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: Orrechiette with Wild Garlic Pesto and Charred Broccoli

I made this dish just before lockdown, and then again in lockdown (but the pictures are from the first time I made it). It’s a perfect example of the kind of homemade food I want to highlight right now; inexpensive, nutritious and it allows for substitutions.

I was lucky to get hold of wild garlic even in lockdown (from Natoora and Natoora via Ocado) and it made me incredibly happy. If you live in an area where it grows you might still be able to forage for it, but you can of course use regular pesto (any green pesto in fact) in its place.

I use almonds in my pesto which makes it a little sweeter so charred flavours pair really well. (That’s how I got the idea for this dish in the first place). And the reason I used orecchiette was because I had some in the cupboard, but I also find it’s a good pasta shape to use with pesto. But you can use any similar pasta shape, I think the key here is that it’s not too big or too long.

Orrechiette with wild garlic pesto and charred broccoli, serves 2

250 g orrechiette

3 tbsp wild garlic pesto

mild olive oil

50 g grated parmesan

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

200 g tenderstem broccoli

salt and pepper

Boil the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Trim the broccoli. Keep 2 stems whole and chop the others into 2 cm long pieces. Blanch all the broccoli quickly. Drain and transfer to a hot and dry frying pan and cook for a few minutes on each side until slightly charred. Set aside.

Drain the pasta and reserve half a mug of pasta water. Transfer the pasta back to the saucepan but take it off the heat. Add pesto, a little olive oil and pasta water if needed. Mix until every piece of pasta is coated. Add more water if not loose enough and place on heat while stirring for a minute or so if too watery. Add half the parmesan and half the lemon zest. Add the small pieces of broccoli and mix well. Season and place in bowls. Add a long broccoli stem to each bowl. Scatter with parmesan and lemon zest.

June greetings

With everything else going on right now I completely forgot that we entered a new month. May felt like summer but the beginning of June has been rather cold so far. Hope that changes. With this slower pace of life I’m really appreciating seeing the change of time happening outside. New flowers bursting into bloom, some wilted and brown because they had their time in the lime light. And of course the sunshine has helped. But mostly it’s just any sign of time passing that I find so comforting. Because if time moves on, so will we. We will overcome the hardships facing us right now.

This made me think back to June as a child. So different from being a grownup in today’s world. As a school girl in Sweden June was filled with promise. The promise of ten weeks of freedom ahead of you. Of fun times with friends, holidays with the family, trips to the beach, sleepovers, too many ice creams and grazed knees. Summer felt endless and there for the taking. I really hope the school children of today feel similar feelings of hope and excitement even if their summer holidays will be different this year.

June in Sweden also means celebrating Midsummer, which I haven’t done properly since I moved to London eleven years ago, but the Midsummer food is still very special to me. New potatoes with butter and dill, herring (the one kind I like!), the first sweet strawberries… And of course other produce bursting onto the scene this time of year. Peas! Tomatoes! Lettuce!

And that’s why I would like to start with the herring, or rather, the only type of herring I like, which is of the Matjes variety. The brine is a little sweeter and less harsh than some types of herring and it’s just so summer-y in flavour. Using it in a savoury cheesecake is one of my favourite ways to eat it, it works really well as a starter or for a summer buffet.

Another lovely dish with Matjes herring is this nibble with eggs and dill on top of crisp bread. So yummy and even non herring lovers like this!

Moving on to peas. The first ones can of course be eaten raw in salads but in the evening a bowl of smooth green pea soup with bleak roe and creme fraiche is a perfect start to any supper or dinner party.

Lettuce, now also in season, is of course nice in any type of salad, but also like this – as the base for little salmon wraps. Great as a starter, with out without the rice, or even as your main dish!

Asparagus is still in season, but not for much longer, so make the most of it by putting it in a frittata with new potatoes, cheddar and spinach, topped with lumpfish roe and creme fraiche.

Finally the tomato season is upon us. Best served raw with salt and something creamy, this simple caprese salad with burrata is one of my favourite summer lunches. Or starters. It’s just so yummy!

