Grandma had only one Auntie, plump and generous, a grande dame with bouffant white hair and an English rose complexion. Her progress as she drove along the village street, bowing to left and right to acquaintances, was positively regal. Auntie Louie was famous for her luck at the tombola (she once won a fine diamond brooch) and for her cocktail parties, powered by vicious gin martinis and sharp little cheese balls which exploded into crumbs if you tried to bite them. As Auntie knew, cheese balls are a wonderful standby for visitors, and they help absorb the effects of those strong drinks. They can be stored in an airtight container up to a week, and  always have a backup supply in the freezer!

Makes about 40 balls
2 1/2 cups/300 g flour
2 1/2 cups/300 g finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard, more to taste
1 cup/250 g melted butter, more if needed

1. Using a wooden spoon, mix the flour in a bowl with the Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and dry mustard. Stir in the melted butter so the mixture forms crumbs. With your fingers, press it firmly into balls the size of small walnuts – a tablespoon measuring spoon as a mold can be a help here. If the mixture is very dry, add a bit more butter. Set the balls on a buttered baking sheet and chill about 15 minutes. Heat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC and set a shelf in the center.

2. Bake the cheese balls in the oven until browned, 30-40 minutes. Test by cutting into a ball, it should not be doughy in the center. The balls can be kept 2-3 days in an airtight container, and they freeze well.