Fuzzy Basil Cheese Sticks

Recipe appears in 

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Serves 12 sticks

The return-on-investment with this dish is absolutely ridiculous, when you consider that it’s basically just mozzarella on a stick, with a little flaky pastry. However, it’s the basil that makes it. When basil is fried, it takes on a completely different character – like sun-drenched grass on a hot summer’s day. Deep-fry some extra leaves for garnishing, then serve as swiftly as possible… but don’t forget to save a couple by the frying pot for yourself. They’ll go quick!


Rice bran or sunflower oil, for deep-frying
250 g (9 oz) scamorza or hard mozzarella
300 g (10½ oz) kataifi pastry (see tip)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup (50 g) basil leaves
Salt flakes, for sprinkling


Have 12 bamboo skewers at the ready.


Heat 6 cm of oil in a small saucepan to 180°C (350°F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in 15 seconds.


Meanwhile, cut the cheese into oblongs about 1.5 cm x 4 cm in size. Thread them onto the skewers – one or two per skewer.


Pull the pastry apart to the width of the cheese, then cut or tear into 50 cm lengths.


Dip the cheese oblongs in the egg wash, then wrap each one up in the pastry, tucking the pastry end into the top of itself to form a parcel.


Working in batches, deep-fry the parcels in the hot oil for 4 minutes, or until golden. Deep-fry the basil leaves for 1 minute, or until crisp, then briefly drain on paper towel.


Sprinkle the hot cheese sticks with salt flakes and the crispy basil leaves, allow to cool slightly so diners don’t burn their mouths, and serve.


Kataifi pastry is essentially just shredded filo, so any left-over pastry is an excellent substitute in recipes where you need filo pastry. I especially love it in custardy galaktoboureko. You’ll find kataifi at your local Mediterranean delicatessen or specialty grocer.



Make your own basil oil to drizzle over these fuzzy frivolities. Take the stalks off a bunch of basil, then roughly chop the stalks from a bunch of basil, place in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Strain right away and place in a blender. Add ½ cup (125 ml) grapeseed oil and ½ cup (125 ml) olive oil and blitz until combined. Leave to infuse for a few hours, then strain through muslin (cheesecloth) into a sterilised jar. Use within 2–3 days, or pour into an ice-cube tray and freeze for tossing into soups and sauces.

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