Saturday, 20 August 2011

French Onion Soup

Before I get down to the serious business of soup, I thought you might like to see a picture of some of our gorgeous homegrown onions which are currently loitering in the shed and drying out nicely. It’s given the shed quite an exotic feel, I think! Considering the strange weather we’ve had this summer I think they did rather well.

This soup is one of those things that I used to make quite regularly in my pre-veggie days. The early veggie versions I made weren’t very good, though, to be honest; I think I was trying to recreate a taste instead of trying to make something which was just as good but different. I didn’t make it at all for some years, by which time I was ready to embrace the new flavours rather than remember the old. After much tweaking and fiddling this is the result.

Couple of points to note:

1. The cheese for the croutes should really be Gruyere but vegetarian Gruyere seems to be as rare as hen’s teeth so I used some good Cheddar instead.

2. You’ll have seen that I didn’t put the cheesy croute in the bowl with the soup; this is because I have a complete horror of soggy bread! Just the thought of it makes my skin crawl, so I have my croutes on the side of the plate where they stay well away from any potential sog!

750g onions, peeled and thinly sliced
25g butter
½ tsp soft dark brown sugar
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp plain flour
1l stock
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
50ml red wine
½ tsp Marmite

2 thick slices of French bread per person
as much grated cheese as you like
a sprinkle of dried thyme

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over a highish heat, when it’s foaming add the onions; turn the heat down to medium and cook the onions until very soft and golden brown, turning frequently. Mine took about 35 minutes.

Add the sugar, thyme and flour, stir well, then add the stock, balsamic and wine; stir well and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to the merest simmer, put the lid on and leave to cook for 25 minutes then add the Marmite and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Five minutes before the soup is ready toast the bread on both sides; cover one side with grated cheese and a sprinkle of dried thyme and put under a hot grill until melted and bubbling. Serve the cheesy croutes with the soup, either alongside on floating on the soup if you prefer.

Serves 4 generously

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