The season of home entertaining and dinner parties is nearly upon us and cheese straws really have to be one of the loveliest homemade nibbles you can serve to your guests when they first arrive. They’re oh so easy to make (because I cheat and use shop-bought puff pastry) and if you’ve got kids you can probably get them in on the act too.
As with all simple foods, success is down to the quality of the ingredients. To make good cheese straws, you must start with really good cheese.
My cheese of choice was a Grana Padano from Italy, a fantastically savoury hard cheese, which has been made in the same traditional method since the Benedictine monks started producing it a thousand years ago as a clever way to use up surplus milk.
Grana Padano wheels mature for nine months after which time they are examined by impartial testers from the Consortium of Grana Padano Cheese with the traditional inspection tools: a small hammer and a needle. These checks allow the aroma, flavour, colour and structure of the cheese to be accurately verified. Only those wheels that meet all the quality checks receive the Grana Padano fire-branded mark.
It’s a beautiful cheese to serve in simple shavings as part of your antipasto with cured meats and marinaded vegetables. And absolutely perfect for these tasty cheese straws. They’re good enough to eat on their own, but are even more special when you wrap them in a little Prosciutto; in this case Prosciutto di San Daniele hailing from San Daniele del Friuli in northern Italy, where the breeze from the Alps meets those of the Adriatic Sea – apparently the perfect climate for dry-curing this incredible ham.
375g ready rolled puff pastry
100g freshly grated Grana Padano, or other good Italian hard cheese
1 tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp cayenne
50g butter, melted
80g Prosciutto slices (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
Cover a baking sheet in greaseproof paper.
Lightly floured a board and unroll the puff pastry sheet. Cut into strips around 3cm thick and 10cm long.
In a small bowl, mix together the grated cheese, oregano and cayenne. Brush the pastry strips with melted butter and roll in the cheese mixture, coating both sides.
Carefully twist the pastry strips and place on the baking sheet. Press on any bits of scattered cheese – you don’t want to waste any.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack before wrapping one end in a small piece of Prosciutto (optional).
Disclosure: I was supplied with complimentary products for review purposes. As ever all views expressed are mine and only products I genuinely like are featured on my blog. In the UK, you’ll find both products in various stores such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, Waitrose, Harrods and Partridges.