Over summer I had a *massive* craving for coffee ice-cream. It’s a flavour I absolutely love, but avoid making or buying as W doesn’t react well to caffeine – and believe me nor do I when he keeps me up all night after having some! When I finally got round to grabbing some coffee, we had the classic British problem of ‘it went cold’ and so ice-cream went out of the window and these cupcakes were born.
Coffee and Walnut is a classic sandwich cake combination, but I wanted to keep these a little daintier. I find cupcakes are far easier for sharing at the office too! These cupcakes are light, fluffy, full of coffee flavour, topped off with a delicious vanilla buttercream – giving a really creamy finish that reminds me of fancy coffee drinks. They are quite strong on the coffee front, as I used plenty of coffee grounds (Illy is my brand of choice, gifted as part of my Degustabox collaboration) – however keeping the topping coffee-free ensures, for me at least, they aren’t too strong. A perfect coffee hit, but not bitter or overpowering. Perfect as an afternoon snack!
Recipe (makes 9 cupcakes)
100g soft butter, at room temperature
100g golden caster sugar
100g self-raising flour
3 tsp instant coffee, mixed with 100ml/3½fl oz boiling water, then cooled
25g walnuts, chopped, plus more for topping
For the frosting – 200g mascarpone, 2 tbsp golden caster sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract
Line a bun tin with 9 fairy cake cases. Beat the butter and sugar together, then add the egg in gradually, beating well. Add the flour and fold in, followed by around 4 tsp of the coffee and a pinch of salt until creamy. Stir through the chopped walnuts, then evenly spoon the mix into the cases. Bake for at 180C for around 20 minutes, then allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, pop the mascarpone, vanilla and the sugar into a large bowl, then beat together. Spread a dollop of the frosting onto the top of each cake, then finish with some more walnuts. Enjoy – though don’t do as I did and enjoy as an evening snack at gone 10pm!
Are you a fan of cupcakes, or do you prefer a slice of a larger cake?
One of my favourite things to do, although admittedly we don’t do it nearly as often as I’d like, is to have friends round for dinner. Our dream is to actually one day host a supper club for charity, although I think we’re a way off doing that right now. I love it all – the meal-planning, conversation-starter planning, the enforced cleaning of the flat. I’m also a feeder, so filling people up with food I’ve prepared just makes me happy!
I’m a fan of trying to keep things as relaxed as possible (whilst W is good at the fancy stuff – egg yolk ravioli being a memorable starter he once made – I like to keep things simple). My ideal starter is a mix of bits and bobs for guests to pick at, and this post is all about my go-to options right now. These recipes came about when we had another couple round for a Thursday night dinner. It was in the middle of the heatwave so I wanted to avoid having another hot thing to eat, but I wanted something to go vaguely with our Middle Eastern main (a roasted carrot dish). A trio of dips and various breads did just the job.
I think if you’re doing something like this, you do need at least three dips. Keep them different (no point doing three variations on hummus, no matter how tasty it is!), keep them interesting. Add in some spice, some creaminess, some zing, some freshness. Keep it exciting. Here’s three of my favourites…
Roasted Courgette & Tahini
1 large courgette
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp tahini
juice and zest of ½ a lemon
1 tbsp Greek yogurt
handful of mint, leaves only, chopped
Wrap the whole courgette in foil, then put in the oven and roast for 30 minutes at 220C, or until soft when pricked with a fork. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely – I did this in the morning, then just left them to cool whilst I was at work during the day.
Put the cooled courgette in a food processor (no need to peel), with the garlic and blend. Add the tahini and lemon juice and season, then blitz again. Transfer to a bowl, then stir through the yogurt and a little of the mint. Season to taste, and scatter over the remaining mint to serve.
Turmeric Spiced Hummus
400g tin of chickpeas
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground chilli
2 cloves of peeled garlic
5 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp tahini
Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then add to a small saucepan and heat over a low heat until warm. Tip into a food processor and add the spices, lemon zest and juice, tahini and garlic. Blend whilst the chickpeas are still hot, then gradually add the oil and water until you have the consistency you want. Season to taste, then serve drizzled with a little extra olive oil.