Another really summery and fresh dish is this one with fried pillowy gnocchi, wild garlic pesto, cherry tomatoes and heaps of parmesan.

To finish I would like to highlight the strawberries. In the beginning of the season I like to eat them with cream and sugar, but now I’m ready to enjoy them in different ways. With muscovado ice cream for example.

Or with whipped cream on top of a chewy almond cake. Both lovely ways to end a weekend lunch or evening supper.

Change

Although this is first and foremost a food blog, I still want to highlight a few other things going forwards, to more reflect me; the person behind the blog. I love to eat, think about food and cook. But I also like fashion and beauty, travel, interiors, books and films (as you can see on my instagram). I will incorporate a little of these side interests when I get inspired, but I will also try to address some other topics that I think need to be highlighted.

At the moment, the topic most at the forefront is of course the Black Lives Matter movement. Like so many other people I have read and listened a lot in the past week. I want to learn. Do better. Be more inclusive.

I don’t have a big platform, but I still want to use it in the best way I can. I don’t know how yet (as the blog is a side interest for me; my main focus is my job) but I have a few ideas.

So for now, I just want to show that I stand with the movement. For a positive change.

Recipe: Roasted Cherry Tomato Caprese

As the tomato season is almost here (hurrah!) this post might be slightly redundant, but the tomato season is short and if you can’t get hold of really good tomatoes just yet, then this is a great way to get them to taste more.

I would make this dish with really good tomatoes too though, especially on a colder overcast summer’s day when all you need is something summery and warming.

Although you let the tomatoes cool a little after they’ve been roasted to sweet perfection in the oven I like them to be warm enough to make the mozzarella melt a little, so you can scoop it all up on some crusty bread.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Caprese, serves 2

Adapted from Bon Appetit’s recipe.

approx 200 g cherry tomatoes

2 sprigs thyme

2 garlic cloves, smashed

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

125 g good quality buffalo mozzarella, at room temperature, torn into large pieces

crusty bread

Preheat oven to 180C. Toss tomatoes, garlic, thyme and oil in a rimmed oven-proof dish and season with a little salt. Spread out in a single layer and roast until tomatoes are bursting and lightly browned, 40-45 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Arrange mozzarella on a platter and spoon warm tomato mixture with juices over. Sprinkle with salt and peppar. Drizzle with more oil if needed. Serve with crusty (preferably still warm) bread.

Recipe: The Perfect Lemon Drizzle Cake

In these strange times I have baked more than ever. Partly because tea and cake in the late afternoon every day has been a lovely ritual in an otherwise chaotic and strange time.

I’ve made some old favourites (my favourite chocolate cake, the yummiest carrot cake, tosca cake and of course a classic Victoria sponge) but I’ve also tried some new recipes. And this lemon drizzle cake recipe, courtesy of baking queen Mary Berry, was of course perfect in every way.

It’s incredibly easy to make (place all ingredients in a bowl and mix) and utterly delicious. I love the crunchy top (finally that substituted bag of granulated sugar was put to good use!) and the perfectly balanced lemon flavour.

My only problem was that I was out of self-raising flour, but it was easily substituted by plain flour and baking powder (2 teaspoons of baking powder for each 150g plain flour) and worked perfectly.

Mary Berry’s lemon drizzle cake, serves 8

Adapted from Mary Berry’s recipe.

175 g caster sugar

175 g self-raising flour

175 g softened butter

3 eggs

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

¾ level tsp baking powder

For the lemon drizzle topping:

100 g granulated sugar

juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Beat together the eggs, flour, caster sugar, butter, baking powder and lemon zest until smooth in a large mixing bowl and pour into a buttered loaf tin.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 40 mins, or until golden brown, shrinking away from the sides of the tin and springy to the touch.

While the cake is still warm, make the lemon drizzle topping. Mix together the sugar and lemon juice, and pour over the warm cake. Leave to cool a little and loosen the sides of the cake, then lift the cake out of the tin.

