ZULU CROQUE MADAME
This is the queen of all ham and cheese toasties with creamy béchamel, ham off the bone, spicy peri peri and topped with a fried egg. A classic French dish with an African twist.
Trust me, if you nail this recipe and whip it out for guests you will forever be remembered as an absolute legend of a human. This famous French dish is a staple of French cuisine. I believe it’s been around for more than 100 years for a reason, so why not be brave and impress your friends and family.
Did you know? A Croque Madame is just a Croque Monsieur with a poached or fried egg on top. The subtle difference between the two iconic sandwiches is simply how the egg is incorporated into the dish. In a Croque Monsieur, the bread is dipped into the beaten egg before it's cooked like French toast. In a Croque Madame, however, you omit the soaking in egg and instead the egg is either fried or poached and then placed on top of the grilled sandwich. Croque pronounced “croc” is French for “to bite or crunch” and Madame is pretty self-explanatoryself-explanatory.
The first time I had this dish was in a café in Paris. I had just come from visiting the enormous tomb of the emperor Napoleon and had worked up quite an appetite; this being my third time to Paris I knew not to head to an overpriced tourist cafe as I had been disappointed in the past with the lack of attention to detail of the food and had paid heavily for the privilege. Surprisingly, Paris has quite a lot of rubbish as the French tend to just throw it on the streets rather than go to the trouble of putting it in the bin which, to be fair, can be quite hard to find. This is often the sure sign of a local district different from the polished tourist locations.
The smell of fresh roasted coffee and cigarettes and the presence of locals sitting at the few tables lined along the footpath drew me in. A drizzle has just begun and as I enter, I am greeted by a burly Frenchman with dark bags under his bright green eyes. He is leaning on the taps for beer that is iconic of a local Parisian café and on his thick forearms is a large anchor tattoo that reminds me of Popeye the sailor. He is garbed in a perfectly clean white T-shirt and quips in French “Talk to me”. “A table for one, please” I reply slowly in my very bad French. His demeanour changes instantly and nods his head in approval at my attempt at French, then proceeds to come round from the bar and wipes a table down vigorously, exposing an impressive triceps.
Immediately he starts up a conversation. “Where you from?” he asks. “Australia” I reply. He smiles for the first time, revealing a perfectly straight set of pearly whites and with childlike delight says “Kangaroo! My dream is to sail there in my boat.” “Where are you from?” I ask. “Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a small port city in the south near the border with Spain. I’m working three jobs to save enough for repairs before I sail to Sardaigne in a few months for the summer.” “Super cool,” I reply. “Can I get you a menu?” he says. “Do you have “Croque Madame?” “Best in Paris,” he declares. “And to drink?” “A Kro please,” I say (which is slang for Kronenbourg). “1164 or 1664?” he replies. “1164,” I say much to his approval. With that, he heads out the back and returns with a steaming hot Croque Madame with a perfectly fried egg on top and a cold glass of Kronenbourg 1164. “Bon appétit!" he proclaims with pride.
Chef Dylan Tip: Heat the milk when making the béchamel and don’t overcook the roux. It should smell like cookies.
PREP TIME: 12 mins
COOKING TIME: 5-7 mins
5 tbsps unsalted butter
3 tbsps plain flour
2 cups hot milk
8 tbs SHAKA ZULU peri peri sauce
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
8 slices white bread
250g sliced ham
4 large eggs
1. Melt 3 tbs butter in a small saucepan over low heat, add flour and stir constantly.
2. Cook roux for 2-3 minutes.
3. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
4. Reduce heat and add 1/3 cup cheese.
5. Stir until cheese is melted.
1. Drizzle 2 tbs of SHAKA ZULU Peri Peri sauce evenly over each of 4 slices of bread, then sprinkle with remaining cheese. Top with ham, then close sandwich.
2. Lightly oil a 15 by 10-inch shallow baking pan.
3. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a non-stick frypan on low heat then cook sandwiches, turning over once, until golden (3 to 4 minutes total). Remove from heat and transfer sandwiches to baking pan, then wipe out frypan with a paper towel.
4. Pre-heat grill.
5. Top each sandwich with 1/3 cup sauce, spreading evenly. Grill sandwiches until sauce is bubbling and golden in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the grill and transfer pan to lower third of oven to keep sandwiches warm.
6. Heat remaining tablespoon of butter in the frypan over medium heat until foam subsides, then crack eggs into frypan and season with salt and pepper. Fry eggs, covered with the lid, until whites are just set and yolks are still runny (about 3 minutes).
Top each sandwich with a fried egg and serve immediately. Et voilà!