Cheese straws are great to give to adults, kids and even toddlers who like to let the flakey pastry melt rather than chew chew chew. They make a great canapé or nibble to eat while waiting for the feast to begin and they are easy to make. You could always go a little wild and try a different cheese other than Parmesan. Gruyère works brilliantly for that lovely taste of the Alps, or even a hard cheese like Manchego would also be a splendid alternative. Yum!
75g lard, chilled and cubed
75g butter, chilled and cubed
225g plain flour
100g finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ tsp mustard powder
A pinch of grated nutmeg
1–2 tbs very cold water
1 egg, beaten
Sea salt flakes
A large baking sheet, lined and greased
Makes approx 24 straws
Put the lard and butter in a large mixing bowl, add the flour and rub it into the lard and butter with your fingertips until the whole mixture becomes crumbly, rather similar to breadcrumbs.
Add three-quarters of the Parmesan, the mustard powder and a grating of nutmeg. Add 1 tablespoon of the very cold water and again mix together to form a dough. If it still seems a little crumbly, add another tablespoon of water — this should be enough.
Bring the mixture together into a firm dough, wrap it in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to chill. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F, Gas 6).
When the pastry is chilled, remove it from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly-floured surface to a rectangle about 5mm thick. Brush the beaten egg over the sheet of pastry and sprinkle over the remaining Parmesan and a healthy pinch of flaked sea salt.
Now cut the pastry into finger strips about 1cm wide and 10cm long and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Pop them in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until puffed up and turning golden, then turn the oven off and open the door.
Leave the straws in the oven for a further 10 minutes so they really crisp up before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Once cooled, store the cheese straws in an airtight container until ready to eat so they won’t soften.
100g cream cheese
50g plain yoghurt
2 tbs fresh chives, chopped finely
Freshly squeezed juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt and ground black pepper
For the dip, simply combine all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt and pepper and serve in a small bowl alongside the cheese straws