Once I'd finished thoroughly kicking myself for the very shamefulness of even uttering out loud the phrase "gosh, all this moving and job-hunting stuff means I've really failed to capitalise on the whole Christmas lead-up thing on the blog," I realised this would be my very last blog post written in our current flat. Aw. And it's about, uh, popcorn. When I say capitalise, I'm honestly not capitalising on anything (or I'd be blogging about something more grand than popcorn) but let's face it, it IS December, and this IS a food blog, and at this time of year many a person's thoughts inevitably turn to food of a particularly Christmassy nature and we're already nearly halfway through this month and I've barely acknowledged it. However, I'm hoping it's not too late.
Note the enthusiastic piece of popcorn which popped right out of the pan after I lifted the lid. The escape act was all for naught, as I ate it anyway.
Burned Butter Maple Popcorn; Salt and Vinegar Popcorn. They both looked exactly the same so I sprinkled the maple one with rainbow sugar. Which immediately fell into all the cracks and crevices in the popcorn. So in case you can't tell, it's the top bowl.
I've been eating so much popcorn, partly because it's deeply inexpensive which suits us right now (moving costs, unemployment, bills, and a persistent post-holiday overdrawn credit card) but also because I had forgotten how really truly delicious and easy to make it is. I've been fixing up bowls of it all the time, for a pre-dinner snack, for a post-pre-dinner snack, to go with drinks...it might seem a little unconvincing and unsophisticated to serve to your fancy friends, but it really works.
It's just so crunchy and porously butter-absorbant and flavour-permeable and a tiny quantity of popping corn makes so much fluffy white popcorn and - did I mention - I know I did, no need to be coy - it's so cheap. Also it's gluten-free, vegan-friendly if you use oil, and oddly thrilling as you wait for the mysterious dried corn to burst open.
We don't have a microwave, so I make it on the stovetop, and it's all very straightforward. I suppose you don't have to use any fat in it, but it tastes quite bland without it - but it's all up to your tastebuds. I like to heat up the popping corn kernels with the butter or oil in a lidded pan over a medium heat, wait for it to start popping after a minute or two, and that's it really. All you need is a large saucepan with a lid, and for that lid to stay on until you're quite sure the corn is done popping. Otherwise it will shoot out and land in your hair. It just will.
Burned Butter and Maple Popcorn
You don't have to use maple syrup if you can't get hold of it, it's so expensive that I'm always too nervous to actually use it in anything, and honey or golden syrup would be a worthy substitute. I do think the flavour of this benefits from being popped in butter and then having extra butter added, it's not the slightest bit gratuitous. Don't worry in the slightest about the state of the butter in the pan either, the more it burns in the hot pan the more wondrous it will taste - all smoky and nutty and incredible.
30g butter plus another 20g extra
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/3 cup popping corn
Place the 30g butter and popping corn in a large pan, cover with a lid, and place over a medium heat. After a few minutes the corn will start to pop, excitingly - hold onto the lid and give it a shake every now and then to ensure that the popped corn itself won't burn. Place one teaspoon and a grind of salt in the base of a large serving bowl, then tip most of the popcorn in and stir it around. Sprinkle over the remaining teaspoon of maple syrup, tip in the remaining popcorn and continue to stir. Do what you like to mix it all together really, this just seems to ensure maximum maple-coverage. Melt the remaining butter in the still-hot pan and then tip it over the popcorn evenly, giving one last stir. Rainbow sugar...optional.
Salt and Vinegar Popcorn
Olive oil's rich, green flavour is perfect with popcorn, and the sharp vinegar and bursts of salt makes you want to pretty much shovel this into your mouth with a cupped hand till there's none left.
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup popping corn
As above, heat the corn kernels in the tablespoon of oil in a lidded pan, allow them to pop, shaking it occasionally, and pour most of the popped corn into a bowl in which one teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and a grind of salt has been placed. Stir around, drizzle over some olive oil, stir some more, add the rest of the popcorn, sprinkle over the remaining balsamic vinegar, some more oil, and another grind of salt. Stir as best you can without flinging the weightless grains everywhere.
So: popcorn. It's easy. It can absorb as much butter as you're willing to attempt to saturate it with. It's so cheap. And it's wildly delicious.
By the way, guess what guess what? This might be old news if you follow me on Twitter, but I got a job! Some real employment! It's very exciting. But fear not, this popcorn is so excellent that we'll continue eating it long after we can afford to eat other stuff. Can I tell you what the job is exactly? Nay. It's not that I'm particularly important, it's just that it's of a governmental nature and requires some discretion - I'm a little overnervous that I'll say entirely the wrong thing about it. Just know that it has zero overlap with this blog and it's going to pay the bills and the most you'll hear about it might be the occasional "what a long day at the office and people who don't label their yoghurt pottles in the shared staff fridge, amiright?" type of relatably vague exclamation. Maybe even that was too specific. Nerves aside - I start tomorrow! - I'm so, SO PLEASED to be employed again. Things were getting bad-ridiculous. Now they can start to get good-ridiculous.
I found out at 4.30pm on Friday - seriously, there is no better way to start your weekend than to discover you're newly employed. I recommend it. That night my old flatmate but always-friend Ange and I had a dance party of two, in which we danced not wisely but too well, to paraphrase Shakespeare - woke up the next morning with one fiercely sore neck from dancing so expressively. But it was worth it for the joy of the dancing, definitely. Now that the weekend's over Tim and I only have a few more days left in this flat that has been our home for the past three and a half years. I'm going to miss it - it's incredible! Tim and I could not believe our luck at being able to live in such a beautiful cool place. But I'm really looking forward to starting over - finding places for everything and getting to love a new place. Also, um, to not have to consider flatmates when, um, look: I'm just looking forward to not having to wear pants all the time, okay? They're just so restrictive! Even drawstring elastic can be burdensomely present in its own way, but with flatmates you're kinda obliged to not awkward up their days by going pantsless. With that delightful image in mind, I also can't wait to make the most of the beautiful light for photography and to go wild in the kitchen. All of which you'll soon see - it's kind of like you're moving with me, except without the hassle and the lifting and the barely-suppressed tension!
Title via: Pass The Popcorn, from the supercool The Roots' very first album Organix. It looks like another one coming around...
ROYALS, BY LORDE. Capitals necessary. She's from New Zealand. She's a teenager. She's elusive. This song is incredible. I love that music can still surprise me like this. (This was danced to repeatedly on Friday night.) (Just LISTEN to it.) (Then to all the rest of her tracks.)
One other good thing about moving is that our living space will be big enough for me to try and learn magical Donna McKechnie's dance from Turkey Lurkey Time. This is how I know it's Christmas: I'm watching this incredible number from the 1968 Tony Awards. It's ridiculous and it's dated and it's...yeah, really ridiculous, but damn if it doesn't make my heart race every time it gets to the end.
Next time: New flat! New flat! Tra la la la la la! And something quite, quite Christmassy will be abounding.