Happy Holly-days from my parent’s dining-room table in Cape Town! Having diligently packed my laptop and it’s many accompaniments I’ve managed to forget about it’s existence for nearly a week, while I happily traipse in and around town. Which, of course, is the whole point of a holiday (unlike that misguided individual who occupied the seat next to mine on the plane, with two bulging lever-arch files and a scratchy pen) (I know it was a scratchy pen because she managed to gouge a bit of my arm out with it while she frantically worked her way through piles of snoozeworthy paperwork).
Much as I love cooking, I think the festive season is the worst time to tackle anything serious in the kitchen. In my next life I’ll pull a Nigella (no, not that) and effortlessly glide around in a cool, calm and collected fashion while proffering beautifully crafted yuletide treats. But currently it is too hot and I am too badly in need of some downtime to put lots of effort in, so I’ve done a few festive nibbles which look moderately impressive with a minimum of kitchen-bound slavery involved.
Plus if you’re anything like me you would have spent weeks preparing a wild assortment of baked goodness and sweeties for Christmas gifts *waggles a finger at Pinterest* so I’m feeling a tad kitchened-out.
First up is savoury candy canes; three ingredients is always a plus. It is a bit hot to have the oven going, to be honest, and I’ve been thinking that if I was smart enough and had paid sufficient attention in Physics classes, I’m pretty sure I could figure out how to bake these things using the power of the sizzling-hot sun. But it’s just for a short while and the yumminess makes it all ok.
If you don’t bother to curl the ends to form canes, they are very yummy “cheese straws”, or you could do pinwheels by spreading the filling all over the pastry before rolling it up snugly and slicing it.
For about 10 cheese & ham candy canes:
400g ready-rolled puff pastry (that’s one pack), defrosted
About 80g of really good-quality ham. Not that cheap ‘n’ slimy grey-pink “sandwich ham” *shudder*
About half a wedge of lovely stinky blue cheese. No clue how much it weighed. Oops.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Pour yourself a large glass of icy white wine (because it’s important to not die of heat-stroke) and get some merry music going – currently, I am loving me some Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas.
Next, unroll the puff pastry on a clean surface, and roll it a little thinner since the aim is to create dainty little canes not great big walking sticks.
Lay the ham over one half of the pastry – isn’t it gorgeous? Take a sip of wine while you contemplate the beautimousness of it all. Crumble the blue cheese evenly over the ham (finger-licking good!); consider how well the cheese pairs with the wine. Confirm that thought with another sip and nibble. Then fold the unembellished half of the pastry over to cover the cheese and ham. Press it down lightly with your hands so that the filling doesn’t all spew out later.
Using a sharp knife, slice the pastry into 1cm wide strips. Carefully lift each strip so as not to stretch the pastry, and twist it gently several times. Lay it on a baking tray (unless you do enjoy scraping frazzled burnt cheese off of your baking dishes, baking paper would be good) and then curve one end to form the cane. At this point you could brush the canes with an eggy-wash so that they bake to a glossy golden finish but my laziness rules supreme in December and I omitted this part.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until the canes are puffy and golden brown (about the same time it takes to finish your glass of vino). Remove the tray from the oven and allow it to stand for a few minutes for the molten cheese to compose itself before removing to a wire rack to cool down. Yum yum! Crispy crunchy savouriness 🙂 that even Glen Coco would approve of (tee hee. if you don’t get that, go watch Mean Girls. Stat.)
“Say! I do like blue cheese and ham!
I do, I like them, Cakepoppie-I-am!
And I would eat them in a boat.
And I would eat them with a goat.
And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a trian.
I do so like blue cheese and ham! Thank you, thank you, Cakepoppie-I-am!”
– Dr. Seuss. Sort of.
PS: OMG. Say it isn’t so.