Guy loves growing something a little quirky, so for the second year running he’s experimented with growing popping corn on our French farm in the Vendée; it’s fun to play around with in the kitchen too.
The corn was planted back in May, across about 4 hectares of the farm. Like sweetcorn, which we grow during the summer, popping corn is a type of maize. It is important not to plant the two different crops in adjacent fields, as this could cause cross-pollination.
Sweetcorn can be harvested from as early as July in France, but the most important part of growing successful popping corn is leaving it for as long as possible and allowing enough time for the kernels to dry out; we left ours to soak up every last bit of the autumn sun and finally picked them in November.
We hope you’ll enjoy the magic of watching and hearing the kernels dance away in the pan. Here is our method, and a few ideas from chef Bob for how to pimp up your popcorn.
Start by stripping the dried kernels from the cob. The best way is to hold the cob with both hands and perform a twisting, Chinese-burn-style motion. This should loosen the first few kernels; it is then just a case of thumbing the rest away from the cob and into a bowl.
You’ll need a heavy-based, roomy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Warm 1 tbsp vegetable oil, add the corn and put the lid on tight. Shake occasionally until you hear the popping start, then shake continuously over a high heat until it ebbs. Remove the corn and discard any unpopped pieces.
A few ideas:
Throw a knob of butter into the warm corn, mix until coated and season with flaky sea salt. If you are feeling crushingly contemporary, add a few turns of pepper or a measured shake of cider vinegar.
Whip up this simple butterscotch just before cooking your corn and slather it over a warm bowlful. Put 25g butter, 50g dark brown sugar, 60ml double cream and a few drops of vanilla essence in a pan and heat gently until simmering, whisking well. Cook for 4-5 mins until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and add a pinch or two of sea salt to taste. Allow to cool a little before using.
There is nothing to stop you going crazy with the spice cupboard. Add a little oil or melted butter as an adhesive and get shaking. Try dried chilli, smoked paprika and cumin, or how about some turmeric, curry powder and celery salt. Be so hip it hurts with truffle oil and grated parmesan.