200g feta cheese
200g plain Greek yoghurt
Half a lemon, juiced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground sumac
Crumble the feta into a bowl, then add the yoghurt and whisk until the cheese is completely broken up and becomes creamy. You can do this in a blender, but I find the texture best if done by hand. Add the lemon juice and mix again. Put the dip in a serving bowl and dress the surface with the olive oil and then sprinkle over some sumac.
I tried to keep these varied – different colours, different flavours, which worked really well. Each had something different to bring to the party. The Roasted Courgette dip brings some freshness, whilst the Turmeric Hummus was full of flavour and subtle spice. The Whipped Feta – well, it brings cheese which makes everything better! Served with some pitta bread, some crispy baked pitta chips and some breadsticks I could have eaten this for hours!
I warn you, though. Dips and breads are dangerous if you’re like me – I ate far too much of these and couldn’t finish the rest of my meal!
Are you a fan of dips and breads? Which one of these would be your favourite? I’m in love with the Whipped Feta!
It’s been a month or so since I did a Recent Eats post, and in that time there’s been a fair few exciting things we’ve tried. Admittedly the last few weeks have been a case of eating from the freezer in an attempt to save pennies (weddings are expensive) but we’ve still managed to try a fair few new things. On the drinks front, Gin in Rose Lemonade (found in a can in Sainsburys) was my go-to drink of choice for much of September, though I’m now slowly sinking back into my red wine habit of last winter…
More Tomato Free Pizza From Waitrose
It looks like my favourite ‘trout and samphire’ pizza is no longer available (why do I always fall in love with the limited edition items?!) but it’s replacement for Autumn is also tomato free and also *really* tasty. The pumpkin and porchetta sourdough pizza is the perfect combination of salty meat, sweet pumpkin and creamy cheese – all on a delicious base. I’ll be filling my freezer with these for sure!
Peanut Butter & Jelly Crumble
Combining my favourite Autumnal/Winter pudding with peanut butter is definitely an inspired idea – it’s turned it super-comforting, super-yum and I can’t get enough. Recipe will be up over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled! in the meantime, have a read of my classic crumble recipe…
Soft Boiled Eggs & Buttered Toast Soldiers
Having a cold and feeling sorry for myself in late September meant this was my breakfast/lunch/dinner of choice (particularly when I was home for the weekend and had my mummy to make it for me!) – so comforting.
A ‘Pot Pasta’
Having gotten through four years of student life without eating any kind of Pot Noodle, I ended up having to try a Carbonara ‘pot pasta’ on the night we dropped my sister off at university. It surprisingly wasn’t too bad – fairly creamy, soft pasta and reasonably filling. My main issue was the lack of cheesy taste – it SMELT super cheesy, but the overriding taste was vegetable stock peppered with a small amount of bacon.
Without a doubt, my favourite product from September’s Degustabox* was the Raspberry Mashmallows from Mallow & Marsh. Coated in quite a bitter dark chocolate there were fruity, soft, gooey and made for a really delicious Tuesday night (Bake Off night!) snack.
Towards the end of summer, when I wasn’t quite ready to stop eating salads but wanted something filling we came up with some cracking recipes. The one in the photo above was my absolute favourite, inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe. Shredded leftover brisket fried until hot and slightly crispy, tossed with lettuce, apple, pear and mint. We drizzled over a blue cheese dressing, added some fresh chilli slices and made some cheesy croutons too. Absolutely stunning, and something I’ve craved ever since eating it.
Completely Homemade Tacos
Talking about Bake Off, this series we’ve been trying, as far as possible, to bake along with the theme each week. For bread week I decided to dust off our tortilla press and make the tacos for our taco night – and they were delicious. Beautifully soft and so much more flavourful that the ones we usually pick up from Sainsburys.
