Right! So today we will have the 162nd Oxford and Cambridge boat race. You can watch it from the Putney embankment, equipped with a wide mouthed thermos of chipolatas, and another of cheese straws, backed up with a third thermos of hot mulled wine, since the consistent English weather is, as always, uncertain.
Over the years we’ve made two types of cheese straw, and we decided that today it was time to decide which was best. The overall winner was the twisty fat version although this was a tense race, and the victory was won by a smidgeon. The thin, straight straws are very crumbly and tend to fall apart – in fact I think they would be better as rounds (small biscuits). Or you could try blushed and nutted cheesy olive biscuits. Serve both HOT. They will reheat, but BEWARE, in a hot oven they only take two minutes…. I have burnt both consecutive last batches by leaving them in for longer than that. But they need to be reheated in a hot oven or they will not get crispy again – especially the twisty, fat ones. And they are better eaten warm anyway.
Here are the recipes.
Twisty fat cheese straws
- 375g/13 oz all butter puff pastry
- 100g/3 oz Roquefort
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan
- 1 egg, beaten (optional – this gives a rich glaze)
- sesame seeds, or chopped pistachios to sprinkle
- 2 tbsps grainy mustard – you might want to reduce this if the straws are for children
- Preheat the oven to 210°C.
- Roll out the pastry on a cool, floured board.
- Spread the mustard over one half of the pastry.
- Crumble the Roquefort over the mustard, and the parmesan over the Roquefort.
- Fold the uncovered half of pastry over the mustard and cheeses to make a sort of sandwich.
- Then, with a rolling pin, roll the whole out again to squash it all into the pastry.
- Cut the pastry into lengths about 9”/22 cm long and 1.5”/4 cm wide.
- Brush with the beaten egg.
- Sprinkle over the seeds or nuts.
- Grease a baking tray.
- Make a twist in each cheese straw, brush with the beaten egg if using), move to the baking tray and bake for ten minutes or until golden.
In Laura Goodman’s excellent book, Carbs, she substitutes a couple of tablespoons of Indian lime pickle for the mustard. Or you could try some lemon pickle.
Straight thin cheese straws
The other straws are inspired by a Clarissa Dickson Wright recipe involving mixing 75g/3 oz each of butter, flour and grated cheddar together with 1 tsp dry mustard powder in a magimix. When it forms a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill. Roll, cut into lengths, and bake in a 180°C oven for about ten minutes.
As an alternative you could try cheesy olive biscuits which don’t break up so easily.
I always look forward to the race commentary by a friend, Dan Topolski, who died last year. This post is dedicated to him.
Film to watch
Below is the trailer for the film which tells the tale of the Oxford mutiny which happened when Dan was the coach. As with most films it’s not entirely accurate, and the actor playing Dan’s role speaks with a weird accent and not such a nice voice.