DAVID WOODS: A fuss-free recipe for some welcome winter warming
It shouldn't always be the case of '˜out with the old' in the new year. David Woods, executive head chef at the Sofitel London Gatwick hotel, revives a classic recipe for some winter warming.
January is the time for fuss-free, hearty food that is simple to make. French onion soup ticks all those boxes and, apart from a splash of brandy, which you might have left over from Christmas, its main ingredient is a cheap and plentiful vegetable.
Make sure to caramelise the onions well to give the soup a rich colour and flavour. It tastes even better the next day and freezes beautifully, so make double quantities.
Throughout history, onion soup has been the food for poor people, so perhaps this is the perfect frugal recipe for all of us in these post-Christmas days.
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French onion soup
2 tabs vegetable oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
200ml white wine
1 litre beef stock
1 small baguette, thickly sliced
110g gruyere cheese
Pinch of cayenne pepper
In a saucepan, melt the butter with the oil and fry the onions, thyme and sugar for 10-15 minutes over a low to medium heat.
The onions should soften and caramelize – try not to stir too much.
Add the garlic and cook for one minute then add the white wine and simmer until the volume of liquid has reduced by half – 10 minutes.
Add the brandy and then pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slight and cook for about 10-15 minutes with the lid off. Meanwhile, place the French bread slices under a grill and toast on one side. Set aside.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with the bread, toast side down. Add the cheese and sprinkle with cayenne pepper and place under the grill until bubbling and golden brown.
Swap French bread for thick slices of onion bread and if you don’t have gruyere, grated strong cheddar will be just as tasty. For vegetarians, use vegetable stock instead of beef.
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