Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cheese Straws

These make a great party snack to have on hand with a pre-dinner drink. Recipe makes 28-32 straws.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 ounces (90 g) butter, chilled and diced
1 ounce (30 g) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 ounces (60 g) mature Cheddar cheese, finely grated


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Sift flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne pepper into a bowl.
2. Rub in the butter with fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the grated cheeses with a round-bladed knife.
3. Gradually add about 1/4 cup cold water, stirring to mix to a firm dough.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 10 x 10 inch (25 x 25 cm) square. For twisted straws, cut the dough lengthwise into 14 or 16 equal strips. Cut each strip in half and twist into 28 or 32 ropes. Alternatively, cut out shapes with fancy pastry cutters. Put on a non-stick baking tray.
5. Bake for 10 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Put on a wire rack to cool completely.

Tip: For a tasty crunch, sprinkle the straws with sesame, poppy or caraway seeds. When cutting the dough into strips, use a lightly floured, sharp knife.

Chicken and Basil Coconut Rice

For this dish, the rice is partially boiled before being simmered with coconut so that it fully absorbs the flavor of the chilies, basil and spices. Recipe serves 4.


1 1/2 cups Thai fragrant rice, rinsed
2-3 tablespoons groundnut oil
1 large onion, finely sliced into rings
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 fresh red chili, seeded and finely sliced
1 fresh green chili, seeded and finely sliced
Generous handful of basil leaves
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 12 ounces/350 g), finely sliced
1/4 inch (5 mm) piece of lemon grass, pounded or finely chopped
2 ounce (60 g) piece of creamed coconut dissolved in 2 1/2 cups boiling water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the rice to the pan and boil for about 6 minutes, until partially cooked. Drain.
2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion rings for 5-10 minutes until golden and crisp. Lift out, drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
3. Fry the garlic and chilies in the oil remaining in the pan for 2-3 minutes, then add the basil leaves and fry briefly until they begin to wilt. Remove a few leaves and set them aside for the garnish, then add the chicken slices with the lemon grass and fry for 2-3 minutes until golden.
4. Add the rice. Stir-fry for a few minutes to coat the grains, then pour in the coconut liquid. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the rice is tender, adding a little more water if necessary. Adjust the seasoning. Pile the rice into a warmed serving dish, scatter with the fried onion rings and basil leaves, and serve immediately.