For me, soup is the ultimate comfort food. Its like a big, warm hug from the inside. One of my favourite soups is French onion. I remember having this for the first time when I was 13 years old and in Paris with my mum. It was cold outside and we were taking refuge inside a beautiful little bistro. I kept seeing these steaming bowls of soup topped with melted cheese coming out of the kitchen and I just had to order one. Soon enough, my very own bowl was placed down in front of me and it was heavenly. Sweet, caramelised onions, deep rich broth and bubbling creamy cheese…divine. Needless to say, I burnt my tongue eating it, which I still do to this day. Every single time.
So yesterday I decided that I needed something to make me feel better and all I needed was onions and some beef stock. Easy! Oh yeah and some Gruyère. I used the wonderful Nigel Slater’s recipe as a guide and it gave me a chance to try out the mandoline I got for Christmas.
This recipe serves 4-6
700g/1lb 8oz onions* (smaller ones have more flavour and red onions are sweeter)
2 tbsp flour
1.75 litres/7.4 cups or 1.84 quarts beef stock (I used Knorr stock pots)
1/2 glass of white wine
Baguette to toast
Gruyère or Emmenthal
Peel and thinly slice 700g onions, then leave them to soften in 40g butter and a small glug of olive oil over a low to medium heat.
*There is a big difference between 700g unpeeled and 700g peeled. Once mine had been peeled I re-weighed them and they came to 560g so I added another onion to bring it back up to 700g. I’m not sure if Nigel meant 700g before or after peeling but the end result was perfect so I’d maybe go for 800/850g unpeeled)
700g is a lot of onions when raw so I softened a couple of handfuls first, then added a couple more handfuls and so on. They do reduce down very quickly though.
Stir them regularly. They are ready when they are soft, sticky, sweet and deep gold in colour. This takes about 45 minutes. Add a pinch of sugar at this point to help the onions caramelise. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of flour and cook for 3 or 4 minutes.
Then pour in the boiling beef stock and the half glass of white wine.
Partially cover with a lid and leave to simmer for about 45-60 minutes.
Season liberally, then ladle into deep, heatproof bowls.
Place as many slices of toasted baguette as you can manage on the top, then top with grated Gruyère or Emmenthal.
Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes or grill/broiler until the bread is toasted and the cheese has melted but not browned. I couldn’t wait another 20 minutes so I just stuck it under the grill and it was ready in a matter of minutes.
And there you have it, a beautiful, comforting soup which is so easy to make, anyone could do it. It takes a little time but its so worth it.
Another bonus about this soup is how cheap it is to make. If you don’t include the cheese, it will cost you under £5 to make a batch this size. I used 7 smallish onions and Knorr beef stock pots.
Also, if you don’t include the cheese, it is also very low fat!
TIP: This soup tastes even better the day after making it, if you can wait that long.
If you love making soups, try my recipe for Roasted Butternut & Sweet Potato Soup.