ROSAMUND’S FRENCH ONION SOUP
Please click on the image to see enlarged version of the finished recipe.
- 2 kg beef bones, with or without marrow but a bit of marrow helps
- 2 pigs trotters (optional but they add subtlety and are available from Huntsham at £2 a pair)
- 2 onions
- 2 sticks of celery
- 2 leeks (white part only)
- 2 carrots
- light olive oil
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- Small bunch of thyme
- 1/2 bottle inexpensive dry white wine
- 1 wine glass of Madeira
- Best part of 1kg onions
- 50 g unsalated butter plus a little for spreading
- 2 tbsp light olive oil
- 6 slices one day old baguette, cut diagonally
- 200 g grated cheese – I use a mixture of Parmesan and mature Cheddar, but Gruyere also works well
- Salt and black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 220°C – you need a good hot oven for this.
- Chop the beef bones and the trotters: this is a job for a heavy hammer on a hard surface and requires a certain amount of brute force. Do the best you can – it isn’t the end of the world if the pieces are large! Put them in the oven in a roasting tin with a little olive oil. Turn them from time to time to avoid burning any of the corners – if you do accidentally blacken any pieces (which is very easy to do), don’t use those pieces – they will taint the stock.
- While the bones are browning, peel and roughly chop the onion and carrot and chop the celery and leek. When the bones have been in the oven for about 45 minutes, add the vegetables and brown them too (again discarding any that accidentally blacken). The whole process of browning bones and vegetables will take about 1 ¼ hours.
- Put the browned bones, trotters and vegetables in a large saucepan or stock pan with the thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns. Pour the fat out of the roasting pan and deglaze with about 500 ml water, scraping up any tasty residue. Add to the bones in the stock pan. Then top up with more water so that the bones are covered by at least two inches of water. Bring slowly to the boil and skim off any scum. Reduce the heat – a simmering mat is useful if you have one – and simmer, covered, for at least two hours. Check from time to time that the water level hasn’t dropped below the top of the bones. When you do this check, also skim off any scum which has accumulated: it is important to remove the worst of the scum but remember this is stock not consommé royale – no need to go mad.
- Strain and chill the stock and then put in the fridge. A layer of solid fat will form on the surface and can be easily removed. Any stock that is not needed immediately will freeze well in plastic milk bottles.
French Onion Soup
- Peel, and slice the onions. Melt the butter and one tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy saucepan and stew the onion gently over a very low heat (the simmering mat comes in handy again) until they are golden brown, stirring from time to time so that they don’t catch. The more slowly you can do this, the better – it should take about an hour.
- When the onion are evening brown all over, add the wine and boil down until it is reduced by a third. Then add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for at least an hour. Add the Madeira and simmer for a further 15 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as required – remember the beef stock is unsalted up to this point.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and fry the baguette slices until browned – on one side only. Remove from the pan and spread with butter on the uncooked side. Press the cheese onto the croutes (the butter will help it to stick) and then place them under a hot grill until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, float a croute in each bowl – and enjoy!