I know what you’re thinking, a second soup recipe in as many months. I don’t care. It’s been so cold the last few weeks that soup is a necessity. Also, there seems to be recipes for French Onion Soup popping up all over the place recently so I though it was high time I posted my own. I am not going to lie to you, this is not a quick ‘chuck it all in the pot’ soup recipe. To get the best flavour from onions it involves cooking them low and slow. Really slow, I’m talking cooking them on their own for about an hour. I promise you it is completely worth it. You don’t have to stand over the pot for an hour, just check in every so often to give them a stir.
There are endless recipes out there for French Onion Soup and all are different so it really seems to be a case of use whatever you like yourself. I wanted to use red wine in mine so I searched til I found that Julia Childs’ uses white or red wine and Anthony Bourdain uses port in his so I felt completely justified in using red wine to add a great depth of flavour to mine. Many recipes recommend adding a splash of brandy too. I’ve made this both with and without the brandy and to be honest I prefer it without.
You don’t have to make the cheese toasts to go on top. You don’t have to but why on Earth wouldn’t you?! If you don’t want to use them, do grate a little of the gruyere directly into the soup before serving. I don’t put a measurement in for the cheese here, I’m fairly liberal with mine but add it to taste for yourself.
This inexpensive soup also freezes very well so you can easily double the recipe if you want to stock up the freezer.
Useful tips & links:
- Use as wide a pot as you can to allow the onions room to caramelise properly.
- I’ve used a little flour here to thicken the soup, if you want to make it gluten free just leave it out and make sure the stock you use is gluten free.
- Beef stock is my stock of choice in this recipe but you can use chicken, veal, vegetarian or even just water. If you want to make the soup vegetarian find a suitable alternative for the cheese.
- For more French Onion Soup inspiration have a look at Gastrogays French Onion Soup recipe or Conor’s cheeky Totally Authentic French Onion Soup no Matter What French People Say.
- For more onion based recipes how about this Caramelised Onion Tarte Tatin or Bangers and Mash with Onion Gravy.
French Onion Soup
- 4-6 onions, weighing approximately 800g
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 50g of unsalted butter
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon of soft dark brown sugar
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tablespoon of plain flour
- 150ml of red wine
- 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- 1 litre of hot beef stock
- Sliced baguette or sourdough bread
- Grated gruyere cheese
- Peel and thinly slice your onions. Don’t cut them too thin as you don’t want them to disintegrate completely into the soup.
- Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy based saucepan or casserole dish. Add the sliced onions and stir so that the onions are completely covered in oil. Put the thyme and bay leaves in with the onions, clamp on a lid and turn the heat down low.
- Allow the onions to sweat at this low heat for 20 minutes. You should not need to check on them if the heat is low enough. After the 20 minutes check the onions which should be soft now. Once they are soft you can turn up the heat.
- Remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium and add the salt and the sugar to help the onions to caramelise.
- Cook the onions for a further 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently until the onions have started to turn brown and caramelise but you don’t want to burn them. They should be lovely and sweet at this stage.
- Add the crushed garlic and cook for another minute before adding in the flour. Stir the flour through the onions to cook it for a few minutes.
- Pour in the wine and balsamic vinegar and increase the heat, stirring the whole time. Once the wine has reduced by about half, gradually add the hot stock.
- Simmer the soup for 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed. You can also add more sugar if you like more sweetness.
- When the soup is almost ready to serve, slice the bread and toast it. Ladle the soup into heatproof bowls and top with the toasts. Sprinkle over a generous serving of the gruyere cheese and place it under a hot grill (broiler). Keep a close eye on the soup and once the cheese is melted, serve immediately.