This is a hearty and warming dish for a damp and drizzly autumn day...... unfortunately rather unseasonal as I've finally got round to posting it in the middle of a mini heat-wave here in the UK, with dazzling 26° sunshine for the last few days, and people walking around in shorts and sandals!
Oh well.... it can't last too much longer, so stash this recipe away for deepest darkest October when autumn will surely set in for good.
One of the key ingredients of an authentic French Onion Soup is the beef stock, which also gives it the characteristic deep brown colour. I've used vegetable stock with a teaspoon of Marmite stirred into it to recreate that deep savouriness and dark colour, and even if you're a Marmite hater I urge you not to miss it out here - you can't really identify it in the final dish, but the soup will lack that 'je ne sais quoi' without it.
This isn't a quick dish, as the onions need to cook down for at least 30 minutes, then the soup itself needs a further 45-60 mins to fully reduce, but you don't need to stand and watch it all this time, so this is one to leave simmering on the stove whilst you're running around doing other things.
Scrumpy cider, vintage cheddar, crusty bread and dark, soft onions - this really is a 'best of British' dish to warm up a drizzly day.
Cider & Onion Soup with Welsh Rarebit Croutons
For the soup
- 3 very large onions finely sliced (about 600g)
- 25 g butter
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tsp dark muscavado sugar caster or granulated would be fine if you don't have dark sugar to hand
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon Marmite
- 275 ml cider
For the croutons
- A mini/half baguette sliced diagonally into 1 inch slices
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 spring onions finely chopped
- 150 g grated cheese - vintage cheddar if possible or a mixture of gruyere and cheddar would work well. (Check it is vegetarian).
- 3 tbsp cider
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add the sliced onions, garlic and sugar. Cook on a fairly high heat until starting to colour then reduce the heat down to the very lowest possible on your stove and leave to cook for at least 30 minutes until they are almost on the point of collapse. The bottom of your pan will be covered in brown and caramelised gunk - this is ideal, it will taste delicious later on.
- Pour in the stock, Marmite and cider, scrape the bottom of the pan to dislodge the sticky goo (see above), turn up the heat, and once it has come to the boil leave to simmer gently without a lid for 45 minutes to an hour until reduced. This can be done well in advance and just reheated when you want to serve it.
- For the croutons, preheat the grill to its highest setting. Place 6 slices of bread under the grill, (and keep an eagle eye on them as they turn to charcoal in seconds when your back is turned). Turn them over to toast both sides.
- In a bowl, combine the egg yolk, cheese, spring onions and cider and spoon this over each slice of toast, drizzling any liquid remaining in the bowl over the top.
- Toast under the grill until golden brown and bubbling. As this was a main course, I served a greedy 3 croutons per person, but if its a starter one will suffice!
Make it vegan: The soup can be made vegan by substituting butter with dairy-free margarine. Instead of the rarebit croutons above, just toast the bread slices and serve as they are, (....or perhaps mix a tablespoon of dairy-free margarine with a crushed clove of garlic, slather over the bread slices and bake in the oven. Garlic bread croutons - yum!).
For more soup inspiration, take a look at my Pinterest Board Soups: Vegetarian & Vegan...
Follow Kate Ford | The Veg Space's board Soups: Vegetarian and Vegan on Pinterest.