Colder evenings have called for a warm drink before bed, and hot chocolate is of course my favourite. Again Degustabox* has come to the rescue with that – in August we received a tub of Cadbury’s Hightlights, and last month was a tub of Oreo Hot Chocolate. Both we have really enjoyed!
Chicken Tikka Masala
One of the things I *really* miss is a good Indian takeaway. I can make some fairly decent curries, but so far nothing has quite matched up to the takeaways I remember from my childhood and teenage years. The recipe in the first photo of this post, however, has pretty much cracked it. Inspired by a recipe in September’s issue of Delicious, it is thick and rich, heavily spiced without being chilli-hot and the perfect Friday night supper. I’m working on perfecting the spicing a little, and then I’ll be sharing the recipe…
And that’s it, just a little round up of the yummiest things I’ve eaten recently. No duds this time!
Yet another courgette recipe from me! I just can’t get enough of this vegetable, so versatile and great for bulking out dishes and adding a little bit more towards your five-a-day.
These muffins are the perfect rainy day snack. Best served warm (I zap in the microwave at work), they’re delicious split in half and spread with salted butter, or perfect alongside some soup. Having said that they do work quite nicely at room temperature along with a platter of cured meat, more cheese and some salad, so they’d be great for a picnic. I can imagine them being a hit with children too, just maybe grate the courgette finely and chop the spinach really well if they’re particularly veg-phobic!
Unfortunately this recipe doesn’t use a *huge* amount of courgette so it won’t be that great if you’ve got a glut of it in your garden, but it does use around 1 small one and the muffins freeze well for a couple of months which helps!
Recipe – makes 12 muffins
50g feta cheese
75g cheddar, plus extra for sprinkling
75g baby spinach
300g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried herbs, I used a mix of basil and oregano
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds, for sprinkling
Coarsely grate the courgette into a large mixing bowl. Crumble the feta into the bowl and sprinkle over 75g grated cheddar. Roughly chop the spinach, and add along with the flour, baking powder, salt, herbs and plenty of black pepper. Beat the milk and eggs together then stir into the bowl; lightly mix until everything is just combined. Spoon into the muffin cases (around 2 tbsp in each) and sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds and extra cheese.
Bake for around 30 minutes at 180C until firm, golden and a skewer comes out cleanly. Allow to cool for 10 minutes; then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
I reckon you could easily switch these up. Add some extra hints of summer with some dried-tomatoes, add some finely chopped crispy bacon. I also think you could use this recipe to make a riff on cornbread – add some spices, stir through some corn and bake as normal. Yum!
Happy Monday! It’s October – which means it’s Wedding Month! I can’t quite believe that after he got down on one knee nearly three years ago, we finally get married in just a few days. Both terrifying and exciting in equal measure, I’ve got a to-do list literally longer than my arm and a million and one things buzzing around my brain. But all I can really think about is that I’m marrying my best friend, eek!
Getting my sister settled into her university halls and hearing about how she’s getting on. I’m so pleased it seems to be going well – and that she’s following a maths-y path like me!
Seeing my wedding dress taking shape. Having it designed from scratch has been such an amazing experience, and I’m so excited to see the final finished product. Although nervous – I won’t actually manage to squeeze in a final fitting before the big day so everything is in the seamstresses hands…
Candles! It’s the time of the year for cosy evenings of candles, blankets and fluffy socks and I’m loving it!
Making homemade pasta. There’s something so therapeutic about it, and it tastes so much better than anything you can buy.
Evenings spent typing up blog posts and editing photos whilst watching Harry Potter. Can’t get better than that!
Having a *really* good work day. I was actually ill so working from home, and managed to get my head down and do a load of super-interesting analysis. It’s the kind of work I may not always have time for and it’s my favourite part of the job – geeky as that sounds!
Filling up my Kindle with new books ready for the honeymoon. Any recommendations then please let me know!
Finding savoury muffins buried in my freezer. I made some really cheesy courgette muffins a few weeks ago, froze them and then forgot about them – but I’ve rediscovered them. Turns out they freeze super well – and the recipe will be going live later this week.
