My nearest and dearest may have noticed that I am becoming worryingly more and more like Bridget Jones by the day. This weekend I went to a party wearing very silly little boots, a very silly little dress and, f*ck me, absolutely enormous panties. Unemployed, I sit at home, with ciggies, vodka and Chaka Khan, bemoaning the fact the only person who has asked me on date in the past month was Steve from o2 Brixton. (He also offered me a job. You might well ask why I turned down this offer of a lifetime). And though it is not quite (nowhere near) New Year, having left university and moved to London I am, like Bridget, tackling a series of resolutions that will make me better/sexier/thinner/happier etc. At the moment the list looks a bit like this: (1) Find a gym. I don’t actually have to go, I just have to find it. Half the battle won, no? (2) Find a job that either I am good at or I enjoy. I think both is pushing my luck a bit. Thus far, I have failed on both accounts. (3) Quit smoking (this is a token to-do…purleaze Grace – we’ve heard this one before). So far, I have obviously managed none of these things, and instead find myself whiling away the hours with a core group of moral supporters weeping into a (small) glass of whatever I can afford and eating other people’s peanuts (I think I don’t like them, don’t buy them and remember I really do).
There is, however, one small corner of my life that rejects the Jonesian comparison. I have never made, and hopefully will never make blue soup. Yes – I admit that I have never made a successful omelette, and just last week somehow managed to cock up a fried egg (I mean really cock up. It was quite a feat really). But I can make a mean dinner, and despite a few hushed-up disasters (soggy marmite crisps, anyone? No. Thought not), I like to think I can cook. I mean I can make mayonnaise from scratch for pete’s sake. Take that Bridget.
The only problem with this is that, by and large, the food I like to cook (and eat) doesn’t come cheap. These cheese straws are an exception, not least as they use up those unidentified, almost congealed corners of cheese that have been lurking in the fridge door for a little longer than is acceptable. We’ve all got ‘em, don’t pretend. Mouldy? Scrape it off you wuss. Crusty? Nibbled? Nobody’s going to know if you don’t tell them. And while you may think that cheese straws are more likely to be found next to the ham and pineapple toothpicks at the turkey curry buffet, I actually read somewhere the other day that cheese straws are the nation’s favourite canapé. Screw the olives; we’re not as sophisticated a lot as we like to think. They’re also so stupidly quick and easy that Bridget herself could whip up a batch of these, and they are infinitely better than the cotton woolly ones they sell down the Co-Op.
It has to be said that while a heady mix of puff pastry and cheese isn’t going to make you sexier or thinner, who gives a toss; these will definitely make you happier. Make sure to use a hard, flavoursome cheese like cheddar, Parmesan or Gruyere as otherwise they’ll be rank and boring. I warn you. Also, to any anti-mustard campaigners, do not be afraid. You can’t taste it – you just want it for its bite – but if you’re really that fussy then I suppose you can take it out. Your loss. Keep scrolling for the recipe.
Makes quite a lot, depending on how big you make them doofus.
– Flour, for dusting
– One packet of pre-rolled of bought puff pastry
– English mustard
– Grated cheese (cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyere are all ideal, as is a mix of any of them), plus a little extra for sprinkling
– Paprika or chilli powder (optional. Go on…)
– Salt and pepper
– Milk for brushing, or 1 beaten egg if you want them really glossy.
- Set your oven to about 200 C – see what it says on the pastry packet.
- Dust your work surface with a bit of flour. Cover your rolling pin in flour too, and roll out the pastry until it is about 1/3 cm thick.
- Spread one half of your pastry with about 1-2 (big) tsp of English mustard. Make sure it goes right up to the edges, as you don’t want your first bite to be just pastry.
- Scatter as much grated cheese as you want over the mustard-covered half, again making sure you go right to the edges. Season, and sprinkle over a bit of paprika or chilli, if you want a little extra kick.
- Now fold your pastry in half so that the non-cheesy bit covers the cheesy bit, ya get me? Squish it down baby.
- Slice it up into rectangles as long or short as you want your straws to be. Carefully, lift your first one up and, holding both ends, twist it until it resembles, well, a cheese straw. Some cheese will fall out – don’t worry too much –but try and keep as much in the middle as you can. Place on a tray lined with greaseproof paper brushed with a little butter (once the cheese goes gooey these are sticky little blighters). Repeat until they’re all twizzled. Make sure to give them enough space to swell a little in the oven.
- Brush each straw with a little milk or beaten egg for some of that profesh bakery gleam, scatter over a little more cheese, and bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Leave them to cool for about 10 minutes before trying to take them off the sheet. If you don’t they’ll just fall apart in your hands which would be a bit of shame really; they’ll still taste nice, they’ll just look a bit rank. But if you’re really Bridget, who even cares?