flavour into a stock, I recommend browning the bones first, as with brown meat stock - I tried it with chicken bones, and it made a much more flavoursome stock.
There are a few soup recipes I really like: mushroom soup is very quick and tasty, and I make pea and ham soup every year from my Christmas ham bone. One of my top recommendations is spicy lentil soup - just make sure you get good bacon bones.
I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin soup - I'll eat it, but it's not a favourite. I seem to be in the minority here, because my entry on pumpkin soup has had hundreds more views than any other. I guess a lot of people go looking for that recipe, so it must be a good one.
One thing I do wonder is why there's no chicken soup recipe. There's chicken stock, sure, but no chicken soup. It's one of those traditional homely soups, considered a remedy as well as a meal, so why isn't it there? If there's room for half a dozen boring cream soups, there's definitely room for chicken!
Here's one reason why I love my Edmonds book: what other cookbook would give you detailed instructions on how to boil, poach or scramble eggs? The Edmonds book does not assume that you know anything.
There are also some really good egg-based recipes: favourites like bacon and egg pie, quiche or eggs benedict.
I can't count how many times I've made meringues since I started this challenge - they're just such a good way to use up egg whites. Oddly, an identical meringue recipe is also listed under 'slices and squares', and I see in the latest version, the one in the eggs chapter is gone. I would have thought it belonged more with eggs than slices and squares, but as long as it's there, what does it matter?
Pasta and Rice
The pasta recipes in this chapter read like the weekly menu of the average student flat: spag bol, lasagne, macaroni cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, carbonara.. these are well-known dishes, and the Edmonds recipe might not always be the best version out there, but they're always readily at hand, and open to your own adjustments, substitutions and short cuts.
If you're bored with plain rice on your dinner table, there are plenty of simple options in the rice section. Try almond, lemon, or coconut chilli rice, or perhaps make a pilaf to go with your main.
Let's not forget that pasta and rice are great bases for budget-friendly dishes: savoury brown rice casserole, tuna sauce for pasta and tuna rice bake are all simple, tasty meals that can be thrown together at minimal expense.
Quick and Easy with Rice
There are actually only three of these recipes based around packet Rice Risotto, and although I enjoyed the leek and sausage risotto, my favourite was yoghurt lamb rice. Actually, it was the lamb I liked - you could serve it with all sorts of things, so the accompanying risotto was hardly relevant.
One thing this challenge has done is force me to eat more fish. I don't dislike fish, but I seldom used to cook it, since I didn't really know what to do with it. The Edmonds fish chapter has plenty of suggestions, however.
If you like a plain old battered fish, there are different batters to choose from: faithful old beer batter, crisp batter, or crispy Chinese batter. If you prefer your fish crumbed, try pan-fried fish.
The newest version of the Edmonds book has renamed this chapter 'seafood', which makes sense, because it's not just fish. If you're into whitebait or oysters, there's a recipe there for you. Even mussels and scallops are represented.
There are some great recipes here: there's the old favourite fish pie; salmon with mustard and dill is a good one, and the squid rings were delicious. Barbecued fish looks like something you'd see in a fancy cookbook, but it's dead easy and very tasty.
Of course, if you happen to have a can of salmon in the cupboard, salmon rissoles make a quick budget meal. Or try lattice pie - a cheap, easy, and surprisingly tasty recipe I've made more than once since I first discovered it.
So many great recipes are included in the meat chapter that I was hard put not to list almost all of them here. All the popular ones are there: meatloaf, mince pie, shepherd's pie, curried sausages.. and if you're looking to make meat patties, they're called hamburger steaks in here for some reason.
The Chinese-style pork fillet stands out in my memory - it's just so moist and tender, and really not difficult to make. Throw together a stir-fry to have with it, and you're sorted.
The beef casserole recipe is a particularly useful one for a hearty winter meal. It's more of a stew than a casserole, certainly more stew-like than the Irish stew! There are several suggested variations, but I suggest you just throw in what you have. Don't forget the dumplings!
If you're a fan of offal, then you might be keen on steak and kidney pie or pudding, or perhaps liver and bacon. I'm not too keen on liver or kidney myself, but with the pie and pudding at least, you can just leave the kidney out if you want.
Sometimes I wonder how thoroughly these books are edited between editions. It's probably around 10 years since chickens stopped being sized as No.8, No.9 etc, instead being described as Size 14, Size 16 etc. The 2012 printing I have here still lists the old chicken sizes at the front of the poultry chapter, and of the three recipes that require a full chicken, one still lists a No.8, and the other two have been semi-amended, now somewhat ambiguously requiring a "No.14".
There are quite a number of poultry recipes, but family chicken pie is definitely my favourite - it's a great base recipe that you can use to make large or individual pies, adding whatever you happen to have handy.
