Being out of the UK and looking back at our traditions, I have to say we don’t half eat some weird stuff at Christmas. Mincemeat? I can’t get it here so I’m making my own, and I promise you, the recipe is disgusting. Artery-hardening beef fat in preserved fruit (can’t find suet so I’m using lard, which isn’t any better)?
And don’t get me started on Christmas pudding.
So if you’re in Italy and you want to introduce your Italian friends into strange British Christmas food gently, rather than jumping straight into suet-based products, what could be better for a traditional Christmas drinks party than some cheesy Marmite straws?
I served these to a bunch of unsuspecting Italians at my birthday party a few months ago. I won’t say they were the most popular thing that I cooked for the occasion, but people ate them anyway and there was no vomiting, wild gesticulation or shouts of ‘porca putana’, which is what would have happened if I’d have revealed the secret ingredients.
It’s almost an insult to put this recipe here because it’s so damn easy, but what the hell.
- Packet of flaky pastry (‘pasta sfoglia’), or if you can be bothered to make it yourself, here’s a good recipe off of Mr Ramsay
- Cheddar cheese (not available in Italy, so I use a hard Dutch cheese like gouda or edam, though neither is as tasty as cheddar)
Heat the oven to 200C.
Unfurl or roll out the pastry to a large rectangle about 3-4mm thick. Don’t worry how big the rectangle is as only the thickness matters. Spread the entire thing with a thin layer of Marmite. Then grate cheese all over. Fold it in half and gently roll it flat again, but not so hard that the cheese/marmite gloop bursts through the pastry. Then cut into strips about 15cm long. Twist each strip a few times and lay them on a baking sheet/baking paper on a tray. If you like you can eggwash them and sprinkle sesame seeds over the top (good for fooling Italians as it disguises the Marmite). Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden-brown. Cool and serve or put in a sealed container. Will keep in the fridge for a few days. If they’re soft when you take them out, just give them about minutes in an oven around 75-100C to crisp them up again.