My lazy kitchen: Croque monsieur bake

When it comes to cooking, I tend to be pretty lazy. Maybe not pierce-the-film lazy, but if I’m attempting a really complicated recipe with lots of steps and pots bubbling on the stove at the same time, chances are I will give up and just have some toast instead.

Don’t get me wrong, making something from scratch is a beautiful, beautiful thing. I’ve made bread before and once it was ready I almost considered taking a picture to keep in my wallet. It’s satisfying and humbling. At the same time, it takes hours – and my arms were still sore a week later.

There is a beauty to lazy cooking, too. It’s a little sloppy but simple in a wondeful way. I love roughly chopping vegetables and dicing beef and just abandoning them in a slow-cooker, drowned in glossy stock and red wine, only to come back at the end of the day to the perfect stew. Lazy dishes aren’t always quick – they are about minimal effort and tasty, satisfying results.

This Croque Monsieur bake is inspired by this Nigella recipe, although I tweaked it quite a bit. It’s basically a savoury bread and butter pudding with cheese and ham and everything nice. It’s super easy to make and perfect for brunch or lazy Sundays – the sort of thing where you simply lug the dish to the bed and eat it absent-mindedly while making plans for the day.

I used different cheese to Nigella – Gouda for the sandwiches and Roman Pecorino to grate on top. Pecorino is sharp and instense and lovely and it cuts through the buttery, nutty Gouda wonderfully, but this would be nice with mature cheddar or gruyere. I also used Henderson’s sauce instead of Worcestershire –  a good option if you want to skip the ham out and make this a vegetarian dish. Henderson’s pretty hard to find if you don’t live in Yorkishire, but hey, Amazon is your friend.

Croque Monsieur Bake

Croque Monsieur Bake


  • slices ready-sliced brown bread
  • dijon mustard, to taste
  • slices Gouda cheese
  • slices smoked ham
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon maldon salt (or ½ teaspoon table salt)
  • 80 ml full fat milk
  • 4 tablespoons grated Pecorino cheese
  • sprinkling of Henderson’s sauce

Spread each slice of bread with mustard, then make a sandwich with one slice of ham and two slices of cheese. Cut each sandwich in two triangles and nestle them into an ovenproof dish.

Beat together the eggs, salt and milk and then pour the creamy mix over the sandwiches.

Cover the dish with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight.

The following morning, preheat the oven to 200°C. Take the dish out of the fridge, remove the clingfilm, add Henderson’s sauce and grated cheese and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

Once it’s all golden, crispy and gooey, eat. Lovely with a cup of strong tea.

(I think this would work wonderfully as Croque Madame, too; just fry an egg and place it on top of the sandwiches before serving).


Cheap eats in London

You can read this in Italian here

I don’t know London that well, but I do have a list of places I absolutely love and keep recommending to everyone I know – because I can be a bit obsessive with restaurants I like, or TV series I like, or books, or everything I like, really. And I won’t stop until everyone I know has seen Community or eaten at Wahaca. Sorry about that.





This place is genius. Just genius. It’s a chain (I know) but the food is fresh, vibrant and delicious. It’s Mexican market food with a British twist (see the winter vegetable burrito), so it may not the most authentic restaurant, but I could eat here every day and never get tired. I could write love poems to their hearty pulled pork burrito, perfect after a creamy, zingy guacamole. Taquitos are another of my favourites – little clever, crispy things smothered in fresh lettuce and aggressively salty feta cheese, filled with the most tender chicken you can think of. And their cocktails. Try the passion fruit margarita and you’ll never want to leave.

E. Mono, Kentish Town

No photo of this – I was eating it in the middle of the street while holding three shopping bags in the other hand. It wouldn’t photograph pretty anyway, but it is a beautiful thing. I don’t tend to love ‘British kebabs’: that pile of greasy meat on top of chewy, soggy flatbread; the withered, lifeless lettuce pushed to the corner of the yellow foam container, the pickled green chilli still oozing vinegar… Don’t get me wrong, they’re brilliant when you’re a bit tipsy – but then, what isn’t?

This is more similar to some of the kebabs you’ll find in Germany, or even Italy: durum kebab, a wrap. The meat is fatty and sweet, the vegetables fresh and juicy, the chilli sauce is garlicky and packs a punch, and the portions are massive. Best thing about it? Super cheap. It’s no Mustafa*, but at least I didn’t have to queue for it.

Kerbisher & Malt

IMG_20140131_215923Good news, everyone: chippies are cool again. Have you noticed these trendy, snazzy fish&chips shops popping up everywhere? Minimal interiors, white walls, long wooden tables you may have to share with a family tucking into their boxes of whitebait. Kerbisher & Malt is exactly that – plus delicious, crispy, tender fried fish. The batter is flaky and airy and the chips are to die for.

Santa Maria

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If you were to combine every single stereotype about Italy, you’d get something similar to this place. Small, chaotic, loud, no reservations allowed, an image of the Virgin Mary painted on the wall, pizzas named after saints and thick accents. Their pizza, however, is absolutely incredible. If you’re hungry go for the calzone – a folded pizza, which has some extra tomato sauce and cheese on top (I’ve never seen this in Italy, but it might just be a southern thing…).

Herman ze German

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Currywurst in London. Need I say more? This place is funny, the meat is delicious and as spicy as you want it to be. Perfect if you’re in need of a German fix – they even have fritz-kola!

* I want to share the tale of Mustafa, supposedly the best kebab in Berlin, to show my commitment to food. The first time I went it was 4 pm and I wanted to have lunch number two (which is, or should be anyway, a meal). I queued in the freezing cold for forty minutes and by the time I got my steamy doner I couldn’t feel my hands – but it was worth it. Juicy chargrilled vegetables, a squeeze of lemon juice and salty feta, just perfect. The second time I went it was 10 pm and we had to wait for an hour. After twenty minutes they had to change the meat and told us it’d take, erm, forty minutes. We waited. It was delicious.

Then I went again, this time at 8 pm. After queueing for an hour and a half we were told they had to change the meat. At this point I was so hungry I considered eating my date, so I opted for a vegetarian doner, and it was way too salty. I ate it in the hall of a random building, by the entrance to a dodgy Chinese karaoke place, and decided I would never go back.

Moral of the story: life’s too short to queue for a kebab. Just go to E. Mono.