I had the lovely papad soup I mentioned in my previous post, and when I got back home on Sunday, was flooded with the desire to make a clear but spicy soup - something brown in colour, to approximate the soup I'd had. But I didn't want to repeat that so soon. I dug out my trusted soup bible and started poring over recipes. Many of them were complicated - not the thing for a Sunday night experiment. Many of them sounded like I might not like them - though I may be mistaken. Then I came upon good old French Onion Soup.
I have always found this soup intriguing. Very few restaurants in Delhi offer it, for some reason - maybe because most of the ones we frequent serve Italian food? Before I knew what went into it, I used to be suspicious of the bread floating inside, because most of the times that I've had this soup at a restaurant, the taste hasn't been very clear and I've even mistaken it for poached egg, which I hate. One family friend who often visits Delhi in the winter made it for us last year as a special treat, because she had some lovely Gruyere for the toast, and it was wonderful.
I had wanted to try making this at home for ages. We had just bought a stock of 3 kilos of onions, and I just loove onions. And it would be a great excuse to open a bottle of white wine which could then be commandeered for other purposes...As always, I had to slap and dash with some of the ingredients. For instance, I didn't have sherry vinegar, so I made do with red wine vinegar. I didn't have Gruyere for the toast, so I had to substitute with strong English cheddar and hope the tastes wouldn't conflict. The recipe called for yellow onions, which we don't get so I sunbstituted with red, and just reduced the quantity a little since they taste stronger. Since I made it at night, the photos look like nothing on earth, and I know the soup won't be around until I have the time to photograph it in daylight, i.e. the weekend, so you'll just have to accept my opinion that it looked like restaurant FOS.
It did take quite a long time to make the soup. The cutting up of one kilo of onions itself occupied a good half hour, by the end of which everyone in the house had streaming eyes ( didn't want to go through the hassle of peeling, then soaking and so on). I got the time to finish a couple glasses of wine by the time I was done stirring and browning, and hoisting my daughter, the Puds, up in my arms, because she had developed a violent case of separation anxiety and refused to move a millimeter away from me. I gotta admit, if I had known the soup was going to take this long and so much supervision to make, not to mention that the two kids would be screaming through most of the process, I might never have gotten myself into this. A harrowing time, in fact, but made up for by the wonderful, rich and complex taste of the soup. The Puds finished a whole bowl of it by herself!
1.2 kgs yellow onions ( If using red, use only 1 kg), julienned
1 tsp Thyme ( or a few leaves if using fresh)
1 tbsp caster sugar
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper
1.5 litres water/ stock
Big knob butter ( I love recipes which call for butter. I feel decadent just reading them!)
Use a heavy bottomed pan - my non-stick wasn't thick enough.
Put in the knob of butter and let it melt. Add the onions and thyme, and stir to coat them evenly with the butter. Cook on really low heat until they turn soft.
Add the sugar and sherry, and cook on a slightly higher heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to turn brown and turn even softer than before.
Turn the heat up higher, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are nicely browned.
Meanwhile, heat the water/ stock ( in my case water with 2 stock cubes) on another burner until hot.
When the onions are deeply browned ( a caramel colour), add the wine and stir.
Add the hot stock to the onions and let it come to a boil.
Turn it back to simmer for a good 15-20 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, spread some slices of good baguette with a bit of butter and sprinkle cheese on top.
Before serving, pour the soup out into individual bowls.
Put the baguette slice, cheese side up, one in each bowl.
Put the bowls under the grill until the cheese turns melty and the bread looks toasty.
A great winter meal. If I'd had a nice salad and a warm apple pie to go with it, I'd have been in heaven...