My latest Degustabox (gifted). It was full of some exciting sweet treats including some *amazing* raspberry and dark chocolate marshmallows from Mallow & Marsh. They were the highlight of the box this month, but I’m also really excited to try the A2 Milk (as I have some issues with dairy)…
This was one of my favourite recipes that I developed last winter. Originally inspired by this recipe in Delicious Magazine (seriously the best foodie magazine – we’ve loved every issue we’ve read), it’s both rich and indulgent whilst still feeling fairly fresh thanks to the lemon and dill.
Slow cooking pork is something I rarely do, however I know I’ll be hunting down more recipes this Autumn as it was impossibly tender, full of flavour and a bit of a bargain. Even splurging out and picking up the meat at the butchers gave us plenty of change from a tenner (and the big pot easily made six servings, and would have served more had we managed to be more self-restrained). It does, I think, require a bit more care than beef as the browning is crucial to the colour and flavour of the final dish, but it’s well worth it.
The rest of the casserole is filled wih veggies – carrots, shallots, leeks and celery. It’s braised in a combination of chicken stock, sherry and lemon juice, with a small amount of dream stirred in near the end of the cooking time along with a handful of dill. The dill sounds unusual, but trust me on this – it totally works. And the dumplings are a revelation. I usually make mine with suet, but these are lighter – yoghurt, flour, parmesan and more dill combine to more pillowy dumplings and when scattered with more Parmesan crisp up beautifully (even if you forget to take the lid off the pot and turn the oven up – hence my slightly pale looking ones!). Whilst I’ll never abandon my belowed suet toppings for a good old beef stew, these are definitely good. And if you don’t fancy them? This stew is equally as delicious with mashed potato (ideally with mustard) or some good bread.
Recipe (serves at least 6, freezes well without the dumplings)
Olive oil for frying
1.5kg diced pork shoulder, tossed in 3 tbsp plain flour mixed with 1 tsp mustard powder and plenty of black pepper
6 banana shallots, halved lengthways
5 large carrots, halved, sliced diagonally into 1cm pieces
1 leek, sliced
3 celery sticks, sliced into 1cm pieces
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp fennel seeds
150ml dry sherry
750ml chicken stock
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
40g plain flour
Zest and juice 1 lemon
60ml single cream
Small bunch fresh dill
30g parmesan, grated
For the parmesan dumplings – 150g self-raising flour, 150g full-fat greek yogurt, 25g parmesan, grated, 1/2 bunch fresh dill (reserve the rest for scattering over when serving)
Heat a glug of oil in a casserole pan and try the pork in batched until browned all over. Transfer to a bowl using a slotted spoon, before adding a little more oil to the casserole along with the vegetables. Fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables are starting to soften. Add the garlic and fennel seeds and fry for 1 minute, then return the pork to the casserole with any resting juices. Add the sherry and bubble for 5 minutes until slightly reduced, then add the stock and wholegrain mustard. Put the lid on the casserole and transfer to the oven, cooking for 2 hours at 160C.
When the two hours is nearly done, mix the 40g plain flour with the lemon zest and juice, then add a little water to form a smooth, creamy paste. Stir the paste into the casserole when the 2 hours’ cooking time is up, then allow to cook for 10 or so more minutes whilst you make the dumplings.
Put the 150g self-raising flour and yogurt in a mixing bowl with the parmesan and chopped dill, then season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, bring the mixture together to form a soft dough, then shape into 8 dumplings. Remove the casserole and turn the oven up to 220C. Stir the cream into the casserole along with most of the chopped dill, then top with the dumplings. Sprinkle the 30g parmesan over the top, then return to the oven for 20 minutes (without the lid) until the dumplings are puffed and golden. Serve scattered with the extra dill fronds and some green veg – it’s delicious with kale or cavelo nero.
And that’s it – it may be slightly more involved than my usual beef stew recipe, but it’s absolutely delicious. I imagine it would work perfectly well in a slow cooker, then you’d just need to transfer to the oven for the dumplings – or just serve with mash. I also quite like it with buttery jacket potatoes…
Are you a fan of slow cooked stews and casseroles? What’s your go-to recipe?
