Recipe: A Classic Croque Monsieur

Inspired by the best Croque Monsieur I’ve ever had, I wanted to try to make this wonderful dish at home. I miss restaurants a lot right now but the best we can do is to try and recreate our favourites at home or support our local restaurant businesses that offer takeaway. Here in the country there aren’t many restaurants nearby so I donned the apron and set to work.

Most important when making a dish like this is to use the very best ingredients. Crusty sourdough bread, good quality cooked (or lightly smoked) ham and gruyere cheese. And to not skimp on the béchamel sauce. It’s really what makes the sandwich.

This is not a difficult dish to make, but it has a lot of steps, so it’s best to prepare as much as you can in advance: grate the cheese, have the butter ready, make the béchamel sauce. Make sure the oven is hot. A little mise en place goes a long way.

I must confess it didn’t rival The Wolseley’s version, but it came pretty close and that’s good enough for me.

Please note I made this for 3 people but have reworked the recipe to serve 2 to make it easier to scale up and down.

Croque Monsieur, serves 2

4 slices good quality crusty white sourdough bread

2 slices cooked ham

100 g Gruyere cheese, grated

25 g salted butter, at room temperature

For the béchamel:

1 1/2 tbsp butter

1 1/2 tbsp flour

500 ml whole milk

a few drops lemon juice

salt and peppar

Start by making the béchamel sauce. Heat up the milk in a non-stick saucepan on medium heat. In another non-stick saucepan melt the butter on medium heat. Stir in the flour and let it cook, while whisking for a minute or so. Add the warmed milk bit by bit and whisk as the sauce thickens. Season to taste and add a few drops lemon juice. Set aside.

Butter each bread slice on one side and place it face up on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Bake in a 200C oven for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and turn the bread slices around so you have the toasted side face down. Spread on a layer of béchamel sauce on each bread slice. Add grated gruyere on two of the slices, followed by the ham. Add more gruyere and sandwich together béchamel side face down. Add a thicker layer of béchamel on the top of the sandwiches and top with grated gruyere. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with a tangy green salad (little gem with olive oil, red wine vinegar or plenty of lemon juice and a little salt is all you need).

Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Wrap with Rice, Avocado and Blue Cheese Dressing

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Apparently there’s an American chain that make Buffalo Chicken Wraps?! I found this out on Instagram and immediately felt I needed to make this. Sans celery though (shudder).

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So below is my version of a buffalo chicken wrap, with chicken wings (although chicken thighs or any dark meat will work but I had wings in the freezer- just adjust the cooking time), hot sauce, rice, homemade blue cheese dressing, avocado and cherry tomatoes.

It was just as lovely as I had hoped it would be, but much easier to eat than regular buffalo chicken wings! Score!

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Buffalo Chicken Wrap with Rice, Avocado and Blue Cheese Dressing, makes 2

2 large flour tortillas

100-150 ml cooked basmati rice 

6-8 chicken wings

1 tbsp vegetable oil

salt and pepper

Frank’s hot sauce

200 ml soured cream 

ca 50 g Saint Agur cheese

1 avocado, sliced

8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Start with the chicken wings. Put them in a colander and pour boiling water over them. Pat dry with kitchen roll. Pour oil into an ovenproof dish and place the chicken wings in it. Add salt and pepper and place in a 200C oven. Turn them as they have turned brown, after approx 10-15 minutes and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool slightly and pick the meat and skin off the bones. Place in a bowl, add hot sauce after taste (it IS hot!) and stir.  

Mix soured cream and Saint Agur with a stick blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Divide rice and chicken between the tortillas, top with sliced avocado, cherry tomatoes and blue cheese dressing. Add extra hot sauce, roll up and eat! 

Recipe: lettuce wraps with prawns and spicy mayo

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These little wraps are seriously delicious in an effortless sort of way. Perfect for a post-beach supper with a cold beer or a glass of rosé, or as a light lunch on the terrace. The point is that’s it’s low effort to make but full enjoyment to eat. And almost healthy.

If you want to make them actually healthy I’m sure brown rice or wild rice would work too, but lets be honest; it won’t taste as nice.

But they could easily be converted into a lovely starter by just omitting the rice. You see, the possibilities are endless.

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Lettuce wraps with prawns and spicy mayo, serves 2

2 portions long-grain rice

300 g raw large prawns

1 tsp Aleppo pepper or chilli flakes

1 lime wedge, the juice only

salt, white pepper

1 -2 little gem lettuce

10 cm cucumber, peel off most of the green peel and cut into small cubes

6 cherry tomatoes, cut into small wedges

2 spring onion, thinly sliced

1/2 avocado, cut into small cubes

Spicy mayonnaise:

100 ml Hellmann’s mayonnaise (or homemade) 

2-3 tsp gochujang (Korean chilli sauce)

a few splashes red Tabasco for added heat

a small pinch of salt

To serve:

chopped coriander

1/2 lime, cut into wedges

Cook the rice according to the instructions on the packet. Leave to cool a little. Mix the mayo. Wash and dry the lettuce leaves. Wash and cut the remaining vegetables. 

