You may wonder why on Earth you would want to eat a piping hot baked onion soup when the weather is so warm you could probably melt the cheese in your car? It's a fair point, but let me assure you, this soup is so good you will want to eat it every week, whatever the season.
Isn't the onion just one of the most magical vegetables? Rather like the apple featured last week, the onion is such a humble thing, available to and loved by almost everyone; from the stinking rich to the poorest of the poor, for who can eat a curry without an onion, or a Ploughman's, or a risotto?
This soup, of course, is originally French, and more commonly known as French onion soup. But there is nothing common about moi, as regular readers of this column will know. And I suppose there are some new readers among you now that I will need to woo. My spies tell me there have been full-page ads with my ugly mug on them all over the newspaper, urging people to read my wise words and classy recipes.
I keep telling the marketing people, a picture of me won't help, it might even put people off. Let the food do the talking - show them a dish or two instead or a picture of a pretty girl, much more effective. Do they show a picture of the CEO of Ferrari when they're trying to sell cars? Of course not, they show some blonde draped over the bonnet.
This dish just sells itself. I love the gooey cheese mixed with the crusty bread and the thick, hot soup. The flavour comes in part from the beef stock but in the main from the caramelised onions. You need a tad of patience here. Take it slowly, tease the aromas from this simple fare and you will not be disappointed.
Bon appétit to you all, old friends and new.
MAKE IT YOURSELF
Baked onion soup
5 large white or Spanish onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
2L beef stock
45ml red grape vinegar
1 sprig fresh thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
16 slices baguette bread, toasted and cut into half-inch slices
8 slices Emmental or Gruyère cheese
150g Emmental or Gruyère cheese, shredded
1. Cut the onions in half through the stem to root end. Trim the ends off the onion and remove the peels. Slice the halved onions into thin, equally sized pieces to ensure proper cooking.
2. In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and turn down to low heat. Cook uncovered, stirring often, until the onions are very soft and caramelised, about 60 to 90 minutes. Add the minced garlic during the last 20 minutes of cooking. If the onions brown too quickly the soup will be bitter.
3. Preheat the broiler to the highest setting. Meanwhile, add the beef stock, the vinegar and the thyme. Bring the soup to a simmer and let the flavours soak. After 15-20 minutes of simmering, finish the soup by removing the sprig of thyme and seasoning with salt and pepper.
4. Pour the soup into eight individual bowls. Add two slices of toasted baguette per bowl, cover with a slice of cheese and then sprinkle with the grated cheese.
5. Bake under the broiler until the cheese is golden brown.