French onion soup is one of those recipes that conjures up comforting images of my childhood. The thought of the delicious, rich, sweet, savoury yumminess that my mum use to cook, just as her mother before her did, literal makes my mouth water. My families French onion soup recipe is, quite simply, mind blowing.
It wasn’t until I left home that I realised a French onion soup recipe done wrong is a vile gastronomic travesty that is all to often served out under the guise of being French onion soup! Shame! The amount of times I have gone into restaurants with my hopes raised and ordered what they claimed to be a ‘authentic French onion soup recipe’, only to be disappointed by dark brown flavourless liquid with fast cooked, borderline raw onions floating about, are too many to mention.
The onions in a French onion soup recipe need to be cooked and caramelised slowly. It is the slow cooking and slow caramelisation that releases the sweet, deep, rich onion flavour, and also adds thickness. French onion soup should also be simple, far to many ‘TV chef’s’ faff about with it trying to tart it up with ingredients ranging from balsamic vinegar to Worcestershire sauce!!! YIKES! Or, too often they will add things that ultimately detract from the simple, delicious and rustic flavour of this soup – just don’t do it! We’ll have none of that malarky here thanks. It is, after all, a peasant dish and originally came about as a way to use up left over onions.
For those not wishing to use beef stock, for example, vegans and vegetarians, you will find a delicious vegetarian French onion soup recipe below which is also suitable for vegans, with and alternative to the cheesy croutons – vegan topped cashew nut croutons.
Oh, and one more tip, if you are making this for a special occasion, the earlier you make it the better. For the longer this soup is left to stand before consuming, the deeper the flavours will be. Lets get to it.
French onion soup recipe
800g of white onions thinly sliced.
1.3 litres of good quality beef stock (or a 50/50 mix of mushroom and vegetable stock for the vegan/vegetarian version)
Butter and/or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (you don’t need much salt)
For the cheesy croutons:
Gruyère (or cashew nut butter for a vegan version)
Pepper to taste
In a large pan, add a generous helping of butter and olive (or just olive if you are cooking a vegan version) and melt over a low heat. Once melted add the thinly sliced onions and keep on a low heat and stir as needed.
You will need to keep an eye on the onions, once they have softened you will need to have you wits about you as this is the crucial part. You want the onions to go a deep golden-brown colour – this is where the flavour is. You have to be careful not to burn them, and they can do in a split second once they have softened. You also do not want to cook the onions too quick, the slower the better, it should take at least 40 minutes.
Once the onions are a deep golden brown all over, add the stock, salt and pepper and simmer for 1 hour.
About 15 minutes before the French onion soup is ready to serve, slice the baguette into inch thick pieces.
Grease the bottom of an oven tray with butter and/or olive oil and lay the pieces of sliced baguette down on it.
Slice the Gruyère cheese and lay over the of the sliced baguette (I like to allow the slices to hang over the sides and melt into the pan, but it does get messy). Add parsley if you wish, on top of the cheese and bake until golden brown all over.
You can serve your croutons either on top of the soup or on the side. If serving them on the side, allow the cheesy croutons to cool a little, so the fallen melted cheese solidifies a little as it is easier to handle – the baked, slightly crusty cheese enhances the flavour.
Eat and enjoy – Simple. Delicious. Moreish.
Vegan croutons alternative:
Follow all the steps for the cheesy croutons, but add a generous amount of cashew nut butter on top of the baguette slices and bake until golden.
Hope you enjoyed my authentic French onion soup recipe.