Heat up oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the prawns and fry until pink. Add Aleppo pepper or chilli flakes, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime. Cut the prawns into smaller pieces. 

Fill the lettuce leaves with rice, mayo, prawn pieces and vegetables (in that order, the mayo works as a glue to hold the toppings in place), add some chopped coriander and finish with a squeeze of lime. Serve with plenty of napkins as they’re best eaten using your hands! 

 

Recipe: courgette and chilli fritters

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Sometimes I forget how genius some dishes are. Like fritters. They’re always satisfying to eat (any time of day) but never too heavy. And they contain vegetables which basically means they’re healthy right?!

 

Courgette fritters, makes approx 10

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.

2 medium courgettes

1 tsp sea salt flakes + extra to taste

1/4 red chilli, finely chopped 

1 egg

black pepper

72 g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

oil for frying

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut the ends of the courgettes and grate coarsely. Place in a bowl and mix in 1 tsp salt. Leave for 10 minutes the wring out the courgette either using your hands or a clean tea towel. 

Mix the grated courgette with a bit more salt for seasoning (1/4 tsp is perfect), the chopped chilli, black pepper and egg. Mix flour and baking powder and stir into the courgette batter. 

Heat up a frying pan on medium heat, pour in oil. Drop dollops of the mixture into the pan and fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and place on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes until crisp and cooked through.  

Parmesan yoghurt crème

200 ml Greek yoghurt

1/2 lemon, zest only 

2 tbsp grated parmesan

salt, black pepper

Combine the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste. 

 

 

Recipe: asparagus with chopped egg, browned butter and lemon

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Easter was all about about asparagus (and wild garlic) for me. The first asparagus of the season had arrived in the UK before I left for Sweden so I brought two nice bunches home with me. And then we found some lovely Italian asparagus in the supermarket so obviously had to buy that too!

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The first time we kept it simple and ate them with homemade hollandaise sauce. The second and third lots were served with wild garlic mayonnaise (it’s SO good!) and on Holy Saturday we made this dish with chopped egg, browned butter and lemon.

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Asparagus with chopped egg, browned butter and lemon, serves 4

12 asparagus 

2 almost hard boiled eggs, chopped 

50 g butter

1/2 lemon

2 tbsp chopped chives 

4 radishes, thinly sliced

salt, black pepper

Place the butter in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Let the butter melt but leave it until it’s foamy. Remove from heat when it’s a nice medium brown underneath the foam and it smells nutty (and divine!). 

Cook the asparagus in boiling water until al dente (approx 3 mins). Drain and place the asparagus on a plate. Season. Add the chopped egg and spoon over the browned butter. Add plenty of lemon juice. Season again and top with chopped chives and sliced radishes. 

Post-holiday Cobb salad with ranch dressing

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Hello dear readers, are you still there?

Sorry about my unplanned break; before the summer I just didn’t have time to update the blog, and then I was away for three weeks and have now been back in London for two weeks. I feel more rested and obviously have lots to tell you about, but I will start easy and share a yummy salad recipe and the best dressing recipe ever with you.

After having seen Cobb salads on almost every single  menu when I was in America, but never felt like it would satisfy my hunger after walking around all day, I couldn’t wait to make it when I got back to Blighty.  It’s a perfect salad to go for if you want something substantial; not just a few lettuce leaves. Make sure you enjoy it while the Indian summer is still here.

 

Cobb salad, serves 2

2 little gem, sliced

10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 avocado, cut into pieces

2 tbsp blue cheese of your choice (jag chose my favourite – Saint Agur)

2 chicken thigh fillets

4 slices streaky bacon

2 eggs

Trim the chicken thigh fillets, brown in butter in a frying pan, add salt and pepper and cook in the oven (15-20 minutes). Fry the bacon until crisp and drain on kitchen towel. Cook the eggs how you like them. Hardboiled are best for salads but I personally prefer a looser yolk (6-7 minutes). 

Slice the chicken, bacon and cube the (cool) eggs. 

Divide the salad between two plates or bowls. Add the toppings (it doesn’t have to be in neat rows but I quite like that). Serve with the dressing of your choice. Maybe ranch dressing? Recipe below. 

Ranch dressing, serves 6

Adapted from The Huffington Post recipe.

120 – 180 ml (1/2 – 3/4 cup) buttermilk

2-3 tbsp sour cream

1-2 tbsp mayonnaise (Hellman’s)

1 tsp finely chopped herbs (tarragon, dill, parsley and chives)

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

a few dashes Tabasco

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Or add all the ingredients to a jar and shake until smooth. 

Best ever grilled cheese sandwich

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Melted cheese. Is there anything more comforting in the world? OK, a hug from a dear one and a warm duvet perhaps. But next up is melted cheese.

If in the mood for the ultimate comfort food (maybe because of a heavy night the evening before or just feeling a bit meh), I have the perfect recipe for you. This grilled cheese is exactly how I want it. Fried bread, melted cheese oozing out on the sides and a little depth from cayenne.

