IT’S the season to pop! Popcorn is maize that expands from the kernel and puffs up when heated. The corn pops because it’s kernel has a hard hull with moisture sealed inside and a dense, starchy interior. As you heat the corn the moisture turns to steam, which builds up the pressure inside the kernel until there’s an explosive pop. The explosion takes place when the pressure reaches a psi of 135. (I have to confess I don’t know too much about psi but my car tyres are set at a psi of 44. That little husk must be really strong!).
Popcorn was first discovered thousands of years ago by the Guatemalans. It is one of the oldest forms of corn: evidence of popcorn from 3600 B.C. was found in New Mexico and even earlier evidence dating to perhaps as early as 4700 BC was found in Peru. It must have given them quite a shock. During the Depression pop corn was a staple as it was so cheap, and during the sugar rationing of the world wars pop corn again became popular due to its low cost and the fact that it is easy and filling. These days many of the states in America have made it into their staple snack, they have invented all sorts of ‘at home’ and giant machines to produce it and even cultivate strains of corn specifically for popping.
75g pop corn
2 tbs oil
Pinch of salt
Pour the oil into a large pan, add the butter and allow to heat to melt. Add the pop corn, stir to cover the kernels with the buttery mix and cover with a tight lid. Shake the pan every minute, nothing will happen for a while and then all of a sudden the popping will start and continue for about a minute. Remove from the heat and toss in your choice of flavour immediately to allow the fluffy pop corn to absorb it.
Sage and parmesan
Slice six sage leaves. In a pan heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and fry the sage leaf. Grate 4oz ofParmesan. Toss the sage oil with leaves and the parmesan over the fresh popped corn.
Chilli, rock salt and celery seed
There are a few varieties of flavoured salt, Halen Mon makes perfect spiced salt for the job. I like to add a little celery seed as it softens the heat and adds to the savoury taste.
Using a sharp knife chop a teaspoon of celery seeds on a board, melt 50g of butter, add the chopped seeds, 1 tbsp of spiced salt and toss the fresh pop corn in a large bowl.
Melt 40g of butter, 2 tbsp of golden syrup and 40g of soft brown sugar in a large pan.
Pour the warm pop corn over and coat.
In a small blender whizz 2 bay leaves, the zest of one orange and one lemon, two whole cloves, one small pinch or grate of nutmeg, the seeds of half a vanilla pod, a small pinch of cinnamon and 500g of golden caster sugar. Spread the sugar on a baking tray and allow to dry in the oven at120°C for about 40 minutes.
In a large bowl pour half the sugar over the fresh hot pop corn and toss to coat. The rest of the sugar keep in a jar for next time.