One of my favourite foodie holiday memories was in Paris on a wet autumn day. It was raining heavily, so much so that the rain droplets danced on the pavement. But we sheltered underneath the striped red and blue awning of a street side bistro, Cafe Bonaparte. Waiters were rushing past us, oozing with pretension, noses in the air, shouting ‘deux espress!’ The locals smoking Gauloises and the smell of strong coffee wafting in the air. We watched Parisian life unfold before us, sitting over a deep steaming bowl of onion soup.
Served in really deep tureens, completely covered with toasted bread with molten bubbling Gruyere cheese. You really have to dig in and get to the soup underneath. What a great invention, a soup made only from onions, topped with a massive thick crouton covered in melted cheese!
Every time I make this soup it takes me right back to that street side table in Paris. That’s the beauty of cooking at home, food has the power to take you right back, tastes and smells are so evocative.
There are two key steps to this soup – roasting the beef bones before making the stock and making sure the onions are cooked down to a caramelised rich consistency. I like to add a couple of pigs trotters to my beef stock as this adds a real depth of flavour to the stock and provides a great base from which to build the soup.
The only draw back of this soup is having to slice over a kilo of onions, if you’re anything like me, onions make me cry and sniffle like a little girl – this soup is definitely a labour of love.
For the Beef stock:
Two pigs trotters
2 celery stalks
For the soup:
1.3kg onions, thinly sliced
1 glass of dry white wine
1.8 litres of beef stock
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Thickly sliced crusty bread, toasted
75g Gruyere cheese, grated
Make the beef stock first. Roast the beef bones in a hot oven for about 30 minutes. Add to a large stock pot, with the pigs trotters, onions, celery stalks, carrots and peppercorns. Cover with water, bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and let the stock gently bubble away for several hours. Skim off any fat. I like to leave the stock to sit with all the bones and vegetables over night as this gives the stock the opportunity for the flavour to deepen. The next day strain the stock and get rid of all the bones and vegetables.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onions and bouquet garni. Cook over a low heat for about 40-60 minutes with the lid off, stirring frequently. The onions need to be dark and well caramelised but not burnt. Add the glass of white wine and make sure the bottom of the saucepan is completely deglazed. Get in there with a wooden spoon and make sure any brown sticky bits are scraped off the bottom of the saucepan.
Add the stock, season with salt and black pepper, bring to boil and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni.
Top a slice of toasted crusty bread with grated Gruyere cheese and pop under a grill until golden brown and bubbling.
Ladle the soup into deep bowls and place the toasted bread in the middle. Serve immediately.