Recipe: Lockdown Courgette Quesadillas Two Ways

I cooked with courgette a lot during lockdown, as it’s such an inexpensive versatile vegetable. And it turns out, it really works in bulking out your quesadillas.

I made the first version, with fried courgette and coriander, served with soured cream and guacamole, when I was alone in London and liked them so much I made a similar version for lunch a few weeks later.

But this time I also added some ham, spring onions and fresh coriander, simply because I had it to hand, and served the quesadillas with a yummy sauce with creme fraiche and basil I made up on the spot, and lime wedges on the side.

Both versions are equally delicious so why not try both and see which you like better?!

Also, a note on frying quesadillas. For an every day lunch I prefer to fry them in a dry pan, as I think the addition of butter is then too much. But if you make quesadillas as nibbles for a party, when you eat much less of them, they’re wonderful fried in butter (and drained on kitchen towel to stay crispy!).

Courgette and coriander quesadillas with guacamole, serves 1

2 tortilla breads, either corn or flour

1 small courgette, cut in half lengthways and sliced

1-2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tbsp olive oil for frying

salt and pepper

75 ml grated cheddar

To serve:

guacamole (scale down to 1 avocado)

a large dollop soured cream

a few drops hot sauce

Fry the courgette until soft and golden in the oil on medium heat for approximately 5-10 minutes. Add the coriander and chilli flakes towards the end of cooking. Season well and set aside.

Place one tortilla bread on a flat surface and scatter half of the grated cheese on top. Add the fried courgettes and top with remaining cheese. Place the other tortilla bread on top and press down to flatten with your hands.

Heat up a clean frying pan on medium heat and add the quesadilla. Fry until side until golden brown while pressing down with a spatula. It only takes a few minutes! Flip the quesadilla over and fry the other side golden brown. Make sure the cheese inside has melted otherwise lower the heat and fry for a bit longer, making sure it doesn’t burn. Remove to a chopping board and cut into six triangles. Serve immediately with guacamole, soured cream and a little hot sauce.

Courgette, coriander and ham quesadillas, serves 3

6 tortilla breads, either corn or flour

1 1/2 medium courgettes, cut in half lengthways and sliced

1-2 tbsp olive oil for frying

salt and pepper

1/2 bunch fresh coriander

3 spring onions, chopped

2 slices cooked ham, chopped

200 g grated cheddar

To serve:

3 lime wedges

creamy basil sauce (recipe below)

Fry the courgette until soft and golden in the oil on medium heat for approximately 5-10 minutes. Season well and set aside.

Place three tortilla breads on a flat surface and divide half of the grated cheese between them. Add the fried courgettes, coriander, spring onions and ham and top with the remaining cheese. Place the other tortilla breads on top and press down to flatten with your hands.

Heat up a clean frying pan on medium heat and add a quesadilla. Fry until side until golden brown while pressing down with a spatula. It only takes a few minutes! Flip the quesadilla over and fry the other side golden brown. Make sure the cheese inside has melted otherwise lower the heat and fry for a bit longer, making sure it doesn’t burn. Repeat with the other two quesadillas. Remove to a chopping board and cut into six triangles. Serve immediately with lime wedges and the basil sauce (recipe below).

Creamy basil and lime sauce, serve 4

200 ml soured cream

finely grated zest from 1/2 lime

2 tbsp roughly chopped basil

salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together with a bowl. Season to taste.

Recipe: Lockdown Chicken and Courgette Pasta

Cooking every single day is in a way easier than cooking a few days a week like I usually do. Cooking every day gives you a different continuity and it makes it a lot easier using up leftovers. In my regular life I sometimes have to throw away leftovers I had planned to use up because plans changed and they got too old. I really don’t like that. But London life is (usually) fast pace with drinks here and dinners there and impromptu plans. Which I love. It’s less conducive to meal planning though. But I do utilise my freezer as much as I can even in normal life.

