Sunday, 8 March 2009

Souper Sunday - French Onion Edition

I was planning to start Souper Sunday with a different recipe, but when I was at the market yesterday there were the most awe inspiringly large onions that I quickly changed my mind.

Large shiny brown asteroids of goodness that practically begged to be made into soup - and just about put my back out as I loaded them in to the trolley.

Onions ARE the bane of my cooking existence to peel and slice - so for this recipe if you only have to prep 4 big ones it seems a lot less tedious and hard on the eyes.

In fact as I sat on the couch and watched TV whilst Jms peeled and chopped them, my eyes hardly hurt at all.

This recipe is dead easy - but does benefit from a slow food attitude. Good caramelisation, with an absence of burnt pots, requires an abundance of time, low heat and a steady hand.

Whoever called it stainless steel lied.

French Onion Soup

1.5 kg - 2 kg large brown onions (approx 4 very big ones)
Olive Oil
Generous knob of butter
Heaped teaspoon cornflour
1/4 - 1/2 cup white wine (or verjuice, tho' quite sweet)
1 litre beef or vegetable stock (I use the Massel "beef style" stock cubes which ticks both the lazy cook and vegetarian boxes)
1 litre water
Black pepper

Baguette or other nice crusty bread
Gruyere cheese (or anything floating a round in the fridge with a bit of flavour)

Peel, halve and slice the onions.

Melt a generous slosh of olive oil with butter in a heavy based, large saucepan or stock pot. Add onions and stir to coat well. Lower heat, cover and let sweat, stirring occasionally.

When translucent (15 - 20 mins), remove lid, raise the heat a little and caramelise, stirring often (you want the onions to be a nice honey brown - but with no charred bits). This can take a little while - and is really the only part of this soup that requires a little attentiveness, especially towards the end. Like risotto - don't let yourself be distracted by the teev or there will be a (stinky) charred disaster. Though a few darker flecks can be tolerated in my experience.

Eventually everything will start to catch and hopefully get some serious colour - which is when you want to deglaze the pot by adding the wine. But don't lean over the pot unless you want to be temporarily blinded and instantly intoxicated.

Allow the alcohol to steam off , then slowly stir in the stock/water. Add some extra water if you want your soup a little thinner.

Mix the cornflour with a little water to make a runny paste and add to the soup. You can leave this bit out if you prefer a clear broth type soup - but I do it because I think it gives it a slightly heartier, fuller mouth feel.

Simmer for 30 minutes. Generously season with pepper and add salt if desired.

Slice baguette into rounds on the angle, and grill with a slice or two of cheese on top.

To serve, place a piece of bread or two in each bowl and ladle the hot soup over the top.

Bon app├ętit!

Ps. In French the expression "Ce n'est pas tes oignons" (literally translated as "It's not your onions") means it is none of your business. So there.

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