Halloween is one of those festivals where I face a dilemma; do I prepare treats for trick or treaters or not?
This is not from any objection to the celebration, but, in England it really depends on the area you live in whether there are local traditions that still take place or if children go door to door for trick or treating. As another popular celebration is on 5th November, Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night), Halloween is not quite on the same scale as it can be elsewhere.
With the previous experience of a day spent making cupcakes and buying bags of themed chocolate, it turned out there was not a knock on the door the whole night. I decided on a re-think for future Halloweens.
Popcorn. It’s easy to make, fairly inexpensive if no-one turns up to eat it (apart from me and Mr Other Half!) and allows for a bit of fun with flavours. Here’s two recipes I’ve used: one for a honey caramel and one for salt and balsamic vinegar. These also work well if you want nibbles for a Bonfire Night party too!
Caramel Popcorn by Silvana Franco
The quantity below is for 12 people, I’ve halved the ingredients when I’ve cooked it and it works fine.
1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
200g/7oz popcorn kernels
125g/4 and a half oz of unsalted butter, diced
150g Caster sugar/5oz of Superfine or Baker’s sugar
2 tablespoons of clear honey
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the popcorn. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally until the popping stops. Tip the popcorn into a large heatproof bowl. You may need to cook the popcorn in two batches if you don’t have a pan large enough for 200g of popped corn. Be careful not to overfill a small pan.
Wipe out the saucepan with kitchen paper and then add the diced butter, sugar and honey. Cook over a low heat until the sugar and honey has dissolved into the butter. Turn the heat up to high and bring the mixture to the boil and bubble rapidly, without stirring, for 4-5 minutes, or until the mixture becomes a light-brown caramel colour.
Add the popcorn to the saucepan and stir quickly so that it is coated in the mixture. (I’d advise wearing heatproof oven gloves at this point, splashing your hands with a hot caramel mixture burns like heck!)
Tip the coated popcorn out onto non-stick baking trays and leave to cool for about ten minutes. Break up the popcorn and serve in a large bowl or little paper cones.
Salt and Balsamic Vinegar Popcorn
This is a strong flavoured popcorn! It’s best when it’s served warm, so make it right before you want to serve it up to guests because it will get soggy if left for more than half an hour.
85ml/ 5 and a half tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
90g/ approx 3 and a half oz of unsalted butter
1 – 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
200g/7oz of popcorn kernels
Sea salt (I recommend either fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt flakes), to taste. Depending on the strength and flavour of the balsamic vinegar you may not need salt.
Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and place over a high heat. Boil for six minutes or until syrupy. Reduce the heat to low and add the butter, stir until melted. Cook the popcorn as in the instructions for the caramel popcorn above. Once the popcorn is cooked, transfer to a large, heatproof bowl and pour the vinegar/butter sauce over it. Add a pinch of salt, if necessary, and toss the popcorn thoroughly. Serve while still warm.