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Making something as simple as a sandwich, it’s important the ingredients are of great quality. You want a nice sourdough bread and nice cheeses.

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Best ever grilled cheese sandwich, serves 2

4 large white slices of sourdough bread

salted butter

medium cheddar, coarsely grated 

comté, finely grated

small pinch of cayenne 

Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter. Place a large heap of grated cheddar on two of the slices, on the buttered side. Add comté and a pinch of cayenne. Place another slice of bread, buttered side down, on top so you have two sandwiches. 

Butter one of the outsides of each sandwich and place buttered side down in a frying pan on medium heat. Butter the other side of each sandwich and flip the sandwiches around after a few minutes. Lower the heat if needed. What we want to achieve is melted cheese in the middle and crispy golden bread on the outside. When done, remove the sandwiches from the pan. Add a layer of grated comté to the frying pan and put the sandwiches back in, creating a crispy layer of cheese on the outside of the sandwich. Repeat on the other side. Remove from the pan and cut in half (or four). Enjoy! 

Poached egg with girolles, Västerbotten cheese and toasted hazelnuts

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My first attempt at cooking a 63C egg didn’t work too well, as I tried to multitask and wasn’t paying attention the whole time. Big mistake. Huge. So instead I poached eggs. And served it with butter-fried girolles, Västerbotten cheese and toasted hazelnuts. It was delicious but I still dream of perfecting that 63C egg and serve it with girolles. I mean, is there anything better than a runny egg yolk with garlicky mushrooms?! I don’t think so.

Listening to my favourite food podcast (in Swedish) I learnt a new way to toast nuts, in the oven. So much better than in a dry frying pan. It will change your life. I promise. All you need to remember is 150C for 15 minutes.

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Poached egg with girolles, Västerbotten cheese and toasted hazelnuts, serves 2

2 fresh eggs

a splash of vinegar 

200 g girolles

1 tbsp butter

1 garlic clove, chopped

salt, pepper

chopped parsley

2 tbsp grated Västerbotten cheese (or comté)  

20 hazelnuts

Pre-heat the oven to 150C. Pour the nuts into an oven-proof tray and toast for 15 minutes. Clean the mushrooms and fry in butter with the garlic until golden brown. Add salt, pepper and parsley and put aside. 

Take a large saucepan and fill half of it with water from a just boiled kettle. Bring the water to a gentle simmer (it should not boil) and add the vinegar. Pour ice cold water into a bowl and have a slotted spoon at hand. Crack and egg into a mug or cup. With a spoon, create a whirl in the pan and lower the mug/cup with the egg into the water and pour it out. Repeat with a second egg and let them poach for 3 minutes. Remove with the slotted spoon and place in the cold water for a few minutes. Remove with the slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. 

Re-heat the mushrooms is needed. Divide them between to plates, leaving a hole in the middle for the egg. Scatter with grated cheese. Chop the nuts and scatter. Serve immediately. 

Lovely halloumi wrap for lunch

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I sometimes buy my lunch at Leon, and it’s almost always a halloumi wrap since I seem to have a constant craving for the salty squeaky cheese.

But it only takes a few minutes so make your own wrap so sometimes I do that too, and I must say that my version is even nicer than Leon’s. Sorry, but it’s true!

Halloumi wrap, serves 1

1 flatbread

1 handful lettuce leaves, I used baby spinach 

Hellman’s mayonnaise

sweet chilli sauce

6 slices fried halloumi

1/2 avocado, cut into cubes

Mix equal parts mayo and sweet chilli sauce and spread onto the flatbread. Add spinach, halloumi and avocado. Roll up and enjoy a nice lunch! 

 

Griddled aubergine with feta, chilli and mint

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I have quite a large cookbook collection in London (too big for my book case anyhow) so I have to keep some cookbooks in Sweden as well. The ones with easy, summery recipes I keep in the summer house and I just love flicking through Summer by Nigella every time I’m there. This summer I finally tried these lovely aubergine rolls with feta, chilli and mint. They are incredibly easy to make, and utterly delicious to eat.

Griddled aubergine with feta, chilli and mint, serves 4

Adapted from Nigella’s recipe.

2 large aubergines (each cut thinly lengthwise into about 10 slices)

4 tablespoons olive oil

250 grams feta cheese

1 large red chilli (finely chopped & deseeded or not depending how hot you require it)

1 bunch fresh mint (finely chopped – save some for sprinkling over)

juice of 1 lemon

black pepper

Preheat the barbecue or griddle to a high heat.

Brush both sides of the aubergine slices with the oil, and cook them for about 2 minutes each side until golden and tender.

Crumble the feta into a bowl and stir in the chilli, mint and lemon juice and grind in some black pepper. You don’t need salt, as the feta is salty enough. Pile the end third of each warm aubergine slice with a heaped teaspoon of the feta mixture and roll each slice up as you go to form a soft, stuffed bundle.

Place join side down on a plate, and sprinkle with a little more mint.