Monday 21 October 2019

Sophie White: Little brunch of joy... Croque monsieur

A bundle of joy means Sophie White is in need of lots of cosseting and minding - sadly, she discovers that everyone is bored with your moaning by the third bump

Croque Monsieur
Croque Monsieur

Sophie White

A few months ago, a potent rage set in, which I presumed was a culmination of several low-grade irritants. We were in the middle of the fruit-fly hell-plague of 2019 in my neighbourhood.

Himself seemed intent on baiting them by leaving a veritable cornucopia of fruit lying in the wake of every chaotic breakfast, and no matter how many times I rage-cleaned, still the fruit flies prevailed.

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Himself eventually bought one of those sticky spiral flycatchers to hang in the kitchen which caught barely any flies - but did cheer me up somewhat, since Himself apparently couldn't pass within two feet of it without it sticking to his head. Yet even these petty victories couldn't completely cure me of my rage, and I seethed on, presuming that this was a tsunami of PMS and nothing more.

I have a long tradition of not realising that I am pregnant until embarrassingly late. The first baby was practically crowning before I copped what was afoot. Baby II was similarly subtle, but this current foetus is not gestating quietly, oh no.

What with the all-day sickness, I caught on pretty quickly that what I believed was PMS was, in fact, a much more serious issue. I have long dreamed of a child to join me in my devotion to musical theatre, and I am certain this one's the one. It appears to already have the high-drama persona of a stage child. I can just tell. Surely no shy, retiring child would torture me in this way.

The great thing about finding out you're with child late is that the pregnancy virtually flies by - not so when you're carrying a future contestant on Toddlers & Tiaras. At no point do these stage-foetuses let you forget for even a moment that they are there: they control your every culinary impulse (there was a croque monsieur mania with this one), plague you with all-day morning sickness, and essentially act like a parasite, with you as the host body.

It also doesn't help that by the time you're lugging around your third bump, nobody cares. They've zero time for your moaning. Pregnant first-timers are like minor celebrities - every day, some excited stranger in the street or at brunch asks me if it's my first, and when I respond, "No, my third", the enthusiasm visibly ebbs.

"Ahh, you'll have your hands full..." They turn away, disappointed at not being able to impart some cosy, life-affirming axiom along the lines of "Oh, it's the best thing you'll ever do". I'm not some glowing newbie all of a sudden, I'm the woman supplying sticky children to wreck a future brunch in their favourite restaurant.

Since I won't be brunching out any time soon and I'm tiring of the looks of concern I'm getting from the croque monsieur purveyors at the Maxol deli counter, I'm making my own lazy cheat version at home on the weekends.


Croque Monsieur

Serves 2

To make the sauce, you will need:

100g ricotta

100g creme fraiche

1 egg

20g Parmesan, grated

Pinch of nutmeg (optional)


You will also need:

4 slices of good sourdough,


A little Dijon mustard

4-6 slices of cooked ham

100g Gruyere cheese, grated


1 Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6. To make the sauce, put the ricotta, the creme fraiche and the egg in a bowl. Whisk together thoroughly, then stir in the grated Parmesan and the pinch of nutmeg, if you are using it. Set the sauce aside.

2 Place the slices of sourdough bread on an oven tray, butter-side-up, and toast them until they are golden, then take the tray out of the oven, flip each slice and spread with the Dijon mustard. Put the cooked ham on two of the slices of bread, then top the ham with some of the sauce you set aside earlier. Top this with most of the grated Gruyere, then place the remaining slices on top to make two sandwiches. Spread each croque monsieur with a little more sauce, then finish with the remainder of the grated Gruyere.

3 Return the sandwiches to the oven and bake them for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbling.

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