Mark Hix recipes: Our chef transforms popcorn with the help of chilli, chicken and salmon

Never mind the cinema staple - Mark Hix transforms popcorn into a sophisticated snack

In all my many years of working in food, I've never actually made popcorn. It's not that I don't like it – it is simply that I never thought to. That all changed recently, when my friend, the chef Mitch Tonks, sent me a popcorn machine from thepopcornist.com. The site is run by Phil Edgerton, who is on a mission to convince us all that popcorn isn't just something to gorge on in a cinema. He's on to a good thing, and his recipes are both simple and sophisticated (a good combination, to my mind). Unlike others that try, he manages to put a new spin on popping corn.

Now I have my own machine, I've been having a little play around and have come up with some alternative concoctions, some of which use up leftovers. I'm certainly not going to be taking my own popcorn to the cinema, though, in case that's what you're thinking, or watching home movies with it and a pint of cola; oh no, this stuff is so good it's going straight on the menu as a bar snack. Just imagine, beef dripping and sea-salt popcorn served up with a Dirty Black Cow martini – absolutely lip-smackingly delicious.

Willie's chocolate popcorn

I've used Willie Harcourt-Cooze's 100% Venezuelan Black chocolate for this. It gives the popcorn a great intensity of flavour. If you can't get your hands on it, then use the highest percentage dark chocolate you can find.

20g popping corn kernels
2tsp icing sugar
2tsp good-quality cocoa powder
1tbsp grated 100% Venezuelan Black chocolate, or more if you wish

Put the popping corn, icing sugar and cocoa powder into the popcorn machine and wait for the kernels to pop. (Alternatively, put it all in a pan with a lid on, over a low heat.) Toss in the grated chocolate as soon as the popcorn comes out of the machine.

Chilli popcorn

Best to use dried chilli flakes for this. Use as much as you like – it all depends on how much of a chilli-fiend you are. I've added some sweet chilli sauce in here, too, which you can just spoon over at the end, once the popcorn is ready.

Hot stuff: Mark's chilli popcorn Hot stuff: Mark's chilli popcorn (Jason Lowe)
20g popping corn kernels
1tsp dried chilli flakes
A pinch of sweet paprika
1tsp Cornish chilli sea salt
2-3tsp chilli oil
Sweet chilli sauce to serve

Put the popcorn, chilli flakes, paprika, sea salt and chilli oil in the popcorn machine (or in a pan, as above), turn it on and wait. Serve drizzled with the chilli sauce.

Chicken and rosemary popcorn

This is a great way to use up the debris from a roast chicken. You use everything off the carcass, along with the cooking juices, fat and jelly. You can then use the bones for a stock, or soup, so nothing is wasted.

Mark's chicken and rosemary popcorn is a great way to use up the debris from a roast chicken Mark's chicken and rosemary popcorn is a great way to use up the debris from a roast chicken (Jason Lowe)
20g popping corn kernels
50-60g chicken skin
50-60ml chicken cooking juices from a recent roast
A couple of sprigs of rosemary
1-2tsp flaky sea salt
½tbsp rapeseed oil

Put the chicken skin and flesh on a baking tray, along with the rosemary.

Crisp them up under a medium-to-hot grill for 6-7 minutes, turning them all as they're cooking, until crisp.

Transfer to a chopping board, leave to cool a little, and then chop with a large chopping knife.

Put all of the ingredients into your popcorn machine (or in a pan; see first recipe), turn it on and wait till the kernels have popped. You can re-season if you wish.

Smoked salmon popcorn

If you are a smoked salmon lover and buy it whole and slice it yourself, you probably throw the skin away, or certainly your deli or fishmonger does. Well, in fact, the skin has a multitude of culinary uses: deep-fried salmon skin makes for a delicious snack, for a start. Crisp it up and add it to popcorn for a sophisticated home-movie treat.

I'm not one for smoked salt and all that palaver usually, but here it works wonderfully well.

Add smoked salmon skin to popcorn for a sophisticated home-movie treat Add smoked salmon skin to popcorn for a sophisticated home-movie treat (Jason Lowe)
20g popping corn kernels
100g or so of salmon skin
1tsp smoked Cornish sea salt
½tbsp rapeseed oil

Put the salmon skin on a tray and crisp it up under a medium-to-hot grill for 6-7 minutes, turning it as it's cooking. Transfer to a chopping board and leave to cool.

Chop the salmon up finely with a large chopping knife, then put all of the ingredients into the machine (or in a pan; see first recipe) and wait for it to do its work.

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