Friday, 13 January 2017

If There's Cheese in the Refrigerator

Mary Berry's HUMONGOUS cheese straws.

When I was a kid & we pestered Mom for snacks, her favourite answer was, ‘There’s cheese in the refrigerator.’  

If you’ve got cheese, Parma ham, & a roll of puff pastry, you can eat this instead.

1 packet all-butter puff pastry
3T Dijon mustard
75g Gruyère cheese (grated)
4 slices Parma ham
1 beaten egg
flour for dusting
(from Mary Berry's Foolproof Cooking)

Before you uncurl the pastry, let it sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes, or it'll break.  Gentle spread it out on a floured surface, then take a rolling pin to it until it’s at least 10x14”.  You’ll be folding this over twice, so if, like myself, you’re no fan of more pastry than filling, make your rectangle slightly larger.  Be sure it’s thick enough that the innards you’ll be putting into it won’t burst out of the pastry.

Slap on some mustard, going as close to the edge as you can.  You’ll need some for later, so don’t use it all.  I never measure how much I use, but then, I like my mustard, so it can't be too much.  Dijon will give a nice subtle complement to your straws, but if you like a stronger mustard taste, experiment with your favourites. 

My own Hag Improv is to sprinkle fresh herbs (parsley, dill or chives) onto the mustard, so I can kid myself that I’m getting Siobhán to eat some greens.  Crushed garlic or little chilli flakes’ll give this a nice kick, too.  Whatever you add, spread it over the entire surface & gently pat to make it stick to the mustard.

Sprinkle about ⅔ of your cheese on next, again as close to the edge as possible.  I have to admit that I use about 4 times what the recipe calls for, cuz I do love my cheese even more’n I love my mustard.  I also mix cheeses, depending on what’s in my crisper.  The best combination for me to date is half Gruyère, half Parmesan, both freshly grated.   Give the cheese a pat to make it stick, cuz you'll be moving things.

Single layer of very thin Parma ham.
Fold the pastry in half with the cheese on the inside.  Like jumping in a pond, do it quickly – you can tidy up the edges once you've folded it.  

Roll this folded bit enough to the seal the pastry, refreshing the flour dusting as you go, then slap this new surface with some more mustard.

Line up your parma or other spicy meat in single file across the whole pastry, then pat it a little so it stays in place.  If you like your meat, you may scoff at only one layer, but you’ll be folding the pastry again which will double it – you don’t want to knock out the other flavours.  But hey, if you like your meat as much as I like my cheese, double away.

Fold the pastry over for the last time, then roll it again.  Brush with beaten egg, & sprinkle about ⅔ of the remaining cheese on it, then press down to get that cheese to stay there.  

6 long strips.

Here, Mary Berry cuts the pastry into 6 sections, but I find that enormous.  

Instead, I cut the pastry into strips of about 1½” in width, then cut those strips into 3 or 4 smaller sections.  However big or small your strips are, transfer them to a paper-lined baking sheet.

A pan of the little guys.

If doing the 6 longer strips, give them 3 or 4 good twists to hold them together.  With the smaller strips, you can twist twice or pinch them together in the middle.  Mary Berry stops here, but I dab all the newly exposed surfaces with the beaten egg & add the last of the cheese to these surfaces.  Chill for about 20 minutes while the oven heats itself up.

Bake at 220C or 200 fan (Gas 7) for 20 minutes, then reduce to 160/140/Gas 3 for about 10 more minutes.  I haven’t found a difference in cooking time between the long & short strips, but since it’s cheese, keep an eye on it.  You know yourself how no oven cooks the same.

Cool on a wire rack.  Mary Berry says they’re best warm, but the small ones are great finger food at a party or for a quick snack.  In fact, this is the first recipe Siobhán has asked me to stop making.  If they’re in the house, she simply can’t stop eating them. 

Where would I be without my Mary Berry cookbooks?

Mom, I’m hungry!  

There’s cheese (straws) in the cupboard!

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