OK, I have to confess: Onion Soup sounds like such a great idea but I have never actually had a good one. I’ve had it a few times in our college hall, but there it basically consists of a few bits of onion swimming in some Bisto. To be honest, I enjoyed it at the time, being thankful that it wasn’t their tomato soup: Passata diluted in some hot water with a bit of pepper. Just awful.
It just seems that whenever I go to restaurants that do onion soup there’s always something more exciting to order. For example, Brasserie Gerard apparently does a good one. But they also have a scallop starter. And a baked camembert. And some deep fried whitebait. I just can’t bring myself to order the soup.
Yesterday though, it felt very wintery and, having seen Jamie Oliver making this soup on his show recently, I decided to give it a go. This is the recipe from Jamie’s website and I only made a couple of changes, mainly through necessity.
English Onion Soup (from Jamie Oliver)
a knob of butter
1kg onions (a combination of red and white)
a handful of shallots
1/2 bulb of garlic
2 litres of chicken, beef or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
slices of stale bread
Making it is pretty straightforward. Chop the onions, leeks and shallots. Try not to cry too much. You will probably fail so just go ahead and listen to this and relate:
Next step is to fry the chopped garlic with some sage leaves in the butter and the olive oil and add all the chopped onions, leeks and shallots.
Turn it right down and leave it to cook for about an hour, covered for the first half. They will be very soft at the end of this, and if you want to add some more colour you can just turn the heat up a bit but be careful to stir often so they don’t burn. Add the stock, bring to boil and let it simmer for 15 mins.
Now the fun bit! Toast some bread and put a portion of soup in a bowl. Cover with bits of toasted bread on top until you have a bread lid. Top with grated cheddar and some Worcestershire sauce and pop under the grill until your cheese has melted. Enjoy. Just don’t go on a date afterwards unless it is with someone you’re trying to get rid off. But still, surely there are better ways of doing that.
What I did differently was that I didn’t add the sage because I didn’t have any. I think my onions needed some more caramelising but I had already added the stock when I realised so I had two choices: Add some browning or end up with a pale soup. In the end, I didn’t do either as I spotted a bottle with a bit of “quality” (as in Sainsbury’s Basics, hopefully Jamie will approve) red wine. I actually think it improved the taste and I will definitely use some again next time I make this, but probably before adding the stock.
I was also contemplating swapping the cheddar for some nutty gruyere but then decided to stick to the title and keep it English. I picked a mature cheddar and I have to say it was very tasty, especially with the Worcestershire sauce. I don’t really know what else makes this an English soup rather than a French one and I do hope I haven’t made any francophiles angry! Jamie just made it look too good to resist!