Over the last few months I have been training to become a chef. One of the biggest lessons I have learnt so far is that we waste a lot of food in our home kitchens. From peelings to left overs and that egg yolk we discard because the recipe only requires the egg white. Something has to change.
One ingredient that I regularly waste is the onion. The skin itself is often just thrown in the bin, but it has so much more to give!
Here is my take on a no waste French Onion Soup.
You will need :
A small amount of butter
A drizzle of olive oil
4 Large onions
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp of flour (Optional)
A small glass of white wine
1.5 litres of Stock (Beef or Vegetable if you would like to keep this vegetarian friendly)
A small amount of Brandy
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
Start by peeling the onions. I find the easiest way to do this is to slice off the top, place the flat side down on the board and then cut the onion in half through the root. This keeps the root intact, holding the onion together (Making it a lot easier to slice). Peel the skin off and reserve for later.
Turn the onion and hold the knife against the flat edge and then slice into half moons.
Next make a cartouche.
Now I know what you might be thinking, "A what?!".
A cartouche is simply a piece of grease proof paper that you can use as a lid to place over the onions. It can be used in many dishes, as a way of reducing evaporation, preventing a skin from forming and to keep things submerged.
To make your own, take a square of grease proof, fold in half (point to point, as shown in the pictures to the right) and then fold again. Once that is done, hold the folded cartouche so that the point is in the center of the pan you are going to be using to cook the onions. Allowing a small amount of overhang, tare the paper.
When you unfold the paper you should be left with a circle that is slightly larger than the pan.
Now to the cooking...
Start by placing a knob of butter into the pan, covering with a drizzle of olive oil to stop the butter from burning. Place the pan over a medium low heat.
Next add all of the onions, giving them a good stir to slick them in the buttery goodness.
Screw up the cartouche into a ball and then hold it under a running tap. Screwing up the paper allows it to carry some more water, which adds additional moisture to the pan.
Place the cartouche on top of the onions ensuring that everything is covered and turn the heat to low. This process can take up to an hour, you want the onions to go nice and brown.
Check them from time to time, give them a quick stir and re cover.
Whilst your onions are cooking away, crush, peel and finely chop a clove of garlic.
When you are happy with the colour of your onions, remove the cartouche and turn the heat to medium.
Add the garlic and give everything a good stir, allowing it to cook for about a minute.
At this point you can add the flour, I've put this as optional because my Dad likes French onion soup to really soak into the bread in the final stage. I made two batches, one with flour and one without. I prefer it with the flour, it makes for a much less messy experience!
If you do add the flour, stir continuously for a minute, this cooks out the flour taste and allows the soup to thicken nicely when you add the liquid.
Now slowly add the wine, followed by the stock. Give it a good stir to stop the flour from becoming lumpy. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat. Allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes.
Now for something special, add a splosh of Brandy and season with salt and pepper to taste.
When you are ready to serve, preheat the grill and fill a bowl with the glorious soup.
Toast some bread (Traditionally you would use a baguette here, but I went for some basic wholemeal bread) and then rub with a glove of garlic. This gives the toast a lovely hit of garlic which really adds to the flavour.
Cut the toast into smaller pieces, then place gently on top of the soup.
Cover with a mound of gruyere cheese and place under the grill until golden.
Once you have devoured that don't forget to use the skins from the onions! Simply throw them into a home made vegetable stock/ Chicken stock to give a deep, richer colour.
I cannot tell you just how good this soup is on a cold winters day, you will have to give it a go yourself and let me know what you think in a comment below!
The Broke Boy