Thursday, 2 November 2017

Big onion soup - best in show


Last week was school half-term, and my family and I went to spend a long weekend at my sister-in-law’s place in the beautiful countryside of Somerset. She lives in a small village near Cheddar. Every time we come around to visit, her neighbour, Gerald Dally, brings us some of the produce he grows in his garden. The ones that always amaze me are the extra-large onions – the kind we never find in our markets or supermarkets. Gerald is even news in the Draycott area, where his vegetables get prizes annually for “Best in Show”. I’m not surprised because his veggies look amazing.

Another gift that I always get when I go to the area is Cheddar cheese.  Needless to say it comes from down the road, near where my sister-in-law lives.

Luckily for me, I love onions and I love cheese, and a recipe came straight to mind: onion soup with cheesy toast! Thanks, Gerald, the super-onion you gave us made my soup extra especial. Best in show!



The kind Gerald Dally and his famous onions.
My gifts from Cheddar.
The big sliced onion.
Cook the onions in olive oil and butter until tender and caramelized.
The beef and mushroom stock have been added.
Preparing the bread to toast.
At last, grilling the toast and cheese.
My onion soup.

Onion soup with cheesy toast

The French onion soup is traditionally made with beef stock, but as I had some leftover mushroom stock in the freezer I mixed them both.

Ingredients

5-6 big onions (or one of Gerald’s, if you happen to be a friend), peeled and thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon organic butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon coconut sugar
Maldon sea-salt
1500ml grass-fed beef stock, 400ml mushroom stock (shiitake and reishi). You can use just the beef stock or the mushroom stock if you like.
½ cup of white wine (dry wine works really well)
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
6-8 slices of sourdough baguette or ciabatta
Grated cheese of your choice. I chose mature cheddar and parmesan. You can use gruyère and parmesan if you like.

Method

Preheat the oven to 180
°C.

In a medium to large size heavy pot, heat the oil on a medium heat and add the onions. Toss to coat. Cook the onions, stirring often until they are tender. Approximately 15-20 minutes.

Add the butter and garlic, stirring often, until the onions start to brown. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the sugar to help the onions to caramelize. Season with salt, turn the heat to low and let the onions cook for 15 more minutes. 


Once caramelized, add the wine and deglaze the pot scraping up all the browned bits.
Add the stock, thyme and bay leaves and simmer for 30 minutes. Check the soup for seasoning. 


To make the toasted bread, line a baking tray with parchment paper,  brush each slice with some extra-virgin olive oil.


Put the slices in the oven and toast until lightly brown. Remove from oven.


Back to the soup. Remove the bay leaf. Pour the soup into a casserole or small individual oven-proof bowls. Place the toast on top of the soup and sprinkle with cheese. Put the casserole or bowls under the grill for 10 minutes, until the cheese bubbles and gets a nice golden colour.


Serve as a starter, light lunch or dinner.


A healthy note: Onion (Allium cepa): belongs to the allium family (leeks, garlic and shallots). It contains powerful antioxidants and has antiviral properties. It’s also anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, providing relief to an upset stomach. Onion contains the compound quercetin, which supports the immune system and acts as an anti-allergenic. People who suffer from hay-fever are often recommended a therapeutic supplementation of quercetin. That may help alleviate their symptoms. Quercetin also improves prostate health.

Research has shown that onions help build strong bones and keep serum cholesterol and blood pressure low, preventing heart disease. They are rich in vitamins A, B and C, in minerals like iron, chromium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. The chromium content in onions is very beneficial to bring levels of insulin down, which makes this vegetable very helpful for diabetic patients.


Beef stock: From the animal’s bones used for the stock, you get plenty of calcium, and the components of cartilage can give you healthy cartilage and bones.


Mushroom stock or broth is a great source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as selenium, vitamins B2 and B3 and potassium. Shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes) is a symbol of longevity in Asia. It fights flu and has anticancer properties. Studies have shown that mushrooms like Shiitake, Reihi, Maitake amongst others help to boost the immune system. 

Till next week!
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