For the last two months, the mother-in-law’s psychotherapist boyfriend has been living with us. Until now. It was only ever going to be temporary but he moved out early one morning after a late-night bust-up. (If you could call arguing with a psychotherapist a bust-up.)
He’s gone to stay with another therapist. I’m sure they’ll talk a lot. But he’s left Sid – the goldfish – here, swimming melancholically and forgetfully around his chipped glass world. The children are curious; overzealous, really. Zippy recently told Sid that she’d like to eat him. She had just fed him, so I suppose she’s working her way up to a small-holding. I informed her that Sid, like the fish in the mother-in-law’s pond, are ornamental – “only for looking at and talking to” – although if I had it my way, I’d free them all, as there’s nothing more disconcerting than watching a majestic, shimmering creature traveling aimlessly around a very, very small circle.
It rained this afternoon, so to busy myself and the kids we painted a pillowcase (we’re making a flag, not auspiciously decorating the psychotherapist’s ex-bed linen) and then made some kick-ass popcorn. This is a family-friendly snack to end all snacks: moreish beyond belief and not unhealthy. In fact, it’s actually nutritious if you have the right ingredients (by which I mean no added salt or sugar). Here’s why…
Popping corn is a 100% wholegrain meaning it’s naturally high is dietary fibre. It’s also low in fat, sugar- and salt-free, and high in calcium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, niacin, riboflavin and polyphenols (antioxidants that help prevent heart disease and some cancers). Peanut butter (and other nut butters) add to the nutritional benefits as it provides protein, vitamins B3 and E, magnesium, folate and another antioxidant in the shape of p-coumaric acid. And Walter C. Willet, the Professor of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, has this to say about the brown, sticky stuff: “Unsalted peanut butter, with 5 milligrams of sodium, has a terrific potassium-to-sodium ratio… Over the years, numerous studies have shown that people who regularly include nuts or peanut butter in their diets are less likely to develop heart disease or type 2 diabetes than those who rarely eat nuts.”
Maple syrup is just scrummy. Absolutely the best thing that trees have produced since oxygen, wood, paper, coal, fruit and homes for small creatures. Gosh, trees are fricking awesome. Anyway, back to maple syrup… Yes, it consists primarily of sucrose but it also contains lots of potassium, zinc and manganese, and compared to honey, has 15 times more calcium and a tenth of the sodium. And again, like popping corn, scientists have recently discovered that maple syrup consists of natural antioxidants phenol compounds that block two carbohydrate-hydrolyzing enzymes that contribute to type 2 diabetes. This included five new compounds that have never before been detected in nature. In your face, table sugar!
Unlike the highly-saturated fatty coconut oil used in commercial food processes, raw virgin coconut oil is composed mainly of medium-chain triglycerides and is naturally saturated and free from trans-fatty acids. Made using fresh coconuts that have had their oil pressed out of them and then simply filtered, it is unbleached and unpasteurised. It’s incredibly heat-stable, meaning that it suits frying and other methods of cooking at high temperatures.
This recipe takes about 10 minutes to prepare from start to finish, and makes a big enough bowl of popcorn for a family of 4
75g popping corn
3 tablespoons smooth or crunchy peanut butter (allowing a little more for crunchy) or other nut butter, no added salt or sugar ideally
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons raw virgin coconut oil
1/4-3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like your munchies)
A sprinkling of sea-salt if required
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan and add 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil. Add the corn kernels and cover tightly with a lid. Shake the pan continuously – holding the handle on the lid as you do so – as this helps to prevent the kernels from catching at the bottom and encourages popping. You will start to hear the corn pop and then eventually slow down to a halt. This process takes about 5 minutes.
Transfer your popcorn into a mixing bowl and remove any unpopped kernels.
Using the same pan, heat your peanut butter and remaining tablespoon of coconut oil over a low heat until it melts down a little. Add the maple syrup and cayenne pepper, stirring off the heat, so that it forms a paste. Immediately pour the mix onto your popcorn, working through carefully with a spatula or wooden spoon until it’s all coated.
Tip the popcorn onto a non-stick baking tray and spread out the pieces to separate them using your fingers. Sprinkle on some good quality sea salt, like Maldon, if you’re using. Allow to cool and enjoy immediately!
This popcorn will store for a good few days in an airtight container, if it survives that long!