I promised a recipe for this Courgette & Orange Loaf Cake a few weeks ago (when I spoke about my favourite ways to use up a courgette glut) – and here it is. In fact this is probably perfectly timed, as courgettes are still coming through, but I have noticed them starting to be a little more bitter, more ‘woolly’ and not their best. This recipe will certainly transform below-par courgettes into something delicious.
Packed with citrus flavours (I added lemon zest as well as orange for a real zingy hit) you’d never guess this is filled with a vegetable. I mean, it’s still not a healthy cake by any means, but it is slightly less guilt-inducing! The courgette doesn’t really impact much flavour, but what it does bring to the party is an amazing texture. The loaf cake is moist and tender, but still has a good ‘cake’ feel. It’s not mushy by any means! And it also seems to taste really well, in fact it was almost even beter after a day in the fridge (I wouldn’t usually keep cakes in the fridge, but cream cheese frosting and the UK heatwave wasn’t a combination I wanted to try out!).
Recipe (makes a large 900g loaf tin- though I made mine in mini-loaf tins for ease of portioning out to various offices – based on a BBC Good Food recipe)
Frosting – I wasn’t too impressed with my attempt at the frosting and so won’t give the recipe, but next time I’d try this recipe
Lightly oil and line a 900g loaf tin. Finely grate the courgettes (no need to peel unless the skin is particular though), then squeeze out as much liquid as you can with your hands. I also let the grated courgettes sit in a sieve, weighted with a bowl filled with baking beans, whilst I weighed everything else out.
Stir the courgettes with the sugar, oil, eggs, zest, and orange extract, then fold in the flour and baking powder. Like with banana bread it’s really important not to overmix or the texture will be doughy and not particularly cake-like. I found the mix was particularly dry and stiff, but don’t worry as the courgettes release a lot of water as the cake cooks.
Scrape the mixture into the tin and bake for 50 minutes at 180C, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean (mine needed an extra ten minutes). Remove from the tin after a few minutes, and the cool on a wire rack. Make sure the cake is completely cool before icing with your chosen frosting.
This Courgette & Orange Loaf went down a storm when I took it into the office – it’s actually been my most popular bake and disappeared before lunch. I was very glad I’d left a slice at home for me to enjoy later or I wouldn’t have got a look in…
Are you a fan of vegetable cakes? Would you choose to bake with courgette?
A lovely second Hen Do with my family (and family to be!). I arranged an afternoon tea for something more sedate that my grandma’s would enjoy, and it was lovely to have everyone together.
Getting my exams out of the way (again). I’ve spoken less about studying these past few months as I was only doing a ‘little’ exam this sitting given the wedding is in less than three weeks, but I’m now free from it all again! Fingers crossed it went well as then I’ll only have one left to go…
Making the *best* curry I’ve ever made. The photos turned out terribly, but I will be posting a recipe as soon as I can.
Emptying out our freezer. We’re aiming to completely clear it and start again, which has meant discovering some new things (hello random pork chops!) and also some cheap food shopping weeks!
Experimenting with photography again. I actually love it when we have darker evenings as I find it quite difficult to shoot when light is so unpredictable – dark evenings suit my style more I find. I’m especially proud of some upcoming coffee cupcakes which were shot during a particularly gloomy thunderstorm…
The smell of paint. We’ve (or rather W) has made some giant light-up letters for the wedding. We’ve painted them copper but I loved having the smell of fresh paint in the flat. Is that weird?!
Managing to grab the last of this dress in my size in a gorgeous bottle-green colour. It fits so well and looks/feels a lot more expensive than £20…
Watching Mulan. It’s one of my three favourite Disney films (1st = Jungle Book, 2nd = Beauty & The Beast) and I love it. The songs are *amazing* and I can’t wait for the live action one to be produced.
Bake Off! It’s back and I am loving it. I did think the last series on the BBC (how was it two years ago?!) was a little flat, but I’m loving the new one. I’ve also been baking along, stay tuned on my Instagram!
