Thursday, 23 June 2016

Come and Eat a Croque-Monsieur with Helena Fairfax

What could be better than sitting at a terrace in Paris, watching people go by whilst taking in the city's beautiful architecture, and enjoying a Croque-monsieur and a 'diabolo citron' (lemonade and lemon cordial) or 'Vichy Fraise' (strawberry cordial and mineral water) - my two favourite café drinks.

We may not be in Paris but we can still enjoy this delicious snack, thanks to Helena Fairfax, another of the nine authors of the anthology LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES I have been featuring in my recipe blogs every week! Helena's story is set in Paris, and her hero is a gorgeous chef...

As if that wasn't tempting enough, to celebrate the forthcoming release of our anthology, we are giving away this lovely pair of earrings which are perfect for summer. All you have to do is leave a comment before midnight on Sunday 26th June to be entered in the draw.


Makes 2

50g (1 1/2 oz) butter
4 slices of white bread, crusts cut off
1 tbsp plain flour
100ml (1/2 cup) milk
80g (3oz) Gruyère cheese, grated (or Emmental, or Mozarella, if preferred)
Nutmeg, to grate
2 tbsp French mustard
2 slices best ham

Salt and pepper

1. Heat your grill to medium-high. Line the grill pan with silver foil.

2. Put the butter in a pan over a medium-low heat to melt it.

3. Brush one side of each slice of bread liberally with melted butter and put under the grill butter-side uppermost. Grill until golden and crisp, then set aside.
4. Stir the flour into the remaining butter to make a paste. Cook for a minute, then gradually whisk in the milk, a little at a time, until smooth. Simmer for a few minutes, until thickened, then take off the heat and stir in half the cheese until melted. Grate in a little nutmeg, stir and season lightly with salt and pepper.

3. Spread the untoasted sides of the bread with mustard. Put the ham on top, followed by the cheese, and put back under the grill for a couple of minutes until the cheese has melted.

4. Remove from the grill. Put the other slice of bread on top, toasted side uppermost, and push down, then put the sandwiches on to the grill tray and top with the cheese sauce. Grill for about 5 minutes, until golden and bubbling, and serve immediately.

Thank you for this delicious recipe, Helena. What can you tell us about your story?

Come Date Me in Paris is the story of a young Englishwoman called Alice who moves to France to work for a famous fashion magazine. In the country that gave the world haute cuisine, Alice is one of the few people who can't cook. When Alice ends up on a TV blind date show that involves cooking a special meal for your date, she is forced to ask her chef neighbour, Edmond, to give her some cooking lessons.

My story was great fun to write, especially adding the flavour of Paris - with the recipes, with Alice's flair for Parisian style, and with the fabulous scenery. Everyone knows the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame,  and the lovely green park at the Bois de Boulogne is also familiar to many - but not many foreign visitors to Paris have heard of its second biggest greenspace, the beautiful Bois de Vincennes. I wrote a scene for Alice and Edmond in which they escape the heat of the city and take a picnic by the lake in the Bois de Vincennes. Perhaps it's because I'm a country girl at heart that I enjoyed taking my hero and heroine to this oasis of green and water in the bustling city.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Paris, the Bois de Vincennes is a amazing place to go. It has a zoo, a lake, a floral park, mini-golf, plenty of wildlife, a bird reserve - and, since this is France, it even has its own medieval chateau! I'd defy anyone not to start falling in love in such a wonderful setting.
Come Date Me in Paris has several recipes as part of the story. For Marie's blog I've chosen a recipe for a typical French snack called croque-monsieur. It's one of the favourite items on the café menu for we British visitors to Paris :) It's a simple recipe and just perfect for Sunday lunch. At home in England I'd make a pot of tea to have with it, but in France a cup of coffee or maybe an Orangina would be lovely.

I hope you enjoy my weekend recipe. I'm very much looking forward to release of our Letterbox Love Stories anthology. Thanks so much for having me today, Marie. I've been enjoying your recipe posts very much!

You are welcome, Helena! Bon appétit!
And don't forget to hop on to Helena's blog where I gave her my recipe for a quick and easy Cherry Clafoutis. Don't forget to leave a comment to have the chance to win a pair of earrings.


  1. Thanks for hosting me, Marie. It's so hot today I'd just love a Vichy Fraise!

    1. I love French cordials (or 'sirops'). They always taste delicious!

  2. I'd forgotten how much I love a good Croque Monsieur! All this talk about delicious French recipes is making me miss the flavors of France. It's been way too many years since I was there...

  3. They are delicious, aren't they? We also have 'croquet madame' and 'croquet demoiselle'! I might put the recipes on the blog one day! Thank you for visiting, Gemma.

  4. I really hate this automatic spell check! I wanted to write 'Croque Madame' and 'Croque Demoiselle', of course!

  5. Thanks for dropping in, Gemma! I hope you give the recipe a try and that it brings back happy memories :)

  6. I've tried a croque madame, Marie, but I've never heard of a croque demoiselle. I'd love to know the recipe if you have time to post it one day.

    1. There different versions of Croque Demoiselle, Helena. There are some with Brie cheese and ham, others with cheese and anchovies, and others, like my mother used to make just with ham! (so it would have less calories).

    2. Cheese and anchovies sounds good. I absolutely love anchovies!

  7. I very much enjoyed the post. I wish I could enter too but I live in the US.

    1. Thank you so much for visiting. Don't worry, you can enter the draw wherever you live!

    2. Congratulations PAILOFPEARLS. You have won the earrings! Please email me your address at

  8. Wow! This sounds so similar to a grilled ham and cheese yet quite different. And this type of thing must be a staple throughout Europe because we could almost get the same thing, slightly different method of cooking and cheese, in Vienna.

    Thanks for sharing, Helena!


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