A few weeks ago, we were sitting down to a Netflix series (either age or exhaustion has had a battering of my exact recollection as to which programme) – where one of the characters introduced Truffle oil to popcorn.
It hit upon an idea as to what else we could do to make a popcorn recipe at home which was quick and easy to do, flavoursome, and just that much more original than a store bought offering? Long is the day since I last zapped a microwave pouch having got rid of the appliance completely last year. Whilst I certainly see the benefits a microwave oven can bring, it also tended to steer me towards a more ready-meal type culture when dining solo. As many ready meals contain often contain some less than great for you ingredients and preservatives, they go completely against the grain of me always trying to cook with the most natural and freshest ingredients wherever possible.
Whilst there is a plethora of ready popped options available these days, having something freshly cooked and warm beats ready made every time. Making popcorn requires no specialised equipment, and providing you have a large saucepan with a glass lid, you can watch those kernels burst into life within minutes.
In the UK, the sale of popcorn related stacks became the fastest growing grocery product by 2017 making us be the second largest consumer after the US. The increase in popularity comes from the perceived benefit that popcorn based snacks are much healthier than their potato crisp based counterpart – as they are typically lower in calorie, high in fibre and also gluten free. What is there not to like?
Strangely, whilst I have become quite the fan of good, made at home popcorn the same does not apply with the overpriced profit maker found in cinemas. If in doubt, a £1.25 bag of popcorn kernels will make this over 6 times. Not only am I trying to do my piece to solve austerity Britain – made all the worse by the total debacle and buffoonery that is Brexit (or not) – the cinema iterations tend not to have the same nutritional claims and benefits as the gourmet variety. Drench those once pure and innocent little kernels in the cheapest of oils, suffocate with cheap salt or sugar (or both apparently) and end up with an 800+ calorie snack. A large helping at Vue cinema – a whopping 966 calories. Should you not be seeking psychiatric counselling to help overcome the general trauma that is the uncertainly of trying to live in the UK, check out the following from Which.
Am I saying that mine is a zero calorie miracle food? Absolutely not. All I am intimating is that you can be in control and make something much tastier with the best possible ingredients you can find. Like pretty much all my recipes (and this is fast becoming one of the quickest and simplest) – the process was iterative. Initially, I was making an oregano, sea salt and black pepper version. It was far from bad and was definitely a popular addition to home cinema time. If Maya and Raya are reading this, I seem to remember it working out for you when using black pepper and oregano as to flavour ;o)
One of the ingredients we use on a regular basis is chilli infused oil. Initially, it was something we bought store bought, but we can to the conclusion that it must be pretty easy to make. I mean, go figure.. chilli. oil. Infuse. Following our trip to Ortigia in Sicily, we brought back a fair quantity of dried chilli flakes (sadly the stash is rapidly depleting), and made our first batch following a very simple recipe from Chatelaine. As I had already bought some Kilner 500ml bottles (as per picture above), I doubled the quantity and it it worked really well. Word to the wise: (or recommendations from someone from whom not to repeat similar stupidity i.e. me!) – the heat in dried chilli can vary significantly. Ratio of chilli flakes to oil can also lead to a more fiery than intended outcome. Remember: a teaspoon is not to be confused with a tablespoon. Lesson learned.
One note of caution – botulism. In rare cases, botulism spores can live in oil so the recommendation is to heat the oil to 180°C (356°F) so that you kill them. I could never live with that on my conscience.
- 1½ tbsp (22.5ml) chilli infused oil
- 75g popcorn kernels
- 25g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- freshly milled black pepper
- ½ tsp sea salt flakes
- 1 tbsp truffle oil
- Heat 1.5 tablespoon chilli oil over a medium heat in a large saucepan with with a tight fitting lid. I use a glass lidded pan for visibility.
- Carefully place 3 popcorn kernels into the oil, and cover.
- Once the 3 kernels have popped, remove the pan from the head for exactly 30 seconds.
- Return the pan to the heat, and add 75g popcorn kernels. Swish the kernels in the oil to ensure that they are all evenly coated in the chilli oil.
- Replace the lid, and wait for the kernels to pop, shaking gently from time to time. Do not remove the lid whilst the kernels are still popping.
- Once popping has died down (you may still hear some sporadic pops), give the pan a final shake and remove from heat.
- Allow to cool for 2 minutes.
- Using a microplane or fine grater, grate the Parmesan cheese and mix through. Feel free to add more and repeat.
- Season with sea salt flakes, freshly milled black pepper, and the drizzle over a little truffle oil and mix through.
- Pour our into a serving bowl and enjoy.