French Onion Soup

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I love soup and as it’s getting a bit chilly here in the southern hemisphere soup is perfect for a cold night in front of the fire and tv.

This onion soup recipe comes from the May 2004 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller and was the recipe accompanying the Masterclass piece on hard cheeses. This means that the original recipe specifies Gruy√®re but I couldn’t find this in our local shop so I substituted a mix of cheddar and mozzarella (both of which I had hanging around in the fridge). I also only made up a half quantity – and I just can’t imagine how tedious the onion chopping would be to make more!!!

Begin by heating olive oil and butter in a heavy based pan and then add 500g of very thinly sliced onions. It’s really important to slice the onions thinly – absolutely as thinly as you can!!! Turn the heat to low, cover the onions and cook, stirring every now and then for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes is up, remove the lid and cook for a further hour or so, until the onions are golden. You’ll need to stir frequently (but you don’t have to hover). This part is really important – cooking the onions for a long time gives not only great depth of flavour but also imparts a lovely colour to the finished product.

Once the onions are golden, add ½ tbsp of plain flour. Stir this in well and cook for about 4 minutes. This is also important because you don’t want your soup to taste of plain flour! (The same thing goes if you are making a white sauce – always cook the flour out). Next, add 75mL of dry cider and simmer until this has nearly evaporated. Then add 750mL of stock, a bay leaf and some thyme and simmer for about 15 minutes. Finish with a splash of Cognac or brandy and season to taste.

All of this can be done well in advance – and the more in advance the better. I thought the soup tasted a lot richer and complex the following day.

To finish (or to serve), grill slices of bread on one side (I did this in a griddle pan – no oil required, just head) and rub the toasted side with a cut clove of garlic. Put your hot soup in to bowls and arrange the bread, toasted side down, on each bowl, covering the soup. Finish by putting as much grated cheese as you want over the bread and popping the bowls under the grill (or in a hot oven – though you’re likely to need to finish off under the grill anyway) until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.

It does rather look like it might give you a heart attack but it doesn’t (yet, at least) and it will definitely make you feel very warm and cosy!

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