But using up leftovers has become a sport of mine in lockdown. I don’t want to throw a single little thing away. I keep parmesan rinds in the fridge until I can throw them into a béchamel sauce, and add the leftover grated carrot from a carrot cake baking session to a salad. If some vegetables need using up they get used in a soup, quesadillas, salad or frittata.

And this chicken and courgette pasta is one example of using up every single little bit of chicken meat. One night we had a roast chicken with potatoes, gravy and vegetables. Two days later I reheated some of the leftover chicken pieces for lunch and made a potato salad with some already cooked new potatoes. After that there weren’t that much meat left, even though I picked every last little bit off the carcass before it went into the stock pot. So the obvious answer to how to use up the rest was of course pasta. Mixing proteins with carbs and some veg and lots of grated Parmesan is one of the best magic tricks of the kitchen craft.

This one, with lemon, soft courgette, plenty of olive oil and said parmesan felt very appropriate of spring but I could myself eating it on a sunny patio with a glass of ice cold pale rosé too.

Lockdown chicken and courgette pasta, serves 3

300 g tagliatelle

1 medium courgette, cut in half lengthways and sliced

approx 100 g leftover roast chicken

50 g parmesan, finely grated

lemon zest from 1/2 large lemon

50 ml olive oil

25-50 ml pasta cooking water

salt and pepper

Add a little olive oil to a roasting tray and add the courgettes. Toss in the oil, add salt and pepper and cook in 200C for 10- 15 minutes, until soft and a little browned.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions in saucepan.

Add the chicken pieces to the courgette to heat up and add more olive oil. Add the lemon zest and some of the parmesan and mix. Add the cooked pasta. Reserve a mug of pasta water and pour some into the roasting tray with the pasta. Add more parmesan and put the roasting tray on medium-low heat. Stir the pasta with tongs until it has the sauce consistency you like (a little gloopy). Add more pasta water if needed. Adjust the seasoning and divide between bowls. Add more grated parmesan to finish.

Cooking in lockdown

I received a comment and a request on my Swedish blog, to write about my cooking now, in lockdown. Something I of course have addressed on my instagram accounts, which are more ‘in the moment’ than the blog.

Courgette quesadillas with soured cream and guacamole

I completely understand it might not be of interest for you readers to read my reviews of restaurants from before lockdown, that are now shut. But the reason I have carried on ‘as normal’ (or as normally as I can right now) is because I think those good restaurants that I didn’t have time to write about before lockdown need to be mentioned. My blogs don’t have a huge following, but they are read by a few of you and if I could have some influence on where you spend your money when all this is over of course I want to contribute to that. To cast a limelight on restaurants I really like, large or small. Regardless of what kind of backing some restaurants had before lockdown, I think all business owners are now in the same boat; worrying if they can bounce back. If they can afford to take this hit or if it’s better to throw in the towel.

But I hear you; that’s the past, and the present is strange and can be tricky to navigate, especially when you’re forced (more or less, depending on where you live), to cook more at home, to come up with new dishes, while maybe not having access to all the food items you’re used to.

I feel quite equipped for this, strangely. Maybe because I taught myself how to cook when I lived away from home for the first time (with a patient mamma at the end of the phone guiding me when I got stuck), or because I made sure I would enjoy cooking for one after a breakup when I was around thirty, or because I loathe throwing food away and get immense satisfaction out of using up every single little morsel leftover; be it a quarter of an onion, a small piece of chicken or a little hunk of cheese. I use them all up and have come up with some interesting lunches over the years. And maybe also, because I love to cook for other people.

