Salted Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate Popcorn Bars

 

It feels a bit like self sabotage posting this on the eve of Lent, during which I have chosen (not for religious reasons, but for solidarity) to give up sugar, amongst other things, in the pursuit of optimum gut health.

The human microbiome is getting a lot of coverage of late, and being a woman of a certain age – recently diagnosed with arthritis and still struggling to lose my baby fat, 12 years after the event – all the chatter has caught my attention. I will be sharing more thoughts/plans/recipes in this regard over coming weeks, but for now – bring on the sweet treats!

I first shared a recipe for a peanut popcorn bar on here many moons ago. This recipe differs in two regards: it uses coconut oil instead of butter and so it is vegan; it has salted, roasted peanuts AND peanut butter in the ingredients – yum!

While this is great cut into squares or bars, I have been favouring a smashed up bag of the stuff, probably because it is harder to measure how much is being consumed when it is served like this…..!

This recipe is both vegan and gluten free.

Salted Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate Popcorn Bars

100g unpeopled popcorn kernels

1 tablespoon coconut oil

100g salted peanuts

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

40g coconut oil

50g light muscovado sugar

50g golden syrup

100-200g dark chocolate (depending on your taste)

150g whole peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, depending on your taste)

  • Lightly grease a 20cm square tin with coconut oil.
  • Put the tablespoon of coconut oil and 5 popcorn kernels in a heavy based saucepan with a tight fitting lid and place over a medium high heat, with the lid on.
  • Count the pops, and once you have heard all 5 kernels pop, remove the pan from the heat, add the rest of the kernels and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. This will bring all the kernels in the pan up to popping temperature.
  • Return the pan to the heat, shaking gently, and let the popcorn do its thing. Once the popping subsides, remove from the heat immediately and pour into a large bowl to cool.

 

  • Place the peanuts and cinnamon into a bowl and bash with the smooth end of a rolling pin. Alternatively put them in a plastic bag and bash them, or use a pestle and mortar. You don’t want to pulverise them, just lightly break them and mix in the cinnamon. Add them to the popcorn and mix well together.
  • Meanwhile melt the coconut oil, sugar and syrup in a pan, bringing it to a steady simmer and letting it boil gently for 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove the boiling sugars from the heat – be careful, they will be extremely hot! – and pour over the popcorn. You will need to work quickly using a wooden spoon to turn and coat the popcorn in the sugar syrup.
  • Pour the popcorn mixture into the oiled tin and press down hard with the palms of your hands, the sugar should have cooled by this point, but still go with care.
  • Push the popcorn down into the pan, it may feel like there is too much at first but as you press the popcorn down it will start to fit.
  • Use a spoon to put dollops of the peanut butter onto the popcorn, and spread it roughly over the whole tray full. It will not cover it all.
  • Break the chocolate up into a heatproof bowl, place the bowl over a saucepan of water and pop over a medium heat. When the water comes to the boil, remove from the heat and gently stir the chocolate pushing the unmelted bits into the hot melted bits, until it is all melted
  • Pour the chocolate all over the peanut butter, mixing the two together as you go.
  • Allow to cool, turn out onto a board and cut into bars or squares.

 

Soup for Seedy Saturday

February, a challenge in month form. We have made it to the end of January, but we still have March to get through before we can properly begin to feel the warmth of spring edging it’s way in, and so February always feels like the bleak mid winter to me –  to re-enforce this, as I type it is snowing outside!

What better nourishment for the stomach, heart & soul at this challenging time of year than soup?

Tightening your belt financially? Want to tighten it literally?

Soup.

Feeling a little despondent & lost?

Soup.

In need of a hug, inside & out?

Soup.

Batch cooking for an easy life?

Soup.

So many concerns that can be addressed by soup!

I made this soup for selling at Seedy Saturday here in Lewes last weekend and I was overwhelmed by the positive response I received from customers, they properly warmed my heart & soul the way that soup might, so it felt right to start blogging again by sharing the recipe here, in the hope that some of those who enjoyed it at the weekend will find their way here and maybe make it for themselves.

Seedy Saturday is a lovely event, a true harbinger of Spring packed as it is with seed swappers & sellers, willow weavers, fruit cane & tree sellers and various wildlife protecting charities.

Catering the event presented me with a challenge: how does one make enough soup for 100s of people? Meeting this challenge is without doubt what made this soup so flavoursome. Many times I have said that the joy of cooking with spices for me is the way in which you can layer and build flavours. This soup is made in batches, but not repeated batches of the same thing, batches of different flavour components.

First the winter vegetables are roasted in olive oil, salt & pepper, left roasting until they start to catch in places and become sticky with their released sugars.

While the vegetables roast the lentils are cooked in stock with turmeric, fresh chilli, salt & pepper – & pandan leaf if you can get it.

Meanwhile the onions are cooked low & slow until beginning to caramalise, ginger & garlic is added, followed by spices, which are cooked in the hot oil before the tomatoes are added.

These 3 elements are brought together and drawn together by the addition of coconut milk, lime juice & further spices.

Yes, it is a long ingredients list, but it is not as challenging as you may think, particularly not if you buy the Tarka Kit from my online shop!

Pandan leaf is an aromatic herb from East Asia, available from Asian food shops, it freezes really well. You can often buy it at Pestle & Mortar if you live in Lewes.

Roasted Winter Vegetable & Green Lentil Soup

1 small Crown Prince or Butternut squash

2 large carrots

2 large parsnips

250g green lentils

1 stock cube dissolved in 500ml boiling water

1 tsp turmeric

1 medium onion, sliced

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled & grated

1 tbsp Seven Sisters’ Spices Garam Masala

1 dried Kashmiri chilli

1 7cm piece of cinnamon

1 tin coconut milk

juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp Seven Sisters’ Spices Raw Sri Lankan Curry Powder

  • Pre heat your oven to 200c (180 fan)
  • Peel all the Winter vegetables and cut them into similarly sized chunks. Place in a large roasting tray (you may need 2, you don’t want the veg all piled on top of itself) generously douse in olive oil & season well with salt & pepper. Place in the top half of your hot oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, give them a stir and shake and cook for a further 10-15 minutes, or until nicely browned.
  • Put the lentils in a sieve or colander and rinse well under cold water. Place the lentils in a saucepan, cover with the hot stock, add the turmeric ( & pandan leaf if using) stir once place over a low heat and cook steadily for 30-40 minutes. Keep stirring & checking, you may need to top the lentils up with water as they cook.
  • Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large frying pan & add the onion once the pan is hot. Cook low & slow for 10-15 minutes.
  • Once the onions have softened and begun to brown, add the crushed garlic & grated ginger & cook for a further 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the mustard seeds & cumin seeds & cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the garam masala, chilli & cinnamon, stir in well and cook for 2-3 minutes until you can really smell the spices.
  • Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, lower the heat and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Once the tarka is cooked you can combine all three soup elements in one big pot – the roasted veg, lentils and tarka. Stir well to combine. You can decide at this point to blend the soup, best done with a hand held blender if you have one. I prefer to mash up soup with an old fashioned potato masher, as I enjoy a bit of texture.
  • Once all the soup ingredients are combined, dd the tin of coconut milk, the juice from 1 lime and the tablespoon of raw Sri Lankan Curry Powder. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Serve with chopped fresh coriander.