Warming hands and bellies since time inmemorial, I have had an inconsistent love-hate relationship with soups. It has been a few years now that is gone to the love side and I think it will stay there forever.
You see my mother used to feed us the same vegetable soup every day from Monday to Thursday while growing up. Every day, the same thing. Followed by some fish, meat or poultry but the same starter, that is when the hate phase started. It wasn’t until much later that I realised that soups were indeed a whole wide world in themselves and I started being more open minded.
Living in Switzerland for a few years and starting to get into skiing, I got the chance to try this Onion Soup, one of the many Gruyere containing specialities of Valais, and it was love at first sip. It is rich, sweet, sour and salty with those subtle herb flavours from the thyme that made me realise what a great addition to my collection this would be.
So after a trip to the slopes of the Mont Blanc, I trialed it at home and I can say with no doubt that is is an easy one to crack. The key to be honest, is patience. Since I don’t like to use sugar in my recipes unless is absolutely necessary, I stripped my recipe from it and made it for it in time.
The main effect of the sugar in this recipe is to make the onion go dark quickly and facilitate that caramelisation, which to be completely honest, you can achieve but cooking it for 30 minutes instead of 15. Also I find that the longer you cook it the more flavour it will have. My recommendation, this is a real crowd pleaser, so if you have people over, is a great way of impressing them, with a good fresh out of the oven presentation.
If you keep the amount of cheese under control, this is actually a pretty light soup, for an even lighter take, skip the bread or use a rovira type of cracker.
Ingredients (serves 5)
2 tbsp Olive Oil
3 very large onions finely sliced top to bottom
2 sprigs of thyme
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
200ml dry white wine
1 heaped tbsp wholegrain flour
50ml brandy/sherry wine
1 litre vegetable stock
5 thick slices of bread, 100% wholegrain sourdough
5 tbsps grated Gruyere cheese
In a large frying pan heat up the olive oil, when hot, add the chopped onions, the thyme and the garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes over a medium to low heat, until they are cooked and have a dark brown hue, stir often so it doesn’t burn. Add the flour and keep cooking for a couple of minutes before adding the white wine and then let boil until it has reduced by half. Add the brandy or sherry, then add in the stock and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to let the flavours mix. Pick out the thyme and then pre heat the grill in the oven. Toast the bread on one side and set aside.
Before serving the soup, taste it for salt and correct if needed. Pour the soup into the bowls, top with a slice of bread and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Grill for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.