Easy French Onion Soup

I love French Onion Soup. However, it takes up to two hours to caramelise the onions, to get that sweet flavour - or so I thought! I recently discovered a little trick on Serious Eats to speed up the process which involves bicarbonate of soda and sugar. Qu'est-ce que c'est?! I hear the French say? Quite honestly, the result is magnifique - a delicious, warming, savoury-sweet oniony broth.

The Pièce de Résistance of French Onion Soup (are you loving the French-ness of this post?) has got to be that big cheesey crouton that floats on top. I've made mine slightly more healthy by using less cheese grated finely, and I don't drizzle the bread with oil before toasting. You can be even more healthy by using parmesan (I know, so un-French) as you'll need even less cheese as it's a stronger flavour.

Je suis désolée if my Easy French Onion Soup offends any French readers, and very happy Bastille Day for tomorrow. 

Easy French Onion Soup: Serves 6:

Time: 15 mins prep + 50 mins cooking

Cost: 53p per serving

Calories: 225 per serving

For the soup:

  • 25g butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1.2 kg brown onions, sliced very finely
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Pinch of bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 litres of beef stock (substitute 175ml of stock with white wine if you like)
  • 1 tablespoon Worchester sauce
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

For the croutons:

  • 6 slices French bread
  • 100g Gruyere cheese (or cheddar) grated finely (or 50g parmasan)
  1. Slice the onions very finely either by hand or using a mandoline slicer. This is the hardest past and there will be tears, so use swimming goggles if you have any. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pan and add the onions, garlic, sugar and thyme. Stir and cook for minute or so and then sprinkle over the bicarbonate of soda. You will probably notice the onions going very mushy at this point, but don't worry, the heat will take the water out of the onion gradually and caramelise them. Cook the onions for a further 15 - 20 minutes over a medium heat stirring every 5 minutes roughly until the onions are soft, brown and a bit sticky.
  2. Add the stock, Worcester sauce and balsamic vinegar. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently, uncovered for around 20 - 30 minutes.
  3. To make the croutons, toast the bread both sides under a hot grill or bake them in a hot oven on a baking sheet for 5 minutes. Top the bread with the grated cheese and return to the oven or grill to melt the cheese.
  4. To serve simply ladle the soup into bowls and top with a floating cheese 'island'. If you don't like soggy bread then just serve the cheese crouton on the side.

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