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Serves 4
700g assorted onions – I managed to use up half a red one, a large white one, six straggly spring ones and a contender for the worlds smallest shallot, but any old onions will do, even dried up stragglers and bits and pieces…
4 fat cloves of garlic
2 tbsp oil (or butter if you’re feeling profligate, tis the season after all)
A pinch of salt
1 tsp mixed herbs, fresh or dried
2 tbsp vinegar – red, white or cider vin all work well to cut through the super sweetness of the onions
A splash of wine – red or white
1l good stock (vegetable for the vegans and vegetarians among you, but I used chicken myself…)
Finely chop and slice and dice your onions and garlic and toss into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the oil (or butter), and salt, and cook on the lowest heat your hob can manage, stirring occasionally until soft and translucent. I consulted my rather large copy of the Leiths Cookery Bible for classic onion soup guidance and exclaimed aloud when I read that the onions should be cooked for at least an hour. Pfffffft, I said. ‘That’s about right…’ nudged my girlfriend, a chef with 25 years experience and a few onion soups under her belt. And so, an hour it was. And it was worth it, for soft and succulent sweet onion soup, but if the thought of sweating onions for an hour fills you with dread, they soften beautifully after 20 minutes and you’ll still have a pretty good base to work with, just use a little less vinegar…
When your onions are soft soft and delicious, pour over the wine, then stock, then vinegar. Add the herbs, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for a further 15-60 minutes, depending on patience, budget, electricity bills, etc. To cheat, boil furiously for a few minutes then remove from the heat and cover with a plate or lid or tin foil and leave to stand for an hour to cool completely, then warm through to serve. The covering retains some of the heat so it carries on cooking, without chewing away at your gas or electricity supplies – it’s a trick I love and use often!!
When ready, serve – I had mine with toast spread thinly with mustard, topped with cheese – delicious and decadent and just the thing for a chilly winters evening…
Jack Monroe. Twitter & Instagram: @MsJackMonroe