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Neighbours.

They’re the angels next door – not quite family, mostly friends and altogether special people, without wings.

The ones God uses to teach us,  to give us salt and sugar when we run out, to learn new dishes and how to hold a pencil correctly, share stories, talk about life and growing children, about marriage and about futures.

I love my neighbours and I wouldn’t trade any one of them for anything.

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From The Netherlands to Nigeria, we – our neighbours and us, have established traditions of partying often. In the estate where we live now, in Port Harcourt, we’ve had a number of sit-and-chill dos, chatting, laughing, sharing histories, creating memories and feasting on food! Most times, everyone brings something so it is a truly ‘together’ affair.

Last January, we had a small strawberry fest, to usher in the New Year, and our discovery of strawberries in Nigeria. Can a fruit be a patron saint, I ask? ‘Cause if that were possible, then strawberries would become one for our New Years in Nigeria, in Port Harcourt, in our estate. This year would be no exception.

And though I don’t have Neighbour Ware like Celia does, we do gift lots of food and drinks, amongst ourselves. Everything from live catfish (watch out for my New Orleans Blue Plate special), to Olde Jamaica Ginger beer (the best ginger beer in the world, I dare say), chocolate cupcakes, Banana bread,….and on and on I could go.

The first season’s strawberries were out, and even though they cost twice the amount they did last year, we had to get some.

Plus I had a bottle of Champagne lying around. Can you believe none of us at the party are big on Champagne?

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So much so that I have a half bottle leftover….which I plan to convert to Champagne vinegar, just by letting it sit for about 6 weeks, in a wide-mouthed jar in a cool, dark place.

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I am hopeful that as the novelty of ‘first punnets of the season’ wears of, the strawberries will become ‘cheaper’ so we can all eat to our hearts content.

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Diced and macerated, ready for the eating!

My children of course, who have lived the entire year for strawberry season are in heaven. So much so, that they understand ‘making them last’.

After a dinner of crepes and strawberries,….

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Dinner tonight: Crepes and Strawberries, with squirts of cream!

…  and fried egg whites, boiled potatoes and strawberries (no funny faces please….this is my picky eater, daughter #2)

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A balanced diet: Eggs, Strawberries and potatoes!

They wanted the same for breakfast. With most of the strawberries reserved for the ‘party’, I offered them a salad of bananas, apples and strawberries which they LOVED.

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Stretching our strawberries

Anyways, enough about the strawberries…and on to the popcorn cake I made for the get-together. I first learnt to make this when my younger sister sent me the link so I could make it for my sister’s baby shower last October. My, oh my – it was a hit and mighty easy to put together.

I decided to make one because I wanted something new for the children, something other than cupcakes. This combination of buttery popcorn, salty pretzels  creamy white chocolate and marshmallow ‘glue’ satisfies the palate with every bite. If you’re missing ‘bitter’, then use giant marshmallows like I did….and burn the melting mixture…..

But….don’t.

This is one occasion where bitter isn’t missed.

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The children LOVED it. And the adults too – making this an all-round party favourite. Not to mention how stunning it looks, set on a cake platter……food for the eyes too.

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Two sets of hands – one small….and one very adult!

So here it is, the recipe for our beloved, party Popcorn cake.

Popcorn cake, adapted from Cookies & Cups

My main changes to this recipe are

  • Popping my own corn
  • Replacing some of the marshmallows with white chocolate.

Both are sweet, but I prefer the sweetness from the white chocolate, which isn’t as sugary as the marshmallows. The white chocolate also lends some creaminess to the marshmallow glue……

And though the cake is fantastic, this also makes a GREAT party mix if you don’t want to ‘cake’ it: Buttery, (kettle) sweet or salty corn, broken pretzel sticks, and white chocolate. Boy. Heaven.

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The littlest convert to popcorn cake!

 

*Ingredients
10 cups of popped corn ( I made mine using about 1/2 cup of corn kernels)
1 scant cup M&M’s ( 2 regular sized packets)
1 & 1/2 cups broken (not crushed/ground) pretzel sticks
1 cup white chocolate chips (1/2 cup to make the marshmallow sauce, and 1/2 to toss with the popcorn)
1 cup marshmallows (6 large marshmallows or lots more for mini ones)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature  (1/4 cup, in small pieces to toss the popcorn in once ready, and the other 1/4 cup for the marshmallow glue)
 
Note Cookies & Cups uses microwave popcorn, more M & M’s, a lot more marshmallows and no white chocolate
 
*Please note that these directions are approximate – I was adjusting it as I went along so  forgive me for not being exact! I will update it as soon as I make it again. Which will be soon….
Method

Prepare a large tube or bundt pan by spraying with cooking spray.

Place the popped corn in a large bowl, being careful to remove the un-popped kernels. While hot, add in the 1/4 cup of butter, and a pinch of salt, tossing well to combine.

Mix in the M&M’s, broken pretzel sticks and 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips. Set aside for a moment.

In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 1/4 cup of butter over low heat, till melted. Then add the (chopped) marshmallows and the remaining 1/2 cup white chocolate chips. Stir until melted and smooth, being careful not to leave the kitchen as the marshmallows could easily burn.

Remove from heat, let cool for a few minutes before pouring over your popcorn mix. Too soon, and the heat from the marshmallow glue will cause the popcorn to shrink.

Stir all the ingredients together till combined, then fill the pan and press in.

Cover with foil and let the popcorn cake set for at least an hour to cool.

Gently loosen the outer edges with a table/butter knife when you’re ready to serve.

Gently turn your pan over onto your serving platter et voila, your cake is here. Beautiful, and definitely delicious.

Cover tightly and store for up to 1 day.  But it shouldn’t last that long, unlike champagne. Ours didn’t. Every grain that was left, was eaten….off the table and off the platter.

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Don’t you think this is a great idea? Yum!

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