Spring didn’t quite get off to the roaring start I’d hoped, time in the garden has been limited due to the incessant rain… The chickens alone are turning everything into a bleak bog land – human feet would only make things worse. The seedlings are reluctant to germinate in the cold greenhouse and everything is off to a soggy slow start. So I thought I’d go back to soup for some comfort and reassurance… and when there’s nothing else in the cupboards, you’ve always got onions right?
This dish is most definitely not French… it is ‘French inspired’ but the traditional beef bone broth has been substituted with a plethora of international ingredients to try and replicate that dark rich flavour.
So by using coconut oil from the Philippines, Spanish sherry and balsamic vinegar, Japanese soy sauce and a few local herbs and vegetables we can create a cruelty free approximation of the old classic. I prefer not to compare vegetarian and vegan meals to their traditional meat counterparts, but judge them as a different dish in their own right, which they are. If you’re reading this blog, I can assume you are in the lucky 40% of the planet’s population with internet access, and if you own the device you’re using, be it a computer or a smart phone, you are luckier still and a member of an exclusive 22% of the world’s population… it is also therefore likely, as a member of this exclusive club, that you are able to make choices about you diet and that you have a vast variety of ingredients available to you near to where you live. We are lucky and we are privileged to have these choices, and with them I assume a certain amount responsibility. I choose to not eat meat because I live in a world where that choice is relatively easy for me to make and it feels like the responsible thing to do (given animal agriculture’s disastrous impact upon the planet), and it is wonderful that I am lucky enough to take my pick of international cruelty free and ethical ingredients to make my food taste however I choose. I choose to make this onion soup resemble the tradition French version, but I am happy that the flavours I create are intrinsically animal free and different to the original. In simpler terms, I’m happy that this soup doesn’t quite taste like cows, because really, let’s be honest, it should taste of onions.
This soup takes a little more preparation than most of my other soup recipes, the onions need a bit of care and attention… and time. So make this for a special occasion, or a lazy weekend or for someone you really love.
- 2 tbsp of refined coconut oil (30p)
- 500g of onions, thinly sliced (80p)
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme (20p)
- 1 bay leaf (2p)
- 3 cloves garlic (15p)
- 60 ml – 1/4 cup of sherry (£1.43)
- 1.25 litre of water
- 1 stock cube * (20p)
- 2 tbsp of soy sauce (59p)
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (13p)
- 1 tbsp of rosemary jelly (optional, or can be substituted with another smooth jam or syrup to add sweetness)
- Black pepper to taste.
Halve the onions and slice them thinly in half moons. In a large soup pan, fry them in the coconut oil and salt on a medium low heat, this needs to be done slowly and with some attention. The onions will need at least half an hour (the longer the better) softening and melting and caramelising. This slow cooking will bring out the sugars in the onions and make them beautifully soft and sweet with a deep rich flavour. Halfway through cooking the onions, toss in the crushed garlic and the sprigs of thyme and the bay leaf.
When the onions are soft and light brown and almost melting, deglaze the pan with the sherry, scraping any flavoursome sticky bits off of the bottom of the pan. Then add all the other ingredients. The soup then needs to be simmered gently for another hour or so with the lid on, this will change the flavours of the ingredients you’ve added so it’s best to make flavour and seasoning adjustments near the end of cooking.
Traditionally this should be served with a large cheese topped crouton, melted under the grill. I have seen a few excellent looking recipes for achieving this using crusty bread and fresh cashew based cheeses… but really it is superb on its own or with a crusty loaf to dip in the broth. Keep it simple, that’s what I say.
This soup works out at a very frugal 64p per potion.
* I used a Kallo organic mushroom stock cube as they have a dark rich flavour. Kallo also make an onion stock cube which would obviously be perfect. Any vegetable stock will do, but maybe if you only have a light vegetable stock to hand, try adding a few finely chopped dried porcine mushrooms to add more depth.