Dear Beryl

I am writing for your valued advice.  As my husband and I are active members of a local swinging club and it was our turn to host the Easter weekender.  All the regulars arrived and we started with drinks and nibbles and then things proceeded as normal until I noticed one of our members was wearing George underwear.  The very thought of this member wearing such low cost attire disgusted me and ruined my whole night.  One is concerned that next month’s party will be hosted by this member and I’m afraid but one only eats nibbles from S&M or Waitrose.  What should one do?

kind regards

Naughty Neighbour

Dear Naughty Neighbour

At get together parties homemade dips using carrot and cucumber are pleasant or maybe cheese straws.

Makes about 50 straws

150g cold lard
150g cold butter
450g plain flour
150g parmesan, finely grated
½ tsp mustard powder
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg, beaten

1. Grate the lard and butter into a large bowl, and then add the flour. Rub in the fat until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then stir in all but 2 tbsp cheese, the mustard powder and nutmeg.

2. Add just enough iced water (probably 2 – 4 tbsp) to bring it together into a firm dough, then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Roll out the pastry to ½cm thick, then brush with egg and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan. Cut into rectangular strips 1cm wide and 10cm long, and arrange on a lightly greased baking tray. (You could also cover and refrigerate it at this point, until you're ready to cook.)

4. Bake for about 15–20 minutes minutes until golden brown, then cool briefly on a rack to firm up, and serve warm. They're best eaten warm from the oven, but if you need to make them ahead, leave them to crisp up in a cool oven (100C) before removing to an air-tight container – they're less likely to soften.

Are cheese straws your favourite party snack – or do you prefer something a little less practical? Can canapés ever be exciting, or will we always keep coming back to the classics – the sausage rolls, blinis and quail's eggs, and cheese and pineapple, and devils on horseback.

Hope this helps,

Beryl