Jenny Chandler’s take on the classic rich, savoury soup
The depth and richness of this soup is all down to the long, slow caramelisation of the onions. It’s worth waiting until they become intensely golden, almost copper-y; this frugal dish can taste sublime.
I’d always double, or even triple, the quantity of onions, filling the fridge or freezer with more delicious opportunities (see my piece on batch cooking).
Top the soup with croutons of crusty baguette and the best gruyere-style cheese that you can buy—there are some fabulous varieties in the Market.
1kg onions, preferably large Spanish onions
1 heaped tbsp flour
250ml dry white wine
1½ litres of beef, chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
Balsamic vinegar, to taste (optional)
Brown sugar, to taste (optional)
Baguette, cut into 12 thin slices
150g gruyere or similar cheese, grated
Slice the onions finely—don’t worry if you have a mountain, they will collapse and reduce once you begin to cook them. Melt the butter in a large sauté or frying pan and add the onions, along with a good pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper.
Cook the onion gently, stirring regularly, for anything between 45 mins and 1 hour (larger quantities will take a little longer). The onions will collapse and become almost creamy—the idea is to caramelise but never burn them. The colour and savoury depth of the soup is all down to patience here, so do allow the flesh to become a really deep gold.
Add the flour to the pan and stir it into the onions, cooking it for 2 mins. Slowly pour in the wine, stirring all the time, and allow the pan to come up to the boil. Tip in the stock—I love the richness of a good beef stock, but that’s up to you. Add the herbs and simmer for about 15 mins. Balance the soup with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and even a little sugar.
Place slices of baguette on an oven tray and top with the grated cheese. Grill the croutons for 2 mins, until the cheese is melting and bubbly. Serve the hot soup in bowls, topped with a pair of croutons.
Recipe: Jenny Chandler