You see, the first three weeks of lockdown I utilised all my cooking for one tips, as I was alone in London making sure I didn’t develop the virus. At this point it was hard for people to get food in general so I relied on my freezer stash, my ability of using up food and coming up with good substitutions and to buy food where the regular person wouldn’t shop. I felt this was a small thing for me to do, but could mean that somebody else (maybe a whole family) could access that delivery slot or those groceries, because frankly they needed it more than I did. I waited for Natoora, one of my favourite vegetable and delicatessen shops, to open up their restaurant slots to the general public and bought lovely things like British asparagus, burrata and dolce latte. This might seem extravagant in a crisis, but my thinking was that I get more satisfaction out of these more luxury food items than the average person, I can afford it, and I don’t eat very much and can therefore stretch the produce quite far if I need to. And I wanted to support a wonderful business that with restaurants closing had a huge excess of food they needed to sell. Which I, of course, was oh so happy to take off their hands.

So I ate very well those three weeks. But I didn’t eat much meat, because they don’t sell it (other than in delicatessen products), and I made sure to buy some flour (any flour!) so that if I couldn’t get a delivery slot at least I could make bread, pasta or pizza. I wanted to avoid shops as at this point they were still crowded which scared me!

A new creation using up leftover bolognese sauce

Then after those three weeks, feeling safe enough I didn’t carry any nasties with me, I went out to the countryside to join my boyfriend and his mother, who were in the midst of moving house. So I put on my apron and started cooking for them. Which was very different than cooking for just myself. But very helpful to both them and me. I have invented new dishes (so satisfying), come up with different ways to cook something because of a lack of ingredients (also very satisfying) and although the food look (and taste) great it’s not as glamorous as instagram suggests of course (check out my stories to see failed experiments, substitutions and lots of leftovers). Yes, all the leftovers get eaten!! Sometimes reimagined as something else and sometimes just reheated as they are.

So in the coming weeks I will try to share some helpful recipes where I’ve had to think differently, using what I’ve had to hand. Being in the countryside has proved a lot easier when it comes to food though. Two small local shops carry necessities like eggs, milk and bread. And one of them is a greengrocer too! The village farm sells eggs like they always do, and we have managed to get slots to pick up food from supermarkets (some far away, but we could get slots) and since Ocado opened up more slots a couple of weeks ago I have used them too. So I realise we’re very lucky. But I hope most of you are too. That if you can’t go out somebody can deliver to you or a neighbour could do the shopping for you.

PS. Moving house in lockdown was really hard work, so I haven’t been able to post very much, but I hope I will have more time in the coming weeks.

Recipe: Scrambled Eggs with Parmesan and Crispy Chorizo Crumbs

Sometimes I have breakfast quite late in the day. I’m not a morning person so sometimes I have my eggs in the afternoon and sometimes I have breakfast for supper, just because I like it.

In those cases I usually want the eggs to feel a little bit more special than my regular breakfast. I love scrambled eggs and toast but with the easy additions of grated parmesan (some in and some on top of the eggs), crispy chorizo crumbs and tomatoes this breakfast dish suddenly seems more appropriate as supper or a late lunch.

I like the crispy chorizo for flavour and texture and instead of thick slices I like these little nuggets in every mouthful, but you could of course go heavier on the chorizo if you prefer!

Scrambled eggs with parmesan and crispy chorizo crumbs, serves 1

2 eggs

5 tbsp cream

salt and peppar

1 tbsp butter

approx 3 tbsp grated parmesan

1 piece of cooking chorizo, 5-10 cm long

1 tbsp vegetable oil

To serve:

cherry tomatoes, halved

chives, chopped

buttered toast

Start by peeling the skin off the chorizo and chop it into tiny pieces. Heat up oil in a small frying pan on medium heat and fry the chorizo crumbs until crispy. Set aside while you make the eggs.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs and cream and season well (approx 1 tsp sea salt flakes and a good grinding of pepper). Heat up the butter in a non-stick frying pan on medium-low. Once the butter has melted pour in the eggs and push them around with a plastic spatula or whisk while they slowly thicken, once they look like a custard with bits in set aside (it cooks further in the hot pan). Stir half of the parmesan into the eggs and adjust the seasoning if needed. Heat up the chorizo crumbs if needed and plate up. Scatter the eggs with the remaining grated parmesan. Scatter with chives and add the chorizo crumbs and tomatoes and tuck in.