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French Onion Soup

Introduction & method

French Onion Soup, or Soupe à l'Oignon Gratinée has been around in France since the 18th Century, but became popular in the US and UK in the 1960s. The croute on top soaks up some of the some and gives it body, but the key to a wonderful soup is a fantastic beef stock.

French Onion Soup Recipe

Make the Beef Stock

This is one occasion where shop-bought or cube stocks are not good enough - you really need to make your own stock, and it's best if you make it a day or two beforehand. Preheat your oven to 180°C (356°F) fan/convection, 200°C (392°F), gas 6. Arrange the bones and bits of meat (but not the mince) in a single layer in a roasting tin. Roast for 30-40 minutes, turn them over halfway through. Pour off the dripping and keep it for roasting potatoes etc. Put the meat, bones and the mince into a large saucepan or pressure cooker. Add enough water to cover by a couple of centimetres (about an inch). Bring to the boil and skim off any scum that appears.

Quarter the onion and tomatoes, cut the carrots and celery sticks into large chunks. Add them to the pot with a good squirt of tomato passata and the herbs. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 4 hours. Or if you are using a pressure cooker, bring up to pressure and cook for 1 hour.

When the stock is cooked, strain it through a piece of cheesecloth, taste it and add salt if necessary. You might want to reduce the stock somewhat to intensify the flavour. Leave to cool down completely, and skim of any fat that settles on the surface. The stock will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Cook the Onions

Peel the onions, slice them thinly, then quarter or halve the rings. Melt the butter in a big frying pan on medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir them to get them all coated. Cook gently for 40-60 minutes until they are a deep golden-brown. Stir frequently so they don't burn. There's no need to add sugar, the onions contain enough of it. When the onions are cooked, turn the heat up a little and deglaze the pan with wine or brandy. Scrape all the brown gunk off the bottom of the pan and let it bubble away for about 5 minutes.

Assemble the Soup

In a large pot or ovenproof casserole dish, add the onions to the stock and heat through. Slice the French bread and lightly toast it. Arrange the bread in a single layer on top of the soup, and sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Place under a hot grill or broiler and cook until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

The video above is from the Keef Cooks YouTube channel. Click here to see the video recipe of French Onion Soup on YouTube.


Ingredients & Info

 1 kilo beef bones
 500 grams beef (braising steak, mince or a mix)
 1 medium onion
 2 carrots
 2 sticks celery
 2 tomatoes
 a good squirt of tomato passata
 small bunch fresh parsley
 10 sprigs fresh thyme
 12 whole black peppercornss
 2 bay leaves
 2 litres water
 2-3 large onions
 50 grams butter
 1 stick French bread
 100 grams cheese (comté, emmental or gruyère)

US Customary/Imperial

Serves 4 
Prep time: 15 minutes.
Cooking time: 5 hours.
Total time: 5 hours 15 minutes.