Around the world in 80 dishes No. 48: Croque Monsieur

Ingredients to serve 2
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10g butter
10g flour
150ml semi-skimmed milk
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
50g Gruyère, finely grated
Salt and pepper
2 large slices sourdough bread (such as Poilane)
2 thin slices ham


Let's face it: croque monsieurs are just naughty. There's no part of this quintessential French snack that is low-fat, from the bread to the cheese via the béchamel sauce. I have slimmed this delicious French double-decker down to the minimum amount of badness, without taking the Michel and changing its nature.This croque is a lot less fattening than the ones you would buy either in a restaurant or as a takeaway.

I've cut down the quantity of cheese by half, compared to the traditional French recipes I've come across, and I honestly don't think that you will miss the other 50g. As always, choose a really mature variety of cheese so that the flavour goes far.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Once it's frothy, beat in the flour with a sauce whisk. Let this mixture cook through for a minute or so, making sure always to keep the paste on the move.

Just before it starts to colour, take the mixture off the heat and add a third of the milk, whisking all the while.

Once all the milk is absorbed, add a little more milk and repeat the whisking until all the milk is used up. Simmer over low heat for 3–4 minutes, whisking constantly, until you have a uniform and thickened béchamel sauce.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the mustard and most of the Gruyère. Taste and season well, then spread half the mixture on to the bottom slice of bread. Top with the ham, then add a little more béchamel before putting the second slice of bread on top of that.

Finally, add the rest of the sauce and sprinkle with the remaining Gruyère.

Put in the oven for 10 minutes to cook through. Next, heat the grill and when the dish is cooked, put it under the hot grill until the top is golden and crispy. Serve with a sprightly salade verte.

Taken from The Skinny French Kitchen by Harry Eastwood (Bantam Press, £20).