For George

I have rewritten this a few times in an attempt to tease you as to the actual recipe, but I have failed!  To give my history with the dish, I have to tell you almost immediately what it is.  So, I first tasted today’s recipe when Suzy worked in a pub called the Non Plus near Northallerton.  In those days, it was a pub with a restaurant, nowadays it would be called a gastropub.  The idea of soup with toasted cheese on top was absolutely wonderful.  (Yes, today’s recipe is French Onion Soup).  Even though I was still in my ‘awkward with vegetables’ stage, I enjoyed the richness of the cheese, crunchiness of the toast and caramel of the onions from day one.

Grandma made it occasionally and she taught me that the most important things to remember are to have good quality stock and to cook the onions for ‘as long as it takes’. This is not a soup to hurry.  I have never made beef stock from scratch, but there are some Knorr stock cubes which are called Rich Beef and they are very tasty.  Equally you can buy ready made stock in most supermarkets.

George discovered a passion for this soup when we first went to the Chateau Lake Louise, and ordered it at every occasion.  Their version had many more herbs and was much lighter, making me think it was made with either a mixture of chicken and beef stock, or maybe even vegetable stock.  So for those of you who don’t eat red meat or any meat, there are other options.

Although I know that everyone enjoys this soup, in my head I always make it for George.  He is always so appreciative of it, and I know he’s made it himself on more than one occasion.  Despite that, here is my recipe, Georgie.  I will make it for you soon, and we can discuss whose recipe is better!

French Onion Soup – Ingredients

  • 50 g / 2 oz butter
  • 1 kg / 2.25 lbs onions, peeled and thinly sliced (use white or brown onions, not red)
  • 3 sprigs of thyme (in garden)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 3 tbsp brandy
  • 1 l / 2 pts good quality beef stock
  • 1 baguette – slightly stale is fine
  • Olive oil
  • 100 g / 4 oz grated Gruyere


Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onions, garlic and thyme and cook gently for about an hour.  It is ok to let the onions brown a bit, but they are not supposed to look like fried onions.  The aim is soft and tan coloured!  Stir so that they don’t stick.  This can take up to an hour.  I like the thyme to still be on the stem because I like the rustic effect.  If you don’t feel like picking out the stems, add only the leaves and discard the stems.

Add the brandy, and simmer to burn off the alcohol.  After a couple of minutes, add the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer.

In the mean time, slice the baguette diagonally into slices that will fit your bowls.  Drizzle with oil and put on a baking sheet in a hot oven until they turn light brown.

Put soup into bowls, put the toasted bread on top and sprinkle with cheese.  Grill until the cheese bubbles.

Serve immediately.

And the answer to Papa’s question, what do the French call French Onion Soup is Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinee!


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