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).

Soup time

Like changing your wardrobe over from summer to winter, for me this weekend marked the changeover to soup for lunch. Ever since I fell in love with homemade ricotta in January, I have been taking it to work, along with beautiful ripe tomatoes, for lunch. But good tomatoes are becoming more difficult to find now the weather is becoming cooler. It is soup time, no doubt about it.

On the weekend I made pea and ham soup. How can something so simple be SO delicious? I have been cooking Stephanie Alexander’s version of this soup for at least 15 years, when I bought The Cook’s Companion for a good friend for her thirtieth birthday only to discover her mother had given it to her. Shame I had to keep it for myself.

The only change I make to this recipe is that I use less water – 2.25 litres instead of 3 litres - I like my soup a bit thicker than Stephanie obviously likes hers. I added a zucchini to the batch I made on the weekend, just to add another vegetable to increase my daily consumption.

As I’ve said before, thyme is at the top of the list for me when it comes to favourite herbs. For this recipe I tie some sprigs together with kitchen twine which saves having to fish it out of the soup at the end – it makes for easier blending as well.

Pea and Ham Soup

adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion

Serves 6-8

400 g split peas

1 large onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

500 g bacon bones or 1 smoked ham hock

3 litres cold water

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 bay leaf

1 generous sprig of thyme

freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring slowly to simmering point. Set the lid of the pot a little ajar and continue to simmer for 90 minutes until the peas are quite tender.

Remove bones or hock. Discard Bones (reserve hock). Puree soup then adjust seasoning. If too thick, add more water. If using a hock, discard skin, then dice meat and return to soup.

Reheat and serve with snippets – small cubes or bread fried crisp in olive oil.