Award-winning chef-patron Pascal Canevet, Maison Bleue, shares his classic French onion soup recipe.
There are many traditions associated with good food but none as welcoming as a hearty bowl of French onion soup served in the early hours of the morning. Travelling back home for Christmas Karine and I reflected on the years past happily recalling our three-day wedding celebrations in France, which featured a Soupe à l’Oignon and I thought I’d share my family recipe with you.
“This humble root vegetable can be transformed; it’s the ideal winter pick-me-up!”
It may come as a surprise that traditionally onion soup is served at French weddings; in the early hours as a restorative end to the champagne fuelled celebrations. Throughout ancient history the onion is recognised as a symbol of eternity with its circle-within-circle structure; which may be why marriage and onions go hand in hand.
They say the recipe for onion soup was devised by Louis XV using onions, butter and of course champagne. Naturally this simple dish became a firm favourite as one of the best-loved French classics and remains a key part of our traditions.
As an excellent source of vitamin C onions contain fibre, folic acid and vitamin B. This recipe celebrates the rich brown colour, the caramelised flavour and the sheen of a good Suffolk onion. We use local Hall Farm onions available direct from the Farm in Bury St Edmunds.
“Heart-warming, rustic and comforting we served this at our wedding”
• 800gr of medium size peeled and sliced onion.
• 50gr of salted butter
• 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
• 1 tablespoon of plain flour
• 150ml of dry white wine
• 1.2l of beef stock
• Sea salt
• Freshly ground black peppercorn
• 18 slices of French baguette
• 200gr of grated Gruyère cheese
Melt the butter in a large heavy based pan over high heat. Add the sliced onions and thyme sprigs and cook with the lid on for about 10 min, stirring frequently until they are soft.
Lower the heat and cook for another 15 min, stirring frequently, until the onions are lightly caramelised and really soft, take care not to burn the onions. Season to taste. Add the flour and mix thoroughly. Increase the heat and keep stirring while you gradually add the white wine and the beef stock. Bring the soup to a boil and then cover and simmer for another 15 min.
Turn on the grill and toast the baguette slices until crisp and golden brown. Add some grated Gruyère on top of the croutons and place them back under the grill until the Gruyère melts. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and place two or three croutons on top of the bowls of soup.
And to drink:
The subtle sweetness produces by the onion works very well with a Loire Chenin Blanc. A Savennieres would be the perfect match. Other options would be a Beaujolais Blanc or a Pinot Gris or Riesling from Alsace.
Celebrate the seasons at Maison Bleue award winning Modern French Cuisine, Churchgate Street, Bury St Edmunds: 01284 760623