Serves 2 or 3, or 1 if you are a greedy popcorn glutton
Let me preface this by saying that unless you run a cinema chain or concession stand of some kind, there is absolutely no sense in buying a popcorn machine. A stove, a regular saucepan and a handful of kernels gets you a mountain of perfect popcorn in minutes, and once you've stove-popped your own you will never comprehend why you used to pay for pre-packed or microwaveable bags either.
If you like popcorn and have never homemade it before, start now; it is by far the cheapest, fastest, tastiest and easiest way of eating this most moreish and addictive of snacks. Skip the calorific toppings and it becomes the healthiest too- pillowy wholegrain bundles with not an additive, flavouring, preservative or extra calorie in sight.
Of course if you're like me, then full-fat caramel popcorn is the only way to go hence the recipe below :) Baking gives it an excellent crunch, but if you don't own an oven or are too lazy then just toss the caramel with the corn to coat and leave to cool (it should harden once cold, though the crunch won't be as impressive).
In any case, whether you're a sweet, savoury or low-cal type person, the topping possibilities are absolutely endless- chocolate, honey, melted butter, flavoured salt, Parmesan cheese, Tabasco sauce, garlic oil, chilli oil, curry powder/cumin/paprika/cinnamon/ rosemary/ every other herb and spice imaginable... some hardcore popcorn lovers even use lard or duck fat to pop the kernels for apparently unbeatable flavour!
Making the Popcorn-A Step by Step Guide
1) Heat 2 tbsp oil and bit of salt on medium-high heat in a large heavy-based pot or saucepan. Add a few popping corn kernels and put the lid on. Wait until they pop.
2) Add 100g kernels, ensuring they are spread in a single even layer. Don't be tempted to add more- it looks like very little but turns into a huge amount once popped! Cover, take the pan off the heat and wait for about half a minute (this is to make sure all the kernels can heat up evenly without getting burnt).
3)Return the pan to heat- when the brisk popping starts, shake the pan back and forth so all the kernels get popped. Keep the pan covered but with a slight gap so steam can escape (prevents sogginess).
4)Remove quickly from heat once the popping dies down, pour into a large bowl and stir in topping of choice (or if making the baked version below, pour into a large lined baking tray and keep warm in the preheating oven (120 C) while making butter caramel topping).
Butter Caramel Topping
Combine and bring to a boil:
100g condensed milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp butter
Lower the heat and simmer about 5 minutes or until golden, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Be careful as hot boiling caramel can cause a nasty burn.
Remove from heat and quickly stir in about 1/8 tsp baking soda (the mixture will foam up). Pour over warm popcorn in the tray and toss quickly with two spoons to coat evenly.
Bake for 30-40 mins at 120 C, tossing occassionally to prevent sticking together. Once out of the oven, break apart with spoons/your hands and leave to cool.
Put on a movie and enjoy! :)
*Washing up tip- to get rid of hardened caramel on your pans, soak in or run under boiling water and then give it a good scrub with soap while hot. It should all melt off quite easily.
*Easier but more time consuming caramel tip- apparently you can just submerge an unopened tin of condensed milk in water and boil for 4 hours, and it will turn into a good golden caramel. I have not tried this myself, but if you do make sure to be very careful- keep topping up the water, never let the pan boil dry (or your tin will explode!) and let the can cool completely before opening.