Blueberry & Lime Cupcakes (20th March '09)

This is another recipe from my cupcake calendar, taken from the book 500 Cupcakes. As these cupcakes are made with fat free or skimmed milk and contain blueberries, which are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, you could say that these are a slightly healthier version of cupcakes.However, that´s not quite the case especially seeing as I used butter instead of margarine. The cakes though have the lovely tang of blueberries combined with the acidness of the lime which combates the sweetness of the cake batter, making this a perfect combination. All cup/tablespoon/teaspoon measurements are American.

Ingredients (makes 18)

1/2 cup(4 oz.) butter/margarine,softened
1 cup (about 7oz) caster(superfine) sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence(extract)
1/2 cup (about 118ml) skimmed/fat-free milk( I used 2% milk)
2 cups (about 8 oz.)self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup blueberries
1 tbsp. grated lime rind


1/2 cup (about 3.5 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tbsp grated lime rind
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp boiling water
1. Preheat oven to 350º F (175ºC)
2. Cream butter & sugar together until fluffy, then add eggs gradually and stir until combined.
3.Beat in the vanilla & milk.
4. Sift flour and baking powder into batter and mix well.
5. Fold in the blueberries and grated lime rind, spoon into cake cases.
6. Bake for 20 mins, then cool for 5 mins.
7. Mix sugar, lime juice, grated lime zest and boiling water in a saucepan. Simmer over a medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves.
8. Simmer for 5mins.
9. Cool slightly and using a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the cupcakes.


Beef Olives (13th March'09)

I am always interested in discovering and trying recipes especially if they are traditional British dishes and I have seen versions of this recipe in various old-fashioned cookbooks, although it seems to have been forgotten about, I definitely don´t ever recall eating this in my family or anywhere else. I stumbled across the following version of this recipe in Mrs Manders Cookbook, which I borrowed from the library. My curiousity was aroused and I just had to try out the recipe and was definitely worth it. This is probably one of the more complicated dishes I´ve tried to cook although it is actually quite simple. The trickiest part is tying up the meat so the stuffing doesn´t ooze out as I´ve never done it before. Don´t think I did such a good job of it as the filling did start to ooze out a little but as they say practice makes perfect!

Here´s my tweaked and updated version of Mrs Manders´ recipe:
Ingredients (for 2 people) (all teaspoon/tablespoon/cup measurements use American measurements)
2 sandwich steaks or beef rump (I´m not sure I bought the correct cut of meat as was a little tough)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 small button mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4-1/2 tsp grated lemon rind (I just guessed!)
1/2 of a 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
1 cup of minced pork or ham (you can use less if you want as I was just using up what was leftover)
1/4 tsp dried oregano or thyme
salt & pepper
1/2 of beaten egg
2 tbsp butter
1 cup (240ml) of stock (I used Bisto gravy granules)
1/2 cup (120ml) white wine
1/2 tbsp plain flour
1. Mix onion and mushroom with pork, parsley, lemon rind, oregano and breadcrumbs.Season with salt and pepper and add egg.

2.Place mixture in beef slices and roll up, tie with cooking twine to secure the sides and prevent filling from leaking out.
3. Preheat oven to 350º F(180ºC)
4. Melt 1 tbsp butter in casserole and brown beef rolls.
5.Add stock and wine,cover and cook in the oven for 30-45 mins.
6.Remove beef rolls, cut twine and keep warm. Meanwhile, make gravy by melting 1tbsp butter in a pan, add the flour till thickens and add sauces and juices from the casserole dish, stir until bubbling.
7. Serve beef rolls warm with gravy and your choice of vegetables and potatoes.
As you can see, I served my with roast potatoes but unfortunately they didn´t crisp up as much as I´d have liked!


Mincemeat & Apple Pie (7th March, 09)

I´d been wondering for awhile what to do with my leftover mincemeat after Christmas....it was a huge jar....and came across a recipe for Mincemeat & Pear flan in my mum´s Mary Berry's Desserts & Confections. This is a slightly adapted version of the recipe but is definitely a great way to use up that leftover mincemeat and is sure to be a success. Again, had a few struggles with the pastry as was fairly sticky so added a bit more flour, then when attempting to put it in the pie dish it kept breaking but eventually managed to get it in, in one piece. All cup and teaspoon/tablespoon measurements are American.

