French onion soup

French onion soup without a crouton or cheese

Sitting in airport hotels as a child, excited about the impending hours in the air. On family holidays to the Dordogne, days in the car, followed by weeks in the sun. In posh London restaurants for a special occasion. The eighties for me was full of French onion soup.

And then it just disappeared. Did I stop eating it, stop noticing it? Or was it just considered untrendy and old fashioned? Whatever happened, it’s only recently I’ve begun to rediscover it. The first taste brought memories of those airports, restaurants and rustic French tables rushing back. It was pure warm nostalgia.

For someone who really isn’t particularly nostalgic by nature, this was a strangely powerful feeling. Like a delicious blanket around the brain. And once I had rediscovered it I had to try making it for myself.

So, I scanned recipes, asked friends, googled it to death. Was it really so easy? The answer, it seems, is yes. Once you get past the chopping and the cooking time, it’s simplicity itself to make this soup.

A pile of chopped onions
A pile of chopped onions

Onion soup
Makes four bowls

This is not quite classic French onion soup, there’s no bread and cheese for a start, although you could add these. And there is some soy sauce in it, which I am pretty certain isn’t in the original dish.

But that’s the beauty, it’s a malleable dish. So long as you have good stock and onions, you’re sorted. Try using veggie stock for a veggie soup, or maybe add some creme fraiche or cream and some spices at the end.

5 onions – peeled and finely sliced
1.5-2l beef stock
1 glass of white wine
40-50g butter
A splash of olive oil
2 tblsp plain flour
1 tsp soy sauce – I prefer to use Japanese, it has a deeper flavour than Chinese and suits the beef stock more
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to season

Heat the butter and oil over the lowest possible heat in a deep pan or casserole dish. When it has melted add the onion, stir and cover. Cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the onion is falling apart.

Add the flour, some salt and pepper and stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Turn up the heat and add the wine, stir well and wait for it to bubble, then add the stock.

Simmer slowly over a low heat, partially covered for another hour or so. Stir in the soy and balsamic and taste to make sure the seeing is right. Serve with crusty bread.

4 Responses to “French onion soup”

  1. shuhan

    I love this thing!!!!! and yes i know it’s old and “passe” now but it’s a goodie! where’s the cheese and toast ): ok shan’t be dogmatic, i love the way you made it flexible to suit your taste, and that slash of soy sauce is definitely sth new to me!

  2. The Grubworm

    @Shuhan – to be honest, we didn’t have any in the house ;) But it still tasted damn good. Next time I might add a slug of brandy as well… Or possibly some sake or Shao Xing. Just to try it out. Or maybe add half a star anise…. The possibilities are endless!

  3. catty

    Do you remember the french onion soup from the first time we went to Eastside Inn? Ahhhh the memories!!! I miss yoU!!

  4. The Grubworm

    @catty – Oh yes, the East Side Inn. Sigh. I really liked that place, best cooking of its type in London. And the company that time was great ;) Miss you too Catty!

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