It’s been a little while, hasn’t it? Life sometimes gets in the way of blogging, which I think is a good thing, because it means time away from the computer — always healthy. I meant to write a post immediately about this amazing Kung Pao chicken recipe by Use Real Butter, not only because it is so delicious, but more importantly to tell you the exciting news that inspired the meal in the first place.

Last Friday morning I was standing in the kitchen watching a pot of water boil when Jonny suddenly came galloping down the stairs. His face was flush, and with the hugest smile ever he told me he’d received an unconditional offer to do his Master’s degree at Middlesex University. We immediately grabbed hands and started jumping around the kitchen and whooping like little kids. This awesome news deserved a celebratory meal! (Doesn’t all good news?) I told him we had to cook something that kicks ass in honour of how much he does. Something rich and savoury with added kick — he said, “Kung Pao chicken!” I said, “Perfect.”

I went through a bunch of recipes and settled on one that was the most straightforward and also had the most appetizing photos (I’m a sucker for food porn. Fact.). But could I make it for less than £5? I decided to strip down the original recipe, but only a little bit, and also found I had soy sauce, cornflour, oil and garlic on hand. I found some chicken goujons (tenders) on special for £2.50 (400g). The shop was out of dried chili so I went for a red chili paste for £1.79 (75g). The fresh spring onions, ginger and cashews cost about £2. And then I splurged £3.79 on a bottle of Shaoxing cooking sherry (150ml) but only used a bit so it was a worthy investment. I think I did well and considered any sum over a fiver worthy of the cause for celebration.

I have absolutely zero experience cooking anything Chinese, so I followed the recipe closely and it came out perfectly. It even looked like the original recipe photos! Jonny and I made a toast and devoured the meal just in time for me to remember I forgot to take photos! Nevermind… just trust me when I say MAKE THIS.

Kung Pao Chicken

adapted from Use Real Butter

400 g chicken, cubed (use goujons or thigh meat, it’s cheaper and tastier)
1 tsp. cornflour
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. Shaoxing cooking sherry
3 tbsp. vegetable oil (not olive oil)
8-12 dried red chili pepppers, halved and de-seeded
5 slices of ginger, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cashews, roasted and unsalted
2 stalks green onions, diced

Mix together in a small bowl
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vinegar
2 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. cornstarch

make the kung pao chicken:
Mix the chicken with 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing cooking sherry. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a wok or large frying pan on high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and stir-fry until half-cooked. Remove the chicken the from pan to a bowl.
Heat the remaining cooking oil in the same pan on high heat. Toss in the ginger, garlic, and red peppers, stirring until the oil is fragrant.
Add the chicken, bamboo shoots, and nuts and stir for a few turns. Pour in the sauce and continue to stir-fry until the chicken is coated and cooked. Remove from heat. Add the green onions, stir, and serve hot.