Ingredients (Serves 8-10)
175g/6 oz (1 cup)plain (all-purpose)flour
30g/1oz (2 1/2 tbsp) caster (superfine) sugar
120g/4oz butter (1 stick)
1 egg
Streusel topping
30g/1oz(4 1/2tbsp)plain (all-purpose) flour
20g/2/3oz ( 1 1/2 tbsp)light soft brown sugar
30g/1oz (2 tbsp) butter
leftover sweet mincemeat
1-3 apples,Fuji best as you don´t need extra sugar, peeled and thinly sliced, depending on how much mincemeat leftover(as I only had a little mincemeat about 1/4 jar, I used 3 apples to fill the pie
lemon juice

1. Sift flour and mix together with sugar in a bowl and rub butter into flour till it looks like breadcrumbs.
2. Add egg and mix until dough holds together(if very sticky add a little more flour). Roll into ball and refrigerate for an hour.
3. Mix together flour and brown sugar in a small bowl and rub butter into flour till it looks like breadcrumbs for the streusel topping. Refrigerate.
4. Roll out the dough using a floured rolling pin on a floured surface till it´s slightly bigger than the 22cm/8 in pie crust.
5. Line pie dish with pastry crust and trim the edges, then crimp the edges.
6. Spread a layer of mincemeat and then place the layers of apple on top fanning out in an attractive way (see before pic. below)

7. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the apples to stop them from turning brown and sprinkle a little cinnamon over the apples for flavour and then sprinkle streusel topping on top.
8. Bake in a preheated oven at 220 degrees C (425 degrees F) for 25-30 mins, taking care that pastry does not burn.(see notes)
9. When pastry and streusel are a nice golden brown colour, take out of the oven and serve hot with cream or ice cream.

- I´d suggest either cooking the apples a little before placing them in the pie or cook the pie at a lower temperature for a longer time as my apples were a little undercooked but the pastry was ready and I didn´t want it to burn. It still looked and tasted great though!


A Hand is as good as a fork! Abay Ethiopian Restaurant, Pittsburgh (3rd March'09)

I have been wanting to try this restaurant for awhile as I´d heard that it was good and also because I´ve never tried Ethiopian cuisine...it´s another new experience for me! I tried to reserve a table but it was already booked up but we decided to risk it and ended up having to wait half an hour to get a table. Definitely a good sign!

The restaurant itself is quite small and basic but cosy. It has paintings of African women and children and various other African memoribilia on the walls and around the room and some of the tables and chairs at the front of the restaurant are small and made of wicker.

We decided to get a combination platter for 4 to share...however, we were sharing it between the six of us. At $51 dollars a platter based on 4 sharing, it doesn´t seem so cheap. You can choose either a vegetarian sampler or a combined meat & vegetarian sampler and pick the dishes you want to try-we chose the latter.

We had a lamb dish served with almonds and cinnamon, which was the night´s speciality-I forget the name- Doro Wat- chicken marinated in lemon with a mild, herb sauce, Ye' Abesha Gomen (I think)-a vegetarian dish comprising of kale, peppers, ginger, garlic and onions and Kay Wat- a spicy beef dish. The meat and veg was served on top of this spongy type bread (injera) which is made from various grains such as barley and wheat. It was really light and airy and reminded me a lot of pancakes, especially savory galletes. We ordered some extra Ingera otherwise I think we might have still been hungry although nobody seemed to be very hungry...saying that, though the food disappeared very quickly! You have to eat the meat & veg with the bread and your hands if you want to be authentic...and get your hands dirty. We did it the fun way and used our hands but if that´s too much for you, you can ask for a knife and fork.

I liked all the dishes, they were well-cooked and the meat was very tender and just melted in your mouth. My favourite dish was the lamb and my least favourite was the chicken as it didn´t appear to have much flavour. I was expecting Ethiopian food to be very different to anything I´d ever eaten before although I have to say I was a little disappointed. Don´t get me wrong or anything, I really enjoyed the food, it just reminded me quite a bit of Indian food as it has some similar flavours. The beef wasn´t as spicy as I had expected it to be either. At first you couldn´t taste the heat but once you´d eaten it, you´d get the spicy afterrush of heat.

We couldn´t resist a dessert to round off the meal and one of the couples shared a white chocolate raspberry cake that looked delicious. I shared a pumpkin sambussa which came with the ice cream of your choice (brown cinnamon) and honey or chocolate sauce(chocolate sauce of course!) as did the other couple. It was a bit like a sweet samosa but was very tasty, if a bit too much cinnamon although not sure this is very authentic Ethiopian food! You can definitely eat this with a spoon as it´d be too messy with your hands!

We only drank water so I´m sure you could spend a lot more depending on how much you ate and what you drink. One important point about this restaurant is that it is a BYOB or in other words you have to brink your own bottle of wine or alcohol if you want to drink alcohol and there´s a small charge of $2.50. However for a meal, extra bread and desserts, the bill came to $16.60 each, which isn´t bad for a night out.

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