Chile & Pistachio Caramel Corn

Do you want the good news first or the bad news? Right you are, let’s kick off with the good. The good news is that popcorn is a high fiber snack that will fill you up and put a smile on the face (unless you’re a total curmudgeon with no friends and a black cloud over your head).

The bad news, is that medical science has yet to find any nutritional benefit to coating the above mentioned popcorn with butter and sugar. And trust me, they’ve tried. How many randomized medical trials have failed to find a link between caramel corn and a long and healthy lifespan? (We don’t actually know the answer to this but do let us know, if you do)

But living to 100, isn’t all it’s cracked up, is it? So relax, kick back and make a batch of caramel corn. It will take you back to the state fair you went to as a kid and give you a big ole rush of nostalgia. You’ll end up looking for that stuffed animal you won as a kid, then remember that your dog ate it. Guess that goes under the bad news category too but not a lot we can do about that.

1 Package Red Chile Popped Popcorn

¾ cup brown sugar

3 Tbsp corn syrup

6 Tbsp butter

Scant ¼ tsp baking soda

½ cup chopped pistachios

Preheat oven to 250°F

Spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil spray. Place the popcorn on the tray.

In a saucepan, heat the butter, brown sugar and corn syrup. Simmer for five minutes – don’t stir it, just let it do its thing. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. It will puff up and look impressive. Pour oven the popcorn, stir quickly to coat and then sprinkle the pistachios on top and stir again. Place in the oven and bake for around 45 minutes – stirring occasionally to ensure the kernels are evenly coated.

Spray a sheet of aluminium foil with some vegetable spray. Turn the popped corn onto the foil and allow to cool – breaking up any chunks. Store in a container, if you haven’t eaten the entire trayful of caramel corn first.

Spice rubbed pork stew with orange, beans & onions

It ain’t over folks. So don’t break out your linen pants or sundresses, because old man/woman winter hasn’t exited stage left. There is more to come, dollars to donuts. Don’t put away your sweaters or your snow tires and for heaven’s sake would you stop looking at that seed catalog.

When will we learn that we rush winter at our peril? Winter will leave when it’s good and ready. And before you think that a few daffodils blooming, mean that spring has sprung – well think again. You’ll be draping wee daffodil-sized coats on those daffy flowers when the cold snap comes back with a vengeance.

Besides, winter is an excuse to savor comfort food. Something cooked nice and slow. Lots of spice and not a lettuce leaf in sight. Because all too soon, spring will show up for its day in the sun, and then summer will be here with all its heat and humidity and suddenly winter won’t look so bad after all.

Serves 4

1 ¾ lb pork, cut into large chunks

1 Tbsp chile molido powder

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 whole ancho chile

1 large red onion

1 orange

¾ pint chicken stock

1-14 oz can of butter beans, drained

Olive or vegetable oil

Salt

Chopped pistachios & cilantro to garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 250°F

Mix the chile power, turmeric and cumin seeds together and rub over the pieces of pork. Place the pork in a bowl or re-sealable plastic bag and refrigerate for several hours or over night.

Slice the onion into thick rings. Heat a frying pan, add a drizzle of oil and cook the onions on both sides until gently browned. Remove and set aside. Sprinkle the pork generously with salt, add more oil to the pan if needed, and cook the pork in batches, browning on all sides. Add the onions back into the pan. Peel the zest off the orange using a vegetable peeler and add to the pork and onion mixture. Juice the orange and add along with the chicken stock and the dried ancho chile, making sure the stem is removed. The liquid should almost cover the pork and onions.

Cover and place in the oven and cook at low heat for around 2-3 hours or until the meat is tender and flakes easily. Alternatively, you can cook in a slow cooker. Remove the meat and onions from the cooking liquid and keep warm. Remove the grease from the liquid. (A handy way, is to pour the liquid into a measuring cup and pop it in the fridge. The oil will gather at the top and you can scoop it off.)

Place the liquid back in the pan, reduce until thickened slightly and add the pork and onions back in, along with the beans. Serve hot and garnish with chopped pistachios and cilantro, if you desire.