We may be more than 6500 miles from their homelands but many of the well-known British and French chefs are omnipresent in the streets and bookstores of Singapore. Not a day goes by without seeing the likes of Jamie Oliver’s face featured on the side of a bus. Can we talk about globalisation of celebrity chefs? I personally think so. Not that I would complain about it. Having travelled a little bit and now calling Singapore my home, I am always pleased to see familiar faces. It is reassuring to be reminded of what is happening back home. It feels as if, though I left them, England and France had never left me. Yes, seeing Jamie’s face or Nigella’s latest cookbook at my local bookstore is comforting to me. My new homeland is not so disimilar to my old one.
I have started to notice that my moods have a direct impact on my cooking style. What and how I cook are often influenced by the way I feel. Are you like this? Do your moods influence what’s cooking in your kitchen? A grey and cold day would have often made me in a mood for comfort and indulgence. Baking a cake would have soothed me. It may be warmer in Singapore than back home in Europe but a grey and stormy day acts in just the same way on me.
These are the reasons for making croque monsieur. It is comforting on a sad day. And what is more comforting than meeting up with good friends from back home after a long week to enjoy a simple supper and a great movie. The movie was in our case LCD Soundsystem’s recent documentary Shout up and play the hits and this was followed with a selection of wonderful cakes from Gontran Cherrier’s Tiong Bahru Bakery.
A croque monsieur is a simple and unpretentious dish. It is also very French, in a classical way. Bechamel (white) sauce is one of the many sauces codifyed in Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire (first published in 1903) and a symbol of classical French food. It is rich and makes use of basic larder ingredients. It is the type of sauce my grandmother and mother frequently cooked on a week night partly due to its comforting nature and its simplicity. And a croque monsieur is just that. It is a slice of “back home” that can be shared with friends. The perfect answer to one’s need for comforting food.
Recipe inspired by Felicity Cloake’s The Perfect Croque Monsieur
Makes 4 croque monsieur
100g butter, at room temperature
8 slices of white or wholemeal bread
2 tbsp plain flour, sifted
200ml whole milk
Nutmeg, grated to taste
160g Emmental, grated (Gruyere or even cheddar works well)
4 tbsp dijon mustard (or to taste)
4 slices of good ham
Pepper, to taste
Preheat the grill to medium-high. Melt the butter in a medium size saucepan and brush one side of each slice of bread with it. Place the buttered bread, butter-side uppermost under the grill until gold.
In the meantime, on a low heat make the béchamel by combining with a wooden spoon the remaining melted butter with the sifted floor. Once the mixture ressembles a paste, add in the milk a little at a time. Use a whisk to prevent lumps. Leave to simmer for a couple of minutes until thickened. If the sauce appears too thick (it will thicken even more at it cools down), add a little more milk. Add the grated nutmeg, pepper and a handful of grated cheese. Stir and keep aside.
Spread the un-toasted side of bread with mustard and follow with cheese, a slice of ham per croque monsieur and a teaspoon of béchamel. Place in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese starts to melt.
Cover with a top slice of bread, toasted side uppermost and spread the béchamel over. Place under the grill until bubbly and lightly brown. Serve immediately with a sharply dressed green salad.
Best enjoyed with friends or family.
Vous ne lisez pas la langue de Shakespeare mais salivez à l’idée de faire cette recette? Emailez moi avec le titre de la recette et dans les quelques jours qui suivront, magique, la recette vous sera traduite en français.