Cosy evenings. Now it’s cooler in the evenings I can bear to wear PJs and fluffy socks – and it’s made me evenings 10x more enjoyable!
Are you enjoying the start of Autumn? What’s making you smile at the moment?
Bad Millennial alert, but I hated avo until a couple of months ago. Now I can’t get enough of the stuff, and this is the recipe which converted me!
Most Sundays in our house involve a roast of some sort, even if it’s just the two of us eating. In fact, especially if it’s just the two of us eating – purely because we get yummy leftovers for a few days. A whole chicken is invariably our meat of choice, it’s generally the cheapest option and the leftovers are SO versatile. From a large bird we tend to get our Sunday dinner out of one, plus two more dinners, some stock and a couple of lunches (or another dinner) too. Bargain!
Whether you’re roasting your own chicken or buying one of the pre-cooking rotisserie ones from the supermarket (love the garlicky ones!) you can do SO much with the leftovers. Such, have chicken sandwiches for the rest of the week, but you could also get inventive. And these chicken tacos are my all-time favourite…
The Corn & Avocado salsa recipe is based on this one from Chelsea’s Messy Apron, and it’s bladdddyyyy delish! I’ve simplified it down as I prefer to bulk out the chicken filling with onion, I’ve ditched any tomato and kept it really simple and just tossed the veggies in some lime juice and a spot of seasoning. I don’t think it needs anything else as the flavours are so light and fresh!
Recipe – serves 2
2 servings leftover roast chicken, shredded – around 2 medium handfuls
1 onion, finely sliced
1 tsp chipotle paste
Zest and juice of 1 lime (half the juice goes into the chicken, half in the salsa)
2 avocados, diced
1 pack fresh coriander, chopped
6 soft tacos
Soured cream and/or feta, to serve
First up, prep your sweetcorn by popping it into a dry frying pan over a high heat until it’s a little charred. We actually use frozen sweetcorn and defrost it in the pan this way – if you’re using tinned you may want to rinse it as I find the water can sometimes make the salsa over-sweet. Allow the corn to cool in the pan.
Meanwhile, take another pan and heat over a medium heat. Add a little oil and a pinch of salt, then fry the onion until beginning to soft. Add in the chipotle paste and stir to combine – you could also add in other spices such as cumin, paprika and coriander just here, or a little extra chilli. Throw in your chicken and stir-fry until piping hot, before squeezing in the juice of half a lime.
Prep your avo at the last minute, dicing it and then adding to a pop with the lime zest, remaining juice and a little salt. Toss in the cooled sweetcorn and plenty of coriander, then serve alongside the chicken with some taco wraps, soured cream and feta. And that’s it! My current favourite Monday-night supper of super-easy Chipotle Chicken Tacos with Corn and Avocado Salsa!
And if you don’t fancy tacos? Here are another five of my favourite ways to use up leftover roast chicken:
Pie, ideally one combining Chicken, Ham & Leek. I’ll be posting an updated version of this recipe soon!
French-style salad – heated chicken combined with lentils, green beans, salad leaves and a soft-boiled egg in a vinaigrette dressing. So, so good!
Pasta bakes – mushroomy if possible!
Stir-fries. You just can’t go wrong with adding shredded chicken into noodles.
Don’t judge, but I may have (nearly) made it to the age of 25 without ever trying a Chinese. I’m not even sure why! Don’t get me know, we had the occasional takeaway as a treat growing up, but more often than not it was fish’n’chips (my go-to was a Pukka pie, I love them!) or the very occasional Indian – made even rarer when I developed my tomato allergy. We just never ordered Chinese.
We were recently invited to try out the menu at the Queenway branch of the Royal China restaurant group and let me tell you, I’m now definitely going to consider Chinese we do order in from now on – my eyes have been opened to a whole new cuisine and I’m gutted I’d missed out before!
