French onion soup

I am running a week behind… Crazy last week of the financial year at work!

Last week for Sunday Dinner I made Dietmar Sawyer’s Onion Soup Gratinée from the July 2012 edition of Gourmet Traveller. I didn’t have any sherry vinegar so substituted the Sherry vinegar and Madeira with vino cotto which worked quite well. I should have cooked the onions for longer, so that they were more caremalised, but otherwise the soup was quite delicious. The next night I used the stock from the leftover soup to make risotto, adding the remaining onions and some peas towards the end, and stirring through some grated Fontina.

Onion soup gratinée

from Australian Gourmet Traveller July 2012

Serves  4 as an entree  

30 g unsalted butter, coarsely chopped

6 large white onions, thinly sliced

50 ml sherry vinegar

50 ml Madeira

450 ml chicken stock

450 ml beef or veal stock

4 slices think baguette

50 g each coarsely grated Fontina and Gruyère

Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat, add onion and season to taste with sea salt. Cook slowly, stirring often, until the onion begins to wilt and release liquid (20-25 minutes). Increase heat to medium-high, stir occasionally until liquid reduces completely, then stir often to ensure it colours evenly and slowly to develop the flavour, until deeply caramelised (25-30 minutes). Add sherry vinegar and Madeira and reduce until almost evaporated (1-2 minutes). Add stocks, bring to the boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until well flavoured (1-1 1/2 hours). Season to taste, adding a few more drops of vinegar if necessary.
  2. Prehaet grill to high heat. Place baguette slices on an oven tray and toast, turning once, until golden (1-2 minutes each side).
  3. Divide onion soup among four deep ovenproof serving bowls and top each witha  toasted crouton. Combine cheeses in a separate bowl, scatter evenly over soup and place bowls on an oven tray. Grill until golden and bubbling and serve hot, scattered with parsley.

Note: If soup bowls don’t fit under the grill, preheat oven to 220C and bake soup until golden and bubbling (4-5 minutes).

Creamy Ricotta

In January, we had dinner at my friend Suzie’s. Pre-dinner we enjoyed delicious bruschetta – small heirloom tomatoes with fresh ricotta and basil. It turns out Suzie made the ricotta which was creamy and sweet.

A week or so later I decided to give it a try so I called Suzie and she enthusiastically gave me the recipe, promising me that I will never buy ricotta again once I’ve made it. How right she was.

I have been making a batch of ricotta once a week ever since. The first time I made it, I added a heaped tablespoon of icing sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste to a cup and a half of ricotta and served it with poached peaches. Even my very sceptical son agreed it was delicious.

Generally I give a cup or so away each week to whichever friend I happen to see. What I find most amazing is that it lasts in the fridge for at least a week which would never happen with store bought ricotta.

I have tried all sorts of combinations of milk and cream. The batch I made with low fat milk was like rubber – if I’d thrown it against the wall it would have bounced right back. My most usual combination is 300ml of cream and 1200 ml of full cream milk. The combination in the original recipe below is by far the best.

Ricotta

4 cups full cream milk

2 cups cream

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (or white vinegar or lemon juice)

Rinse a medium sized saucepan with cold water (stops the milk sticking to the bottom of the pan). Add the milk, cream and salt.

Bring to boil over medium heat.

Once the liquid comes to a rolling boil, remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Leave to rest for a minute or so.

Pour into a sieve lined with a double layer of muslin (I use a double layer of Chux, as suggested by Suzie). Leave to drain for about 15-20 mins, depending on the fat content. Remove from sieve and place in a bowl in the fridge. Once cool, remove from muslin and refrigerate.