You can't beat cheese straws as a party snack. In a recent survey by Waitrose, they came out top of all canapés. I've had shockingly boring cheese straws at parties and the secret of a good one is obvious from the name: lots of cheese and a thin straw-like shape. To get them thin and thoroughly cheesey the cheese needs to be as strong as you can get it. A mild Cheddar just ain't going to do it I'm afraid. You need good strong Cheddar that's almost gone too far and turned a bit farmyard, or even a hard old lump of Parmesan. I used the piece that's been in the fridge for a few months and is a struggle to grate on to pasta. If children are doing the grating, make sure they watch their knuckles.
200g puff pastry
100g freshly grated Parmesan or strong Cheddar (reserve 1 tbsp for dusting before cooking)
1 small egg, beaten
Flour for dusting
Roll the pastry to about 1/3cm thick, or thinner on a lightly floured table. Scatter with 1/3 of the Parmesan and roll it firmly into the pastry, then fold the pastry in half and roll out again to about the same thickness. Repeat the process twice more with the other 2/3 of the Parmesan then roll out finally to about 2mm thick. Brush with the beaten egg and scatter with the reserved tablespoon of the Parmesan and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Cut the pastry into strips 1/2cm wide x 18-20cm long. You can use all the pastry up by just cutting it on different angles - some will just end up a little shorter, or longer.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. Take each strip of pastry and twist each end in opposite directions until the whole strip is completely and evenly twisted, then lay on to a baking tray lined with greaseproof or silicone baking paper. Repeat with the rest of the strips of pastry. Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.