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No-tears onion soup from In Praise of Veg

Servings: 4
Onion soup was once thought of as food befitting only peasants, and so isn’t it the ultimate irony that these days it is often more likely to be associated with the fanciest of French restaurants? This silky, slippery broth is so much easier to make than the original, because it involves no peeling, let alone slicing! A luxury indeed.


  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 25 g unsalted butter
  • 1 kg brown onions skin left on, halved lengthways, ends removed
  • 2 garlic bulbs skin left on, halved horizontally
  • 6 dried bay leaves
  • ½ bunch thyme leaves picked, plus extra to serve
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt flakes
  • 125 ml dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp plain all-purpose flour
  • 1 l beef chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 baguette torn into big chunks, or 4 chunky bits of stale bread
  • 150 g grated gruyère or cheddar
  • Finely chopped chives to serve


  • Preheat the oven to 160°C (315℉).
  • Heat the olive oil and butter in a large flameproof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, allspice, pepper and salt flakes and cook for 2 minutes, or until fragrant.
  • Stir in the wine, then cover and bake for 1 hour, or until the onion and garlic have softened.
  • Set the garlic bulbs aside until cool enough to handle. Slip the skins off the onions using tongs.
  • Place the dish back over medium-high heat and scatter the softened onion flesh with the flour. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes, until golden.
  • Squeeze the garlic flesh from the bulbs into the dish. Pour in the stock, vinegar and 2 cups of boiling water. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 5–10 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced slightly.
  • Preheat the oven grill to high. Arrange the bread on top of the soup and scatter with the cheese and extra thyme. Grill for 8–10 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and melted.
  • Serve immediately, scattered with chives.


For a shortcut version of this recipe, thinly slice the onion and garlic (the smaller you cut them, the quicker they’ll cook). Sweat them in a pan with the oil and butter until translucent, then let them caramelise while you warm some stock with the bay leaves, thyme and allspice (or even a herbes de Provence blend). Grill the bread with a slice of cheese on top for 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts. Remove the aromatics from the stock, then ladle them into bowls with the caramelised mixture. Taste for seasoning, then dip your cheesy breads in. No sweat!
If you have oniony broth leftover, pour it into some hollowed-out stale bread rolls, sprinkle with Gruyère or cheddar cheese and grill until oozy. YUM!

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