Ok, truth be told this recipe has little to do with the Iberian Peninsula, originating more as it does more than 5000 years ago in Peru. But people do speak Spanish in Peru (though possibly not back then. However..
The fact that the spices were introduced in Spain, long before they turned up in the kitchen’s of other European nations.
Though Spaniards publicly recoil in horror at the mere mention of spicy food, they do in fact love it (see guindillas and gambas a pil-pil for example).
Spicy Popcorn therefore makes the ideal starter, and whenever its been served to locals, its been gobbled up furiously, accompanied by a decent bottled beer and talk of times when Spain was far more Spicy than it is now.
Corn (Maiz) for Popping (no not whatsoever mention microwaved bags - see below)
2. Avoid using coconut oil to pop the corn, and avoid using butter or margarine to top it off. This process - used extensively in cinemas across the world - is estimated to produce the same fat content as bacon eggs, a big mac, fries and a steak dinner combined, according to this article.
Instead, go for the healthier option. Go Spicy.
How to Make it Spicy
1. Pick a big saucepan. The biggest you have. Slop in a thin coating of sunflower oil and heat. Just as the smoke sends the neighbours to call out the Bomberos, chuck in a healthy dose of spices.
The tumeric is essential for colouring, peppery-ness and all the great anti-carcinogenic qualities and t-shirt tie-dying possibilities. Cumin is used for taste, aroma and stimulating the appetite , whilst chilli provides the kick, the colour and doubles up as an anti-arthritic ingredient as well as acting as a traditional deterrent for rampaging elephants in your barrio. (More relevant for Indian readers than Spanish)
2. As the spices begin to burn and the 'Bomberos' are knocking at your door, throw in the popcorn (cover the base of the saucepan with one layer) and salt. Put on the lid and go and deal with the firemen.
3. Once the emergency services have left and the popping begins, wait until the pops begin to slow down and when they reach a distance of 2 seconds between pops then turn off the heat.
If you have used the right sized saucepan things will have gone well. If not, things may have gone a little astray (see photo).
4. Find a useful ladle like implement to scoop out popcorn into bowls and distribute whilst hot to unsuspecting guests.
Want Yet More Spice in Your Life? Watch the video:
It's winter and time for the log fire once more. This means it's also time for thinking about cooking in other ways too and putting to use all that raw heat. Breads, pizzas, bakes and pies come to mind as well as a personal favourite - baked sweat potatoes. But one dish I've tried recently was an instant success, inspired by a photo from a thyme travelling artichoke friend.
He introduced me to the idea of roasting them over embers instead of steaming them, and they looked fantastic. My taste buds then took over.
The Humble Plant
Native to the Mediterranean area and a member of the thistle species, the artichoke is said to have derived its name and popular use from Muslim Spain. The plant was later introduced to England by the Dutch and to California by the Spanish. (In fact I believe that California was introduced to Californians by the Spanish too).
But artichokes don't just taste good, they are said to reduce blood cholesterol levels and to aid digestion. Make the most of their cheap availability over winter by preparing them in the following way:
Chop off the tops of the artichokes
Remove some of the harder leaves
Cut of most of the stems
Some recommend lemon juice, but I prefer to drizzle a little soy sauce into the very centre
Sprinkle with garlic seasoned virgin olive oil
(Optionally place inside the centre a clove of garlic)
Sprinkle a little salt
Wrap in silver foil and place in the fire for about thirty minutes. Some say less, 10 - 15 others say longer. I found they need to be really well done to be able to dismantle the leaves and remove the heart easily. The fleshy ends of the leaves - as usual - are munched upon - but on this version they have an oily, garlicy, salty taste and therefore do not require the usual bucket of mayonnaise consumed with steamed artichokes.
If you do not have access to an open fire or a BBQ, then use your oven, but you will be missing that special aroma that can only be found from wood cooked food.
The Essential Tool Kit - Oil with garlic or chilli makes a special addition