Feeling French on ANZAC Day!

Croque Monsieur – Not ANZAC Biscuits – I’m so sorry!

I have written before about the best year of my life – 2004 – took off with my then 9 yr old daughter and travelled around Europe for 4 months and then settled in a small Greek village on the Island of Lefkas for the next 8 months (in the house in which my father was born) – can’t believe it’s been ten years!

It also occurred to me yesterday that this time ten years ago I was in Paris. We ate lots of mussels in a tomato and garlic sauce for lunch and the best croissants and Pain au Chocolat for breakfast- the most amazing butter and leeks and cheese and bread and eclairs and I could go on and on and on…but I won’t…

I don’t care what anyone thinks of France and the French – it will always be, along with Florence in Italy, the highlight of my my year away from Australia. I love Melbourne (it truly is beautiful, especially now in Autumn),  but I am so far away from the rest of the world and that has always been a sticking point for me and where I was born. I have a love/hate relationship with Australia.

So, yesterday was ANZAC Day here. Here’s a little history for those who don’t know:

What does ANZAC stand for?

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as Anzacs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day.

Why is this day special to Australians?

When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only 13 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.

Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the “Anzac legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.

What does it mean today?

Australians recognise 25 April as an occasion of national remembrance, which takes two forms. Commemorative services are held at dawn – the time of the original landing – across the nation. Later in the day, ex-servicemen and women meet to take part in marches through the major cities and in many smaller centres. Commemorative ceremonies are more formal and are held at war memorials around the country. In these ways, Anzac Day is a time when Australians reflect on the many different meanings of war.

The day ends, in Melbourne at least, with a football match at the MCG – Collingwood v Essendon (my team Collingwood won yesterday) – always nice to beat The Dons…

This, of corse has nothing to do with my lunch yesterday. I do make ANZAC biscuits early on ANZAC Day and watch the footy and have a pie with sauce at half time – every year – except this year!

I was most certainly torn this year as it was the 10th anniversary of us being in France. I feel that I have paid homage to The ANZACS by posting some history for you but now I need to pay homage to the glorified toasted ham and cheese sanga I had in Paris from the most incredible Patisserie I have ever been into.

Croque Monsieur – friggin ham and cheese and mustard and I was in love.

I’m sorry ANZACS – call me Un Australian but there were no ANZAC biscuits or meat pies yesterday, nor did I watch the game (even though I love it) – I just went French!

I invited my girlie friends over and we indulged in everything French, think cheese, butter, croissants, pain au chocolat – Hell, we even drank French Vodka! In fact, I only ever drink French Vodka now – ban on everything Russian – thanks for that little Putin!

Very unattractive Vicor! – hahahaha! (inside Aussie joke – sorry – no time to explain)

Here it is – in all its amazing glory:

Croque Monsieur (Ham and Cheese Sandwich)


2 – 3 Tbsp butter (I used French butter but you don’t have to – please DON’T use margarine – EVER!)
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
A pinch each of salt, freshly ground pepper, nutmeg, or more to taste
1 and a 1/2 cups Gruyère cheese, grated (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (packed)
8 slices of French or Italian loaf bread (we have a local French Patisserie so I used French)
loads of the best ham you can get your hands on, sliced
Dijon mustard ( mine was quite tangy and spicy – lovely)
1. Preheat oven to 200 C.

2. Make the béchamel sauce. Melt butter in a small saucepan on medium/low heat until it just starts to bubble. Add the flour and cook, stirring until smooth, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously, cooking until thick. Remove from heat. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the Parmesan and 1/4 cup of the grated Gruyère. Set aside.

3. Lay out the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, a few minutes each side, until lightly toasted. For extra flavor you can spread some butter on the bread slices before you toast them if you want.

4. Brush half of the toasted slices with mustard. Add the ham slices and about 1 cup of the remaining Gruyère cheese. Top with the other toasted bread slices.

5. Spoon on the béchamel sauce to the tops of the sandwiches. Sprinkle with the remaining Gruyère cheese. Place on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then turn on the griller (broiler?) for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, until the cheese topping is bubbly and lightly browned.

In all its amazing bubbly glory.

In all its amazing bubbly glory.

Just incredible - French dryly bread, French butter, cheese and the most amazing ham - did I mention how much I love béchamel sauce with nutmeg - too die for!

Just incredible – French style bread, French butter, cheese and the most amazing ham – did I mention how much I love béchamel sauce with nutmeg – too die for!