Royal China is an award-winning restaurant chain with branches across London. They’re most famous for their Dim Sum menu (which I’d have really loved to sample, but unfortunately I have very few weekends free right now!), but they also have some really quite unique dishes available. That said, being first-timers we played it safe with our choices – maybe next time we’ll be more daring!
Arriving at the restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised by how large the dining area was – and how full it was at just 7pm. A lot of people seemed to be just finishing their meals, with it near emptying soon after we sat down, but by the time we left it was again near-full with a buzzy atmosphere. Service really depending on the staff you got at the time. Our waitress who sat us down asked us if we wanted a drink immediately, we requested tap water ‘for now’ and she obliged, though took the drinks menu with her never to be seen again. This contrasted greatly with a waiter who was, quite frankly, delightful. Pleased to advise on dishes that might be suited to a ‘first-timer,’ not laughing at my chopstick ability and even offering to take photos and move out of the light for me. I’d seen some reviews detailing really bad service and, whilst it was brisk, efficient and not particularly friendly (above waiter aside) I didn’t have any real complaints.
We started with some Crispy Aromatic Duck with the usual pancakes and accompaniments. We went for the half duck (£25.80) but felt the quarter would have definitely served two fine if you’d wanted another couple of starters to share or richer main courses. The duck arrived in one piece, then was swiftly taken to one side and shredded in front of us. This meat it was as fresh as could be and it certainly showed – the fleshier pieces were moist and tender, the crispy parts not showing even a hint of sogginess. The sauce was strongly flavoured, sharp and sweet in equal measures which balanced the rich meat well. There was just the right amount of pancakes for the duck, though we noted we ran out of cucumber a little quickly. My one big complaint here is that we were assembling on cold plates, which rendered serving warm pancakes pointless as they were always cold by the time we’d filled them.
We decided to ‘go by the pictures’ when ordered our mains, shameful as I feel that is! We ordered a couple of meat dishes to share, along with a vegetable ‘side dish’ and some egg fried rice.
I surprisingly enjoyed the egg-fried rice (£4.50). I was surprisingly because my only previous exposure to it was dubious school dinners where it was not good. The rice was fluffy, the egg not overcooked and it perfectly edible. Perhaps a little more seasoning wouldn’t have hurt, but when enjoyed alongside other dishes it was absolutely fine.
Our first meat dish was Lemon Chicken (£11.80). I have to say this was not to my taste at all, but having said that I’m not sure it would be anywhere. I found the sauce very sweet, and likened it to something I’d have liked with some cake or ice-cream, not chicken! The little bit of chicken I nibbled on was very well cooked, tender and soft with a pleasingly crisp coating. This was perhaps a bad choice on my part, as W enjoyed the dish a lot more.
On the side we enjoyed the Chinese Broccoli with Ginger (£11.80). Other than the price making me wince a little, I did find this dish exceptionally difficult to eat with chopsticks, but it was crunchy and flavourful and went perfectly with our next dish.
Beef with Cashew Nuts (£12.80) was our most successful main order, and I really loved the sauce. It was rich, well-balanced and had a good salty kick. Most of the beef was melt-in-the-mouth tender, and all of the vegetables had clearly been cooked for their allotted time as nothing was under or over done. I did have an issue with some pieces of very chewy beef, suggesting more care could have been taken with trimming and preparing before cooking, but I still really enjoyed it. It went really well with both the egg-fried rice and the broccoli, and I’d definitely re-order.
So, my overall impressions of Royal China? It was fine, and a great introduction to Chinese food. I found the prices to be a little high and I probably wouldn’t rush back, but it wasn’t a bad experience (if it was closer to home I probably would have felt differently about going back). The prices were perhaps a tad high, though I thought the duck was really reasonable. I may had also felt differently had I ordered things more to my taste, or knew more about what food I might enjoy. I know Crispy Beef is something I now really need to try, so maybe I will head back to try Royal China’s version…
*We were invited to dine at Royal China in exchange for an honest review. All photos are my own, unless marked otherwise, and my opinions are as always honest!
Are you a fan of Chinese food? What dishes should I try next?!