French onion soup

Peter Flynn

We never had this at home: my father was not a fan of onions, and despite my mother's love of French cooking, this was a step too far. So when I encountered it for the first time I fell in love with it, and I hope you will too.

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Serves 4. Heat your (fan) oven to 180°C. Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 40 minutes.


Ingredients

  • 500 g white onions | finely sliced [‘Johny Oignon’ from Roscoff are the best, but can be hard to find]
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 100 ml rapeseed oil
  • 4 cloves garlic | finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 100 ml white wine
  • 1 ℓ strong beef stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs

Method

  1. Peel the onion and slice them very thin (a slicer attachment on a food processor saves a lot of time).

  2. Melt the butter and oil in your biggest saucepan (omit the butter and double the oil for an animal-free version).

  3. Tip the onion into the pan and mix thoroughly.

  4. Cook the onion on medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes. They need to go translucent and soft, and start caramelising, but not as much as you would do for other dishes with onion, because of the quantity.

  5. When the onion are all soft and starting to colour, add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  6. Stir in the flour and make sure it’s well mixed.

  7. Add the wine and stir to a gentle boil.

  8. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil.

  9. Add the herbs and reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer for about 20 minutes.


Serving

  • Traditionally this was served in little white fireproof tureens topped with a circular slice of toast that had been buttered thinly but carefully on the bottom and edges to make it waterproof for a minute or so, and coated with grated cheese and grilled to make it bubble. But you can enjoy it any way you wish, with or without bread and grated cheese. A glass of red wine goes down well any time, though.


Really strong stock can be hard to get and needs lots of boiling to make it yourself. But you can use a couple of stock cubes and add a tablespoon of Bovril or equivalent (or Marmite/Vegemite for a non-meat version)


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