Thursday, 22 January 2015

REVIEW: VELVET ELVIS!

Mmmm.... burgers!!!

I've lived in Partick for a year and a half now and for some unknown reason I have never visited Velvet Elvis before... despite the fact that it is quite literally just around the corner from me. When there was a discussion about it in work last week and how good it was, I realised I needed to remedy my ignorance double quick. So when the boyfriend suggested going there for his birthday dinner the other night, it seemed like a sign!

A bar/cafĂ© on Dumbarton Road between Crow Road and the Thornwood roundabout, Velvet Elvis is handy for those in the west end of town (especially me!) and most my colleagues located in the west end had already given it a go more than once. Now I can see why!

The service was fast and friendly, prices were reasonable and, to be honest, the most taxing part of the night was trying to decide what to have off the varied menu! And, let's face it, struggling to choose what to eat BECAUSE YOU WANT IT ALL isn't really a hardship!

Mackerel pate with oatcakes

To start, I went for the mackerel pate, which was delicious and was already sort of allocated to the scrumptious oatcakes - which is definitely a good thing. Usually with pate I grossly underestimate how much pate to allocate to each oatcake or piece of bread and end up either with a big blob of pate with nothing left to spread it on, or vice versa.


Goats cheese and roast capsicum spring rolls
 
The boyfriend opted for the goats cheese and roasted capsicum spring rolls (I believe capsicum is just a fancy name for a pepper) - I had a sneaky wee taste and it was definitely the best spring roll I've ever sampled. (Though this could be due to the fact that I am a massive fan of goats cheese and fried food). The boyfriend loved this dish, the combination of flavours, and how "fresh" it all tasted (He likes the word "fresh" to describe food.)

And then onto the main course . . . although there were many options to choose from such as venison, macaroni cheese or fish and chips, so many people had raved about the burgers that we felt OBLIGATED to go for those. The half pound Scottish beef burger it was then, with cheese added to mine, while the boyfriend had cheese, chorizo AND jalapenos. They turned up with coleslaw on the side and gorgeous handcut chips. And they definitely lived up to the hype. I am not generally very good at finishing everything on my plate, my eyes are definitely (metaphorically) bigger than my belly, but I did a pretty good job of finishing nearly the whole thing, despite eating the full (sizeable) starter. This burger was absolutely fantastic. Seriously . . . just thinking about it is making me want to drool.




There were several dessert options on offer but the starters and mains had stuffed us completely so we decided to give dessert a miss, finished off the bottle of refreshing sauvignon blanc we were sharing (without feeling at all hurried) and headed off into the cold for a couple more drinks elsewhere.


LOOK AT THOSE CHIPS!!!

We spent most of today raving about the place to our respective colleagues (those who hadn't already had the pleasure of visiting Velvet Elvis already, obviously) and I've already looked at the menu to decide what I want on my next visit.  I haven't managed to decide yet though.

I guess there will have to be a lot of visits there in my future in that case . . . ;-)



Tuesday, 20 January 2015

MY NEW GO-TO CURRY . . .


I've never professed to be a brilliant chef . . . if I ever do, you can feel free to point at me and call me a lying twat. (Please nothing stronger than that - I might cry.) But I have definitely been getting a bit better in the kitchen of late. And one of my favourite things to make is curry.

I tend to follow recipes religiously, even if I've made them a few times and should really know them back to front - I'll usually have the book open in front of me or the website up on my phone and start panicking if the book flips shut or my phone locks in case I miss a vital step. I have made curry so often though now that I can do it without the aid of a recipe and am willing to improvise a bit.

This is how my favourite new "go-to" curry came to be. A couple of weeks ago, over the Christmas holidays, I had a night in the flat myself as the boyfriend was away out with his friends for a bit of a drinking session. I decided to make myself chicken curry with the frozen veg and meat that was in the flat. Unfortunately, I decided to defrost the chicken in the microwave and accidentally cremated it instead. So I had to try and find something else to use in the curry instead . . . and that's when I happened across a tin of kidney beans!

Much to my surprise, it tasted brilliant accompanied by a single serving pack of Uncle Ben's basmati rice and a little blob of light Philadelphia on the side (I was out of natural yogurt, which is my usual curry accompaniment). And my boyfriend, who doesn't reheat anything, got home from the pub and ate the leftovers and loved it too.

So tonight, to see if it had been a one-off, I decided to recreate it again. And turns out it also tastes good to us when we're both sober too!

EASY KIDNEY BEAN CURRY
To serve two people:

Ingredients

Frylight
1 red onion
2 garlic cloves
1 red pepper
A handful of mushrooms
250 ml passata or chopped tomatoes (I used passata with garlic & onion as I had half a 500 ml carton left from yesterday's mushroom stroganoff)
1/2 of a veg stock cube in about 100ml of water
2 teaspoons of hot chilli powder
1 teaspoon medium curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1 400g tin of kidney beans, drained

Method

Chop up the onion and garlic and throw it in a hot frying pan with some frylight (You can obviously use oil instead but I try to keep the calories down whenever I can). Once these are sizzling nicely, throw in sliced red pepper and mushrooms, followed by your passata/chopped tomatoes and stock.

Then add in your spices. I usually only add a teaspoon of the chilli powder at this point and throw in the rest closer to the end. You can change up your spices according to taste, I'm fairly wimpy when it comes to spicy food and find this combination and amount of spices are quite strong but I can just about cope (although my lips are stinging quite a lot by the time I finish eating!).

Once you've mixed the spices in well and your mixture is nicely bubbling away, chuck in your kidney beans and leave them to simmer for around fifteen minutes. About five minutes from the end of the cooking time I added the other half of chilli powder and stirred in well.




