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Chicken, Veg & Cashew Stir Fry

Both sets of my grandparents hailed from Latvia but, despite my Eastern European lineage, I often wonder if I have a little Asian blood. While I regularly experiment with a range of culinary styles, there's no doubt that I'm drawn to Oriental cuisine more than any other, and it's easy to understand why. Chinese and Thai-influenced meals are a cinch to throw together with minimal cooking time, dishes look spectacular with wonderful contrasts of color, flavor, and texture, they're low in fat and packed with nutritious vegetables, and recipes can be economically adapted according to the contents of your fridge. Given a choice, I serve up this sublime Chinese Chicken & Cashew Stir-Fry as often as possible, and it's a huge hit every time. Embark on an Asian adventure with this must-make dish, which may appear lengthy, but is amazingly easy to assemble. Be sure to read the Cook's Notes for a reminder on how to store fresh ginger PLUS a magic trick to transform dry chicken breasts into succulent thighs.

1 tablespoon (15 ml) sesame oil OR olive oil 1 1/4 cups prepared chicken stock (Ina Paarman is best) 5 tablespoons (75 ml) soya sauce 2 tablespoons rice vinegar OR apple cider vinegar 2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce (optional available at Meatland) 1 1/2 tablespoon white or brown sugar 1 to 2 teaspoons chilli paste/flakes (Sriracha is ideal) 1 tablespoon cornflour 2 tablespoons canola oil 600 grams chicken breast, cut in small strips/chunks 1 to 2 yellow peppers, cut in strips (or zucchini) 1 to 2 red pepper, cut in strips (or mushrooms) 1 large onion, sliced 1 cup green beans OR broccoli florets 1/2 can baby corn spears chunks (optional) 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (see notes) 2 large cloves crushed garlic 1/4 cup spring onion, chopped 1/2 cup cashews OR peanuts Basmati rice to serve 1: Mix sesame oil, stock, soya, Hoisin, sugar, chilli paste, and cornflour in a small bowl. 2: Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to a large frying pan/wok and stir-fry chicken strips till just cooked and then remove from pan. (SEE COOK'S NOTES FOR SOFTENING TECHNIQUE) 3: Add remaining canola oil, and stir-fry peppers, green beans/broccoli, onion, corn, garlic and ginger for a few minutes, then add the broth mixture and chicken to the pan, and heat for 3 minutes till sauce has thickened, and chicken is heated through. 4: Serve on Basmati rice and top with green onion and nuts. COOK'S NOTES: Recipe is easily adapted to serve to vegetarians if you remove a portion before adding chicken. Keep large chunks of peeled ginger in the freezer and grate while frozen so it's always available. For super soft chicken, marinate strips in a mixture of 1 egg white, 1 tablespoon soya sauce and 1 teaspoon cornflour for at least 30 minutes, then drain from marinade and stir-fry. This Chinese technique is called 'velveting' chicken and magically transforms tough breast meat into chicken as tender as thighs. I use it in ALL Asian stir-frys and it makes a huge difference. Serves up to 6.

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