Helen Goh's caramelised sriracha popcorn

And for our next trick: this spicy, nutty caramel popcorn will disappear.
And for our next trick: this spicy, nutty caramel popcorn will disappear. Photo: William Meppem

This spicy, nutty popcorn ought to come with a warning: it's impossible to stop eating it. You can use any kind of hot chilli sauce, although sriracha has the perfect balance of tangy, sweet, salty and spicy. Serve with beer and cocktails – and watch it vanish before your eyes.

Ingredients

2 tbsp canola oil

100g dried popcorn kernels

150g mixed nuts (peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans)

60ml water

150g caster sugar

80g sriracha chilli sauce

50g unsalted butter, diced

1 tsp sea salt flakes

½ tsp baking soda

Method

1. First, make the popcorn. Place the oil in a large pot (for example, a 5-litre stockpot) with a tight-fitting lid and add the kernels. Over medium heat, stir the kernels for a couple of minutes to coat well in the oil, then cover tightly with the lid. After a minute, grab the handles of the pot with a tea-towel and give it a good shake, moving it back and forth and side to side. Repeat the shaking at 60-second intervals until you hear the corn popping vigorously, then shake more frequently to prevent any loose kernels from catching and burning on the bottom. Once the popping slows down, lift the lid and immediately tip the popcorn into a large, wide mixing bowl, removing any kernels that have not popped. Add the nuts, toss gently, then set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 130C (150C conventional) and line a large oven tray with baking paper.

3. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan (don't use a pan with a dark interior surface since it makes it difficult to monitor the colour of the caramel) and stir over a low heat. When the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up to medium and bring to a lively simmer. Cook until the syrup begins to brown at the edges, gently swirling the pan so that the sugar cooks evenly. Resist the temptation to stir since it could cause the caramel to "seize" or crystallise.

4. When the caramel has turned a deep amber, remove from the heat and add the sriracha and butter – be careful, as it will spit. Place the pan back on a low heat and cook gently for about 1–2 minutes until the butter has melted and the ingredients are well combined. Remove from heat and add the salt and baking soda. Stir to combine – it will froth – then carefully pour the caramel all over the popcorn mix. Immediately toss with a silicone spatula to coat the popcorn as evenly as possible, then tip the mix out onto the lined tray.

5. Spread out the popcorn and nuts so that they form a single layer, then bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, tossing a couple of times to ensure even cooking. Allow the mix to cool completely before storing in an airtight jar until ready to serve.