I served this up with a packet of basmati rice and a generous blob of fat free fromage frais, which turned out to be a good way of cooling my mouth down!


This curry is great for many reasons.

1) It's easy to make
2) It uses a lot of ingredients you're likely to already have in your freezer
3) It uses good, healthy ingredients
4) It doesn't contain meat, if you're trying to avoid that
5) It is Slimming World friendly
6) I worked out that, even with the rice and fromage frais added, it's less than 500 calories for one portion (remember this recipe makes two portions so if you decide to eat it all yourself, you'll need to double that amount!)
7) It's easily adaptable. You can use the curry sauce base and add meat instead, or chickpeas, or more veg, depending on what you're feeling like. The possibilities are endless. I've made it a couple of times with chickpeas in the past, but personally I think it works the best with kidney beans.
8) It's approved by the boyfriend as a good post-pub drunken snack! (who needs chips and cheese??? Um - I do?!?)

I would definitely recommend you give this recipe a shot next time you're not sure what you want for dinner!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

ON WHY I HATE PASSWORDS . . .

Passwords do my head in.

I know, I KNOW, they are there to safeguard us, for stopping people hacking into our email, or internet banking, to stop them accessing the finer details of our lives. But at the same time... THEY ARE SO BLOODY ANNOYING!

So we're told we should have different passwords for everything. That we should NEVER EVER EVER write them down in case someone finds them. But how else can we keep track? When you have fifty million social networking sites to log into on a daily basis, as well as numerous programs in work, not to mention your email, utilities accounts, aforementioned internet banking . . . how are we possibly meant to remember different passwords for everything?

Recently it's got even worse. It used to irritate me beyond belief when you couldn't just put a word as a password - my god, imagine the nerve of trying to put an actual WORD there. You had to add in at least one number. And perhaps a capital letter.

But now . . . I'm finding increasingly that you have to have a small letter, a capital, a number... AND A PUNCTUATION MARK? This gets difficult enough to try to remember - but then add in regular prompts to change your password and you get to the point where trying to actually get access to any of your online accounts is like trying to pass a challenge in the Crystal Maze.

I lock myself out of one of my work-related accounts at least once a fortnight. And sometimes trying to retrieve my password or get it reset is even harder. I have one account that asks me THREE SECURITY QUESTIONS every time I forget the password - and I forget the password every time I try to log into it so this means every time I try to access this account I have to go through this rigmarole. And it's the one I use to access my payslip so it's not like I can just avoid logging into it altogether.

What I really need is a special safe where I can store all of my passwords, that I am the only one who has access to, so that I will always be able to remember them.

The problem is . . . I would probably forget the password to get into the password safe.

And then it's back to square one . . .

Sunday, 11 January 2015

SCOTLAND THE BEAUTIFUL . . . CHASING WATERFALLS!

So I've not posted on the Scotland the Beautiful subject for a wee while... this is mainly because my favourite thing is waterfalls and, as much as I love them, they all start to look a bit similar after a while.  I have many MANY pictures of waterfalls though, trust me on this!

So here's two more. First up is the Falls of Falloch which is near to the village of Crianlarich. It's just a short walk from the car park, and pretty impressive.




 
Second up, we have the Devil's Pulpit, which is near Drymen. It involved a bit of a clamber down a hill but it was pretty cool once we got down there and we could practically stand in the fall. Apparently there's another side to it we haven't seen yet, so we'll need to check that out soon!
 



 
I'll let you know once we've checked out the other side of it! ;-)

Monday, 5 January 2015

FORGET "NEW YEAR, NEW ME" . . . THIS IS "5 DAYS INTO THE YEAR, NEW ME" . . .

I know people like to mock New Year's Resolutions, but I can see why people make them. In a cheesy sort of way, it makes sense - a new year means a clean slate and why not use that to start over?

So, with that disclaimer, here are my 2015 resolutions:

***Save money
I've been treading water when it comes to money for years - rarely living beyond my means, but never really having any savings. Ever since I moved into my own place I've found this spiralling a bit out of control, not so much the living from day to day, but just wanting to go on holidays etc. So going on four holidays plus a couple of nights/weekends away last year did really not help my bank balance. I don't need to be saving a LOT, that would be overambitious of me . . . but enough to have a nest egg I can dip into for emergencies. Because in my life I tend to break my phone and get an unexpected bill approximately two minutes after forking out money I don't have for a holiday . . . Not this year!!!

***Lose weight and GET HEALTHY
This is fairly simple. Eat healthier (I already do eat relatively healthy probably about 60% of the time, but I want to make that more like 80% of the time and "very" healthy as opposed to "relatively"). Cut down on the numerous bottles of vino. And get a decent workout routine in. I've signed up for an online personal trainer and that kicked off today, so let's see if I can make a difference for a change!

***Get my flat organised
I want the kind of uncluttered place that I'd be happy to invite my friends over to for dinner. If uncluttered is not possible, it would be good if they could at least sit down at the table without falling over several boxes I have forgotten to unpack since moving in 2013 . . .

***Becoming a better cook
I'm actually a much better chef than I used to be, but I want to get braver. I probably rotate about six or seven meals max on a regular basis at the moment, which is an improvement on only being able to make pizza or tablet a few years ago . . . but I want to get a bit more adventurous and not freak out if a recipe has more than approximately eight ingredients.

***Visit more amazing places in Scotland
I still have places I haven't shared in the Scotland the Beautiful series I started last year . . . but I have also so many more places I want to visit and explore. I obviously want to go further afield this year as well, but I definitely want to see more of what my own country has to offer. Don't worry - I won't keep it to myself!
'

Have you made any resolutions for 2015?