Monday, 17 February 2014


The first time I ate French Onion soup was memorable, but perhaps not for the reasons you might think. Let me try and take you to that day. I was already well into my twenties and had gone away for a weekend to Niagara Falls with a girl I happened to be hopelessly charmed by. She was everything I thought I wanted in a girl; elegant and sophisticated and had seen more of the world than I could imagine ever doing. I happened to be obnoxiously loud and disproportionately confident in myself; I considered myself to be the life of the party. The truth was I didn't have two cents to rub together and had very little idea of who I was. Still, as faith would have it, she gave me the time of day and I spent every waking hour trying to prove to her that I could grow into a sophisticated gentleman. I was far from it, to be clear, at this time a meal at TGI Fridays seemed a solid proposition. In my glorious ignorance, I figured that taking her there and ordering French onion soup would infinitely impress her; I would be seen as a knowledgeable and worldly gentleman. My plan had no holes. Low and behold my soup was drowning in oil and the croutons were as old as the tablecloths. Still, I loved it, I felt as though I was growing into the renaissance men I saw on television. She had to be impressed, right? Probably not, but fortunately for me, some women find innocent men's ignorance to be somewhat endearing. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to see, smell, or taste another French onion soup without thinking about that day. Having seen the folly of my ways, this is my attempt to create something better.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4):

·         3 Spanish onions, peeled and cut into rings
·         3 shallots, peeled and cut into rings
·         Handful of leeks, cleaned and cut into rings
·         3 garlic cloves, peeled sliced
·         60 g butter
·         3 tbsp olive oil
·         50 ml white wine
·         1500 ml beef stock
·         150 g aged cheddar
·         Salt and black pepper
·         1 small French loaf, thickly sliced
·         Few thyme leaves
·         Mixed green salad (optional)

-          In a large pan at medium head add the onions, shallots, and leeks to the butter and olive oil
-          Season to taste and cover the pot
-          Cook for 30 to 40 minutes until onions are caramelized
-          Add the wine to the pan and allow to reduce
-          Add the stock and cook for a further 10 to 15 minutes
-          Taste and adjust seasoning as needed then ladle the soup 2/3 of the way up 4 ramekins
-          Meanwhile lightly toast the bread under the preheated broiler under 170°C for under a minute to allow the bread to dry out a little
-          Add bread to each ramekin and sprinkle over cheese to cover
-          Place the ramekins in the preheated oven until cheese is slightly brown around the edges
-          Remove from the oven, add thyme leaves, and serve with mixed green salad if using

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