I have a glut of onions and what better way to use them up, other than to give them centre stage in French Onion Soup. What makes the French version different to all others? I think it is the caramelised onions, the addition of the gratinated Gruyere toasts and the use of only beef stock, traditionally ox-tail. This of course is where this soup would get very time consuming, so I suggest you cheat. Look out for a good quality ox-tail or beef consommé or failing this, good quality stock cubes will do. Dalesford do an organic beef stock, (although you will have to strain it) and Kello do the best organic stock cubes. If your soup lacks body, try adding a teaspoon or two of Worcester sauce.
This soup is perfect for those days when there is a hint of Autumn in the air, filling enough to make a meal and even might make you just a little bit glad that winter is on its way.
French Onion Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1kg onion, halved, peeled and thinly sliced
Small bunch of thyme, tightly tied with a piece of string
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic clove, thinly sliced
250ml dry white or red wine
2 litters beef consommé or stock
4-8 slices French bread (depending on size)
140g Gruyère, finely grated
Melt the butter with the oil in a large heavy-based pan. Add the onions and thyme bundle and fry with the lid on for 15 minutes until soft. Sprinkle in the sugar, salt and pepper and cook for 20 minutes more, stirring frequently, until caramelised. The onions should be really golden, full of flavour and soft when pinched between your fingers. Take care towards the end to ensure that they don’t burn. Add the garlic for the final few minutes of the onions’ cooking time. Increase the heat and keep stirring as you gradually add the wine, followed by the hot stock. Cover and simmer for 15-20 mins. Remove the thyme.
To serve, turn on the grill, and toast the bread. Ladle the soup into heatproof bowls. Put a slice or two of toast on top of the bowls of soup, and pile on the cheese. Grill until melted. Alternatively, you can complete the toasts under the grill, then serve them on top of the hot soup.