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The best thing and I mean the absolutely best thing to eat on a cold winter’s day is soup. Something so comforting about a good bowl of soup – better than a stew, much better than a salad and it even beats cheese on toast – sometimes. Because not that much beats cheese on toast.
But it must be the right kind of soup. I don’t have time for soups that have had the living daylights blended out of them, so you’re facing a weirdly coloured baby food gloop and each spoonful tastes a bit like wallpaper paste, no matter what the soup flavour was supposed to be. It also makes you a tiny bit suspicious if you're dining (souping) out: so what – they just basically have blended overcooked broccoli with water and a smudge of skimmed milk? Naaa – that’s not what soup is about – and a rip-off probably, at a fiver a bowl.
I like my soup to have bits floating in it. If it’s mushroom – I’d like to see the mushrooms. If it’s leek and potato – please leave those chunks alone and let them swim in the rich creamed stock. Tomato might be the only exception but then we have minestrone where tomato pieces float happily in the company of carrot chunks, beans and peas.
Onion soup thankfully never gets blended into baby food. Contrarywise, it gets more interesting bits on top in the shape of croutons or a grilled piece of bread loaded with cheese. And it’s second best in the comfort zone – the crown prince being the chicken broth with noodles, but then THAT is really a medicine (what with it being famed as a cure for colds) not a soup isn’t it?
onion soupServings: 4Time: about an hour
- 2 tbsps butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1kg onions
- 1 tsp sugar
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 250ml dry white wine
- 1l beef stock
- slices of French or sourdough bread
- grated Cheddar or Gruyere cheese
1. Peel, halve and thinly sliced the onions, peel and thinly slice the garlic cloves. In a large pan heat up the butter and the oil, add the onions and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes until soft but not coloured.
2. Sprinkle over the sugar, cover and cook for about 20 more minutes, until the onions are golden, caramelised and meltingly soft – take care not to burn them though. Add the garlic and the thyme, cook for another minute or two, then stir in the flour.
3. Turn up the heat and add the wine. Bring the soup to a simmer and pour in hot stock.
4. Cover with a lid and cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes.
5. Toast the bread slices, ladle the soup into the serving bowls and top with bread slices, pile the grated cheese on top of the bread. If you like the cheese melty, place the bowls under a grill for a minute before serving.