French Onion Soup

French onion soup is an incomparably delicious and heartwarming dish of minced onions and beef stock, toasted bread, and grated and grilled Gruyère cheese.

Its gastronomic roots are in the broths of Ancient Rome, prepared for the first time over 8,000 years ago. Throughout history, they were seen as food for poor people, as onions were plentiful and easy to grow. The modern version of this soup originates in Paris, France in the 18th century. Legend has it that the first French Onion Soup was created by King Louis the XV of France when all that could be found in the pantry of his hunting party’s lodge was butter, onions and champagne.

It is unclear if this story is myth of fact, but one thing is definitely true, French Onion Soup is an inviting and comforting dish, packed with flavour which has been enjoyed by many of us!

PRE: 15 minutes     COOK: 70 minutes     SERVES: 4

Ingredients:

  • 50g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 800gr onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 200ml dry white wine
  • 1.3l hot strongly-flavoured beef stock
  • 2 tbsp cognac
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 spring of fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 4  slices French baguette
  • 140g Gruyère, finely grated

Method:

Melt the butter with the oil in a large heavy-based pan. Add thinly sliced onions and fry with the lid on for 15 minutes until soft over a low to medium heat.

Sprinkle in the sugar and cook for 25 minutes more, stirring frequently, until caramelised. The onions should be really golden, full of flavour and soft. Take care towards the end to ensure that they don’t burn.

Add the garlic for the final few mins of the onions’ cooking time, then sprinkle in the flour, stir well  and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Increase the heat and keep stirring as you gradually add the wine, followed by the hot stock, bay leaves and thyme. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

To serve, turn on the grill, and toast the bread. Ladle the soup into bowls. Put a slice or two of toast on top of the bowls of soup, and pile on the cheese. Grill until melted.

(The trick to getting this soup right is that the onions caramelise – they must cook for at least 35-40 minutes over a low to moderate heat. Only when the onions are soft enough to crush easily between finger and thumb can you add the flour and stock).

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