Recipe: Onion Soup for a Sick Day

Beautiful onions!

The Christopher Robinish breakfast didn’t work, so  it’s time to resort to my ultimate virus-fighting weapon: onion soup.  What what could be stronger, heartier, or more pungent? No virus would dare colonise a body with this many allicins in it, or at least, that’s my theory.  Plus,  hot liquids are fabulous  for soothing a sore throat. 

I’ve based this soup on a beef stock, but you can also use the vegetable stock from my Three Roasted Vegetable Soups post – but add a few dried mushrooms, or a spoonful or two of porcini powder if you have it; you want your stock to have a good, strong, ‘brown’ flavour. 

Best of all, you can make this soup in steps, with long rests in between, during which you can stagger back to bed: first the stock, which needs to simmer for an hour, and is even better if it simmers for two; then the sliced onions, which need to cook, slowly for another hour or so without much attention from you; then the combination of both, which simmers on the stove until you are ready to eat.  That virus won’t even want to enter the *house

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For the stock
1kg beef bones, with some meat on them
1 onion, peeled and cut in quarters
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
2 celery sticks, with their leaves, chopped into large chunks
4 cloves garlic
a few black peppercorns
a teaspoon or two of dried rosemary
salt, to taste
porcini mushroom powder, if you have it, or throw in a few dried mushrooms
125ml white wine
For the soup
50g butter
75g brown sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 kg of onions, approximately – use a mix of red, white and yellow,  and maybe some shallots if you can find them
2 leeks
6 cloves garlic
salt, pepper and porcini powder (optional, but yummy) to taste

Now what will you do with it?

First, make the stock.  Get out your largest stock pot, and put in the beef bones over medium heat.  Stir them occasionally while you are chopping up and putting in the vegetables – you want them to brown and even to stick very slightly, but not burn.  Once they start sticking, add the white wine and your herbs and seasonings.  Incidentally, I just used what I had to hand and remembered to put in – feel free to add things like parsley, bay leaf or thyme to this stock.

Let the wine simmer down a little, and then add about 2 1/2 – 3 litres of water.  Bring to the boil, skim lightly to try to remove the froth without losing the herbs, then reduce to the lowest heat possible, cover, and let simmer for 1-2 hours.

Drain the stock through a sieve or colander into another huge saucepan or bowl, and set aside for now.

Prepare the onions.  I just peeled them, topped-and-tailed them, halved them from stem to root, and sliced them.  Since I can do this by hand in about 15 minutes, I did so, but by all means use a food processor with a slicing attachment.  You’re sick, remember?  The leeks get washed, peeled, halved and sliced as far up as you care to eat them, and the garlic you will leave aside for now.

That’s a lot of onions…

Put the butter, oil and brown sugar into the saucepan you made the stock in (thus saving on washing up and picking up any good stuff that got stuck to the bottom), and stir until the butter is melted and everything is a nice brownish mess.  Add the onions, and stir over low heat to coat them.  Leave everything cooking over low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and a bit brown and cooked right down.  Crush the garlic, add it, and stir it around, and let it cook for a few minutes.

I wanted to show how much the onions cooked down. I failed. Steam is not my friend, and it turns out that my photography skills go downhill when I have a cold.

Add about one and a half litres of the stock – it’s really your call how much stock you need, but that seemed right to me.  The rest can go in the freezer, ready to add to another soup or casserole. Let the whole lot come to the boil, season to taste with your salt, pepper, and porcini powder, then reduce the heat and simmer for up to an hour.

Serve with toasted French or Italian bread topped with gruyere or another similarly melty, smelly cheese and put under the grill.  Or serve with plain bread, if  it’s good.  Or a toasted sandwich.  Even I, however, would draw the line at serving this with garlic croutons…

I think this makes about 6-8 servings – which is to say, four so far, and I’d guess three or four more to come.  It freezes very well, and is also happy in the fridge for a few days, though the fat will come to the surface and get caught in the onions – unsightly, but perfectly OK once you reheat it.

Now, go back to bed.

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