Other chicken recipes I particularly liked were marinated chicken wings, pot-roast chicken, tarragon chicken, chicken paprika, Chinese lemon chicken, and the first recipe I ever completed for this challenge: chicken delicious.
The chapter on international dishes is an interesting one. It's here that you'll find slightly more authentic flavours than the Kiwi-ised versions in other chapters, but they don't go overboard with exotic ingredients.
I really liked the richness of the French recipes boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin. A couple of the Mexican ones were delicious as well: I've always loved chilli con carne, but tostadas were a new delight. The chicken enchiladas are great, but you really have to double the filling to make it work. The Chinese ginger beef stir-fry is a recipe I've used several times. It's a great basic stir-fry - I just use whatever veges I happen to have on hand.
My favourite in this chapter is the lamb curry. I'm not in general a curry person - it's ok, but I don't usually go out of my way to eat it - but I love this one. It's not spicy, just earthy and delicious. You don't have to have it with lamb - it works with beef and chicken too.
There's definitely scope for some new additions in this chapter. It's entirely normal to cook meals from a variety of cultures these days, and some of the most popular ones are not mentioned here. I'm sure a recipe for Thai green curry, or Pad Thai would see a lot of use. I'd definitely try making Chinese style dumplings, or steamed pork buns, if the recipe was there. Some basic sushi-making instructions, with a list of possible fillings, might be a good idea. A recipe for a proper Italian risotto wouldn't go astray, either.
The 'breakfasts' chapter comprises only a couple of pages, but there's still some good stuff in there. There's some tasty suggestions for English muffin toppings and croissant fillings, and you can't go past a nice bit of French toast.
If you're a muesli eater, there are two good options to choose from: toasted or natural. As so often happens, the less healthy toasted one is tastier, but the natural muesli is still very nice, with the bonus of being lower in fat and sugar.
My edition of the Edmonds book is old enough to still have Creamoata as a recipe. In more recent editions, the exact same recipe is given for ordinary porridge, though I find it comes out revoltingly watery. My Creamoata entry draws frequent views from those nostalgically Googling this much-loved product that is now out of production, and my negative comments have given rise to wild rage in at least one reader. I never thought anyone could get so wound up about porridge.
The Edmonds book has a great section listing vegetables with suitable cooking methods and serving suggestions. If you're looking to do something a bit beyond these basics, there's a heap of vegetable-based recipes as well.
Recipes like Broccoli with almonds, honey-glazed carrots and parsnips, and orange and ginger carrots, are a great way to jazz up ordinary veges. Classic vege dishes like cauliflower cheese and corn fritters are also represented.
Stuffed mushrooms are a favourite quick meal of mine, and for all you potato-lovers, there's stuffed baked potatoes or potato skins (I'd call them wedges) as well.
Salads and Dressings
I love the kind of salad that is substantial enough to double as a light meal: smoked salmon salad was a good one, but spinach salad, with its bacon and egg, mushroom and orange is the winning salad/meal in my book.
I was fascinated to find a coleslaw that didn't have carrot or cheese in it, though these are listed among the optional additions - almost all the salads have suggestions for added extras or substitutions, so all sorts of variation is possible.
There's a good selection of dressings, but the most useful are the French vinaigrette and its mustard variation. Since I'm a major mayo fan, I really enjoyed making my own mayonnaise, and it's not as tricky as you might think. If you're short on time, you could try quick blender mayonnaise instead, or yoghurt dressing, for a low-fat alternative.
Sauces and Marinades
I have to admit that getting through the sauces and marinades was a bit of an effort. Just about every sauce you can think of is represented in your Edmonds book. There’s apple sauce if you’re having pork, mint for lamb, tartare for fish, or mushroom’s good on a nice bit of steak. You can’t possibly eat corned beef without mustard sauce, and there's an easy, creamy satay I'd recommend.
My biggest headache was completing the seemingly endless variations of white sauce. That’s the thing about white sauce – it’s a simple method that forms the basis of any number of sauces and other dishes. I feel like I've done this a million times since starting this challenge. I never really made a white sauce before this, but I ought to know how to do it now!
There’s a selection of sweet sauces to go with puddings; mostly variations on the custard theme (brandy sauce, vanilla custard etc) but there’s also a caramel sauce that is quite tasty.
Finally, there’s a handful of marinades as well. Barbecue and Chinese marinade would be my picks from this bunch.
Party Finger Food
This chapter is my first place to look if I'm going somewhere and want to bring a plate of nibbles. Some of the recipes are a bit dated, but that doesn't mean they don't taste good. Try devils on horseback or stuffed eggs, for example. Similarly, a cheese ball might be a bit retro, but they're quick to throw together and everyone loves them. If you're keen on warm savouries, I definitely recommend sausage rolls and savoury tartlets. Edmonds even have their own version of the Kiwi party staple, onion dip.
