A New Year

Happy New Year! I hope you rang in 2013 in a suitably jolly way. We spent our new year with lovely friends, a homemade cocktail bar, Pictionary, champagne and some good old fashioned dancing.

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We also consumed a LOT of snacks, and to contribute, I took along my new favourite baked item: cheese straws. Totally ’80s, totally delicious: the perfect party food, they were gobbled up in a matter of minutes. They are really quick to make, and so easy! One of my resolutions for 2013 very nearly became “Make cheese straws every day”, but then I think that would perhaps conflict with another resolution: “Don’t become insanely overweight”. Nevertheless, I have a feeling I will be making them again very soon.

The recipe is another classic from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, which I adapted slightly (Mary’s straws were flat; mine were twists). Extra tip: I also took along a homemade basil dip, which is also insanely easy to make. It is completely yummy and makes an interesting variation on the usual dips. Now all you need is a party to go to! Or simply a film, a loved one and a comfortable sofa.

Cheese Straws
from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

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Ingredients:
100g (40z) plain flour
75g (3oz) softened butter
75g (3oz) grated mature Cheddar
1 free-range egg yolk

Makes about 25 straws

– Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/Fan 170°/Gas mark 5. Lightly grease two baking trays.

– Measure the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the grated Cheddar. Reserve a small amount of the egg yolk for glazing and stir in the remainder. Bring the mixture together to form a dough, then wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

– Roll the chilled dough out on to a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of about 5mm. Cut into neat strips about 1cm wide and 15cm long. Carefully twist the strips several times from both ends to create a spiral shape. Don’t worry if this is a bit tricky at first, it will get easier the more you do! They don’t have to look perfect as they will puff up in the oven (and besides, no-one will care what they look like. They will just want to EAT THEM!).

– Place the twists on the prepared baking trays and brush with the remaining egg yolk. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Lift off the baking trays and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Really easy basil dip
Mix 3 teaspoons of green pesto into 100ml crème fraîche. Place in jar. Take to party. Party!

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