French onion soup is a favourite in our home. I love to cook it almost anytime of the year, but as the season starts to turn golden with carpets of fallen leaves outside, it becomes the perfect time to take some comfort in this simple dish. You need time for this soup to reach its mellow, sweet richness. Purists will say 2½ hours, but I’m not that strict. Give yourself the most time you have, but remember that the onions need a slow, gentle frying and then cooking to unlock their full sweetness. This is really a stock-based soup traditionally made with beef stock, but whether your preference is beef to give you the richest version possible, chicken or vegetable – make sure it is the best you can get as it will form the flavour base. Try some Timothy & Clover liquid stock with your next order if you like! I will give you a rough recipe, but adapt it to your will, use what you enjoy. Quantities should in my opinion always be flexible to allow for what you have at hand and personal taste. Let us know how it turns out – if you loved it or had some problems. Have some fun and enjoy!
500g organic brown onions
2 cloves garlic (crushed or finely sliced)
Butter (as much as you can forgive yourself for! Seriously –at least about 4 Tbl)
1Tbl flour (I use cornflour but up to you)
1l stock of choice (Hot)
Generous glass of sherry (substitute with red/white wine, brandy, or if no alcohol try some Verjuice)
2 bay leaves (fresh if you have)
Couple of sprigs of thyme
A little nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste
Start by making sure you have peeled all the tough parts so you have beautiful onions to work with. Finely slice your onions into halfmoons. Melt the butter in a large pan or pot, add the organic onions and cook on a low heat for about 30mins to an hour if you can. Keep the lid on so they don’t dry out. If you don’t have the time, make sure you give them a good sweating until they are soft, tranclucent but turning caramelly and still wet. You want them to be a nice nut brown but you don’t want them to burn so watch them. The bottom of the pan will become crusty – you want that, it is full of flavour! About 10mins before you take the onions off, add the garlic and fry them until they are mellowed out.
Add the flour while still on the heat and work it through the onions. A word here – I use the flour sparingly rather than generously, but it is up to you, to me it is delicious even without it! Cook the flour off for a few minutes, then add your sherry or alternative and deglaze all that deliciousness from the pan, make sure you scrape off all bits with a wooden spoon and stir it all into the sherry. Let the alcohol cook off and when it is reduced by about half, add your hot stock. Add the bay, thyme and a touch of nutmeg if you are using. Turn up the heat until the soup begins to boil, then turn down to a very gentle simmer and leave without a lid for about an hour. Taste for seasoning during this time. If the soup reduces too much, top up with some boiling water. You want the end result to be rich and intense though so don’t add too much. Taste for seasoning!
If the weather is frosty like today I like to add a good old splodge of brandy before serving into warmed bowls.
I serve this topped with some toasted wheat-free baguette with Gruyere melted on top – Heaven!