We're getting to the dangerous end of the book - that is, if you have a sweet tooth like me. I have such a long list of desserts and puddings to to recommend - it's no wonder I've packed on a few kilos!
I loved the Edmonds cheesecake and chocolate mousse. Flummery has always been a favourite of mine, and there's a tasty yoghurt variation as well. Try making your own ice cream, or sorbet - then maybe eat them with marinated strawberries. Even those fancy-looking fruit flans you see in bakeries are quite easy to make at home.
I mustn't forget to mention those well loved-classics: if you need to follow a recipe to make trifle, there's one here - and while many of us have our preferred versions of pavlova, the Edmonds one is a perfectly good recipe for anyone who doesn't.
Puddings have an aura of Wintertime about them - warm comfort food like bread and butter pudding, upside-down or chocolate self-saucing pudding, and don't forget all those steamed puddings! Considering the detailed instructions on almost all basic cooking techniques, it's a surprise that there's not much in the way of instruction on how to steam a pudding. I picked up hints here and there, and made it up as I went along - they generally turned out ok.
Fruit crumble is a subject of much debate - I prefer mine with oats, but some people see that as sacrilege. There are several different Edmonds versions to try - fruit betty is an interesting twist if you want to try something slightly different.
Then there's the pies: pecan, lemon meringue and apple pie are all delicious in their own way - and while we're on the subject of apples, apple dumplings are definitely worth the effort.
There are some accompaniments to choose from too: a couple of different custards, and a yoghurt cream. If none of these appeal to you, don't forget there's some more options back with the sauces.
Desserts with Edmonds
We're back to those packet-mix recipes again - but there were actually several really good ones. Apple coconut flan was unexpectedly delicious, and Dutch layered pancakes are a definite winner.
Black Forest cheesecake is an interesting (and tasty) adaptation of a packet of cheesecake mix - I'm very keen to attempt similar adaptations to the plain cheesecake recipe to see if this can be done from scratch.
I'm certainly not much of a sweet maker. It really would have made my life easier if I'd purchased a sugar thermometer early on: I would have had something more reliable than 'soft crack/hard crack' type guidelines to help me get it right.
I guess that's why I preferred the non-boil recipes: chocolate truffles, brandy balls, and apricot balls. No waiting for sugar to dissolve, or trying to determine if you've got 'hard crack' yet!
Still, you can still get reasonable results without a thermometer. Often, when I thought I'd done a terrible job, the people eating it (usually the workmates) were delighted with it. My nut toffee, toffee and butterscotch were like that. It was a similar story with the fudges. I've never been much of a fudge fan, but everyone else loved my chocolate and Russian fudge!
Jams and Jellies
Jam-making is something I never would have bothered with, had it not been for this challenge. My first attempt was a bit of an ordeal, but I've a better handle on it these days.
My favourite jams are apricot, and the raspberry jam recipe that will also work for boysenberries or loganberries. The apricot just has such a beautiful rich flavour, and the raspberry one is so simple anyone could do it - it eliminates testing for setting point, which is my least favourite part of jam-making.
Also worth mentioning are cape gooseberry jam - lovely if you can find the gooseberries - and lemon honey, a creamy, tangy way to use up any random lemons (or limes) you happen to have lying around.
Pickles, Chutneys and Sauces
This was also a new area for me: I'd never made chutney before. Well, I've made a few now! To be perfectly honest, most of the chutney recipes in the Edmonds book taste fairly similar. Just choose the one that best suits the fruit you want to use. Peach chutney is probably my pick, but they all come out decent if you allow them a month or two to mellow out.
Incidentally, if you happen to have a plum tree in the back yard, I use my homemade plum sauce a lot in marinades and stir-fries.
Also in this chapter are the pickled onions and gherkins, which are quite fun to make yourself. Also, I love the flavour of homemade spiced vinegar, though if you don't like that vinegary smell (I happen to love it) you won't want to have this hanging around your kitchen for a couple of days.
The chapter on preserving mostly consists of instructions for various ways you can preserve food. It's pretty handy to have that information if you need it, but there's nothing much interesting in the few recipes there. I guess rumpot probably deserves a mention, as the longest-running recipe - it took me a whole Summer to complete that one.
So that's it: the Edmonds Cookery Book, in a nutshell. Quite a big nutshell, actually: I've written more than I expected, but I guess you can't summarise three years of cooking in a couple of paragraphs.
Now it's time for me to find something else to do with my time. It will be weird to be able to cook whatever I want, and not have to write about it. I'll have to suppress the urge to take photos of everything I'm doing, too!
Thank you to everyone who has been reading right from the start - and those who picked me up somewhere along the way. I hope you've enjoyed my haphazard Edmonds journey as much as I did.