The wind is making whistling noises down the chimney and there are big fluffy snowflakes swirling around outside, I don’t think I need any more excuses to make a big hug of a pot of soup to hunker down with. Every day is a ‘mystery box challenge’ as I rummage through the veg drawer and as I thought, I’d plenty of onions, so French Onion soup it is.
This is a real no brainer and has a very short list of ingredients, but the most important ingredient is time. It’s the sort of soup you can leave ticking away slowly on the back burner. I was doing some work on my laptop and my ears heard a new sound, it was the onions catching on the bottom of the pan. I went to turn them down , stirring the now melting golden onions, glistening with the fat rendered from the pancetta and a small knob of butter, flecked with specks of thyme. This is my version and the resulting soup is as close to what you can eat in any bistro in Les Halles, where it originated. Traditionally eaten by the workers from the bustling nearby market, usually eaten in the wee small hours of the morning before dawn breaks.
I cook the onions in a very heavy pan, I think this is important and I cook them for at least two hours on a very low heat, but this is how you achieve that rich dark chestnut colour. That depth of colour will reward you with an incredibly rich, satisfying soup.
French Onion Soup
Serves 4 generously
you will need
A good glug of light olive oil
6 slices of Pancetta
A small knob of butter
3 large Spanish onions, peeled and sliced thinly
A sprig of thyme
1 Bay leaf
Salt and pepper
A glass of white wine
2 dsp of flour
4 slices of sourdough bread, toasted
Grated Gruyere or Comte
Fry off the pancetta in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat until the fat has rendered off. Remove from the pan and look forward to a really nice rasher sandwich later on! Toss in your sliced onions,oil, butter, herbs and seasoning. Now just leave it to tick over very gently for approximately three hours, it just needs the odd stir. When you feel the onions are dark enough, deglaze with the white wine, scraping all and any caramel bits from the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle in the flour and stir through with a wooden spoon, keep the heat at medium, as you want to cook off the raw flour taste. Pour in approximately 1.5 litres of cold water, stirring gently the whole time until everything is amalgamated. Now turn the heat down to a bare tremble and leave for another hour ( trust me, it’s worth it). Just before serving, place a slice of toasted sourdough into each soup bowl and a handful of grated cheese, ladle in the soup and a final flourish of grated cheese.