A deeply comforting yet thrifty dish. Take time to caramelise the onions, building up a mahogany marmalade to colour and flavour the broth.
French onion soup
- Preparation time: 15 minutes
- Cooking time: 95 minutes
- Total time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Serves: Serves 2 as a starter
• 50g unsalted butter
• 1kg onions, cut into 0.5cm half-moons
• 8 thyme sprigs
• 4 bay leaves
• 2 tbsp plain flour
• 250ml dry cider (or white wine)
• 6 tbsp cognac (or other French brandy)
• 1 tbsp cider vinegar
• 500ml fresh beef stock
• 4 slices baguette, about 1.5cm thick
• 1 garlic clove, halved
• 75 comté or gruyère cheese, grated
• 1 tbsp finely chopped chives
1. Melt the butter in a saucepan; add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook over a low-medium heat for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring and scraping the pan base often, for 50-55 minutes, until the onions are sticky and deep brown; if they start to catch, add 1-2 tbsp water and scrape up any brown bits.
2. Tie the herbs tightly together with kitchen string and add to the pan, along with the flour. Stir for 2-3 minutes to cook out the flour, then turn up the heat. Add the cider (or wine), brandy and vinegar; As it bubbles, scrape the pan base until the liquid thickens. Stir in the stock, season and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes until thickened slightly; season again.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to high. On a baking tray, toast the baguette slices for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown. Flip and grill for 1-2 minutes more. Rub each with the cut side of the garlic; set aside.
4. To serve, divide the soup into bowls and place on the baking tray. Top each bowl with the toasts, scatter over the cheese and grill until golden. Serve piping hot, with the chives scattered on top.