Soup. Such a wee word for such a huge dish. I think soup is severely underrated; the smell of a potful as you enter the house on a cold, dark, winter's night, the warmth emanating from the bowl as you hurriedly pull off your jacket, the bug fighting properties of all those vegetables and onions, the heat from the occasional addition of brandy or wine, sitting down with your family, fresh bread ready to be buttered or croutons dripping with cheese as the steam flows upwards in a question mark, wondering why you haven't started yet and then that first, glorious taste when you place that spoon to your lips and sip. Ahhh. Fabulous. The wondrous joy of there always, always being a second bowl and maybe even a third. And it's cheap! Oh how cheap. Cheap, healthy and tasty.
Soup-make a pot today!
French Onion Soup with Croutons
1½ lb (700 g) onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 oz (50 g) butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 level teaspoon granulated sugar
2 pints (1.2 litres) good beef stock or beef/lamb (I sometimes use half lamb, half beef)
10 fl oz (275 ml) dry white wine...good wine, not Buckfast.....
2 tablespoons Cognac
salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the croutons:
Baguette, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) diagonal slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
8 oz (225 g) Gruyère, grated
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C).
Put the pan on a high heat and melt the oil and butter together. When very hot, add onions, garlic and sugar. Stir occasionally and cook until the edges of the onions have turned dark – this will take about 10 minutes. Then turn down heat to its lowest setting and leave the onions to carry on cooking very slowly for about 30 minutes, by which time the base of the pan should be covered with a caramelised film...if it's not, don't worry, cook for another 10 or so minutes and then continue.
Pour in the stock and white wine, season, then stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the base of the pan well. As soon as it all comes up to simmering point, turn down the heat to its lowest setting, then go away and leave it to cook very gently, without a lid, for about 1 hour. All this can be done in advance but, when you're ready to serve the soup, bring it back up to simmering point, taste,check seasoning and add a couple of tablespoons of Cognac. You don't have to of course, this is optional...but not for me!
Whilst the soup is cooking, make the croutons – begin by placing the bread slices, garlic and olive oil into a bowl, and mix well. Place onto a solid baking-sheet. Bake them in the oven for 20-25 minutes till crispy and crunchy.
When the soup is ready to be served...check seasoning once again, I usually find I need more salt and freshly ground pepper at this point....warm the tureen or soup bowls in a low oven and pre-heat the grill to its highest setting. Then ladle in the hot soup and top with the croutons, allowing them to float on the top of the soup. Sprinkle the grated Gruyère thickly over the croutons and place the whole lot under the grill until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Serve immediately.
Alternatively, leave croutons on tray and sprinkle over cheese and heat that way. Sprinkle some grated cheese into the soup bowls, top with croutons and voila. A bowl of mouth watering, tasty, wonderful soup for the cold dark nights.
This is a Delia Recipe...thanks Delia!