French onion soup
I am back! Well, I was always there, just keeping quiet on the blog.
2021 held so much promise. Like many people, we looked forward to a year of relative normalcy: kids finishing school, resuming uni, house projects, travelling… Unfortunately, like for many people, COVID-19 decided to stick around a wee longer and rain on our parade, meaning major changes to any plans we started the year with.
For months, we lived under the false sense of security, believing that Australia was safe from COVID ( oh, we were doing so well! ) and enjoying a lifestyle that only my overseas relatives could dream about. Family gatherings at home, road trips, city escapades, boating getaways… were all for the taking while we could, knowing that it was only a matter of time before the virus would catch up and slow us down again.
And catch up, it certainly did. In a gotcha kinda move, COVID ( now under the form of the Delta variant ) is back, sending all of us in Sydney into lockdown hysteria again.
During our first lockdown, in March 2020, I used to think that it would be the perfect opportunity to tend to unfinished projects like sort thru thousands of photos, complete the vegetable garden, or even repaint some of the rooms in the house. None of this happened.
With all the time in the world, all I did was procrastinate, enjoy the slow life, only acting on urgent matters. Such as keeping in touch with my folks, cooking up storms for our family of four ( the highlight of our days ) and trying to stay fit. It turns out that lockdown not only restricted our physical movements but also our motivation, it seems. After all, why do today what you can do tomorrow? ( I am speaking for myself, feel free to disagree ). And with social media allowing quick updates here and there, was there any need for long stories?
But lately, a few events in our personal lives, have made me realise that indeed there may be a need for long stories. The kids have been curious and reminiscing about our life on boats, asking questions about what Mr T calls “ the good old days”. Someone told me recently “ I hope you keep a diary of all your travels and write a book one day”. A few days later, a friend, Sharon, even asked me to share a soup recipe. Could this be a hint to extract myself from lockdown stupor and write again?
The recipe below is for Sharon.
French Onion Soup
Adapted from France The Beautiful Cookbook
This is a classic soup, to be found on every bistro menu in France. It’s rustic and robust, the kind of invigorating treat I used to enjoy as a student in Toulouse, when a big night out would end at dawn ( in the days when cafes would be open at 5am, earlier than the boulangeries ! )
If you have a food processor with a slicing attachment, now is the time to use it, unless you’re prepared to cry.
This recipe uses traditional ingredients like butter and chicken stock, but you can easily substitute olive oil and vegetable stock for a vegetarian option ( though I can’t think of a suitable replacement for gruyere cheese! ). I added a couple of garlic cloves and a pinch of thyme leaves, not traditional, but it adds a bit of extra kick.
Finally, the traditional method requires the soup to be laddled in flame-proof bowls, toasts and cheese to be placed on top before grilling. While it looks impressive, my bowls were not flame proof, so I played it safe and grilled the cheesy toasts separately.
Serves 4, as a starter
500g large onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp plain flour
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed ( optional )
1 sprig of fresh thyme leaves or a pinch of dried thyme ( optional )
1.5 l chicken or beef stock
salt and pepper
12 slices of baguette ( French bread )
100g grated gruyere cheese
- Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan ( 4-litre capacity )
- Add the onions and cook over low heat, stirring constantly for about 20 mn or until they become soft and golden. Do not let them burn.
- Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 2 mn .
- Add the crushed garlic and thyme, if using.
- Pour in the stock, season well and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and cook for 45 mn. stirring occasionally.
- When ready, pour the soup into individual bowls and keep warm
- Place the slices of bread on a baking tray. Toast on both sides under the grill ( or in the toaster, if you have one ). Sprinkle with the cheese and slide the tray under the grill again, long enough to melt and lightly brown the cheese.
- Divide and place the cheesy toasts on top of the soup bowls and serve immediately.