Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bye bye Dingle Food Festival and the last days of summer. Hello winter and French onion soup.

Phew! The whirlwind that was the Dingle Food Festival is finally over and having baked hundreds (upon hundreds) of cupcakes, brownies and sweet treats and then manned my stall selling them over the course of three days, my tired body and frazzled mind have eventually recovered.

This year's food festival coincided with a definite change in the seasons. Before the festival, we were still wearing summer clothes and sandals but a storm hit on Sunday afternoon. The wind rose. The canopies covering our market stalls threatened to take off and had to be weighed down. Rain poured out of the skies. Thunder and lightening joined the fray. And since then, everyone has wrapped up in their winter woollies.

As the seasons change, so do our appetites. We yearn for foods that comfort, warm and nourish us through the cold days of winter. French onion soup is just such a food. I know there are lots of recipes for this soup out there but this one is suitable for my diet (and therefore for vegetarians and vegans too). It's not quite the same as the classic version that uses beef stock but rest assured that it's just as delicious!

This soup is traditionally served with melted cheese toasts but because I can no longer eat dairy, I find that anchovy toasts made an equally savoury accompaniment. The deep saltiness of the anchovy works really well against the sweetness of the onions.

French onion soup
6 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon of sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups/2 litres of vegetable stock
½ cup/125ml of dry vermouth or dry white wine
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon of thyme
At least one teaspoon of salt and lashings of freshly-ground pepper

At least one slice of good bread and two anchovies per person
  • Place a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the olive oil and then the onions.
  • Sauté the onions for ten minutes.
  • Add the sugar to help with the caramelisation process.
  • Sauté for a further 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Essentially, what you want is for your onions to be browned, but not burned.
  • Add the minced garlic and sauté for one minute.
  • Add the stock, vermouth, bay leaf and thyme. Partially cover the saucepan and stir until the flavours are well developed, about 30 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper. You'll have to trust your judgment on this. Add the teaspoon of salt and several grindings of pepper; mix; then taste. Add more if you think it will benefit the soup. Remember that salt works by bringing out flavour so a little extra might be just the thing.
  • To make the toast, brush the slices of bread with a little olive oil and toast both sides under a hot grill. Lay the anchovies on top and cut into soldiers.
  • Enjoy

This makes more than two litres of soup but I've found that you can almost never make enough soup. Having a pot on the go means that you're sorted when it comes to quick weekday lunches and snacks and most soups - especially this one - benefit from sitting around for a day or two. The flavours get deeper and richer and better and better.


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