A fabulously authentic, easy and traditional recipe for French onion soup or soupe a l’oignon gratinée as the French call it. This recipe was given to me by an old French lady who has been making it for her family for more than 70 years and they never tire of it – it’s so delicious! Did you know that onions were – in ancient times – considered an aphrodisiac? In France in the old days it was customary for newly weds to be served onion soup. In fact it’s still a tradition in some French regions for the newly weds to be woken in the early hours of the morning and served French onion soup! And some claim it can prevent a hangover. I can’t guarantee that’s true, but I can tell you, it’s proper delicious!
Enough for 4 very hungry or 6 hungry-ish people
Butter – 50g
Onions – 1kg (any type will do but chop them finely)
Sugar – teaspoon
Garlic – 3 cloves chopped
Plain flour – 40g
Stock – 1.5 litres (it can be vegetable or beef/chicken stock according to taste)
White wine – 250ml
Table spoon sherry or Cognac (optional)
Optional: small bunch of herbs – 4 spring thyme, 2 bay leaves, tied together
140g Finely grated Gruyère cheese
1. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onions. Sprinke the sugar an and stir occasionally over a low heat for at least 20 minutes until they are a deep golden colour and beautifully caramelised. The slower and longer you caramelise them – the better the soup so if you have time, aim for 45-60 minutes…
2. Add the garlic and flour to the onions and stir constantly for 2 minutes.
3. Gradually add the stock and wine stirring constantly and then bring to the boil. Add either the sherry or Cognac if you’re using it – it gives more flavour and depth.
4. Season and add the herbs (if you’re using them), cover the saucepan and simmer for around 20 minutes.
5. Slice the baguette and toast the slices lightly. If you’re a garlic fan, rub the top of the toasted slices with garlic.
Serve the soup into dishes, whack the bread on top, sprinkle with the grated cheese and place under a hot grill (or in a preheated, hot oven in oven-proof dishes) until the cheese is bubbling and you can’t wait any longer to get stuck in!
PS if you want to freeze left over soup leave out the bread and cheese and it’ll last in the freezer for a couple of months.