Soup - Day 3

As far as I’m concerned, a week of soups must include French Onion. It is one of our favourite soups and one that I have made for many years.
Onion Soup can be tricky though, despite its seeming simplicity. My mother-in-law referred to it once as tasting like beef consommé and there is certainly little point in eating the tinned stuff, which is basically beef stock with some token onion flakes sprinkled in it for good measure.
I have made onion soup without stock and with stock and, providing you cook the onions slowly, over a low heat, you can be guaranteed of a rich flavour that tastes not one bit beefy.
Of course, as far as I’m concerned, the soup merely exists to mop up the delicious Gruyere encrusted croutons that float on the top. As you can see, I like my croutons large. I just get great pleasure from tearing into the bread which has a soggy underbelly from the soup, the strands of cheese drooping over the side of the bowl, to be peeled off with your fingers once the soup has all gone.
Last night I decided to split the basic onion soup into two, making one traditional version and one non-traditional. The non-traditional version didn’t follow much of a recipe. I simply had an idea of filling a baby pumpkin with soup and baking it in the oven. Minimal washing up and many soup bowls do you know you can eat?
I made this second, slightly recherché soup into a creamy version, firstly adding half a teaspoon of Garam Masala for a little spice, then stirring in a generous spoonful of crème fraiche, plus some blue cheese (in this case Roquefort, just because I found it clinging to the back of the cheese dish) for good measure. I also sprinkled over some parsley but I wouldn’t recommend you do this: the parsley surprisingly conflicted with all the other flavours. I suspect that a few Thyme leaves would have served better.
I had little idea how this would actually turn out but we were both pleasantly surprised. The onion soup worked well with the Roquefort (although Paul thought I should have used a little less, to which I concede) and the richness was countered perfectly against the sweetness of squash. A perfect dish for a Winters day. Or for slurping out of whilst watching Battleship Galacticness.
I would suggest that you share it though – mini though it may have been, a whole pumpkin was still too much for me alone.
Here then are the recipes for both:
6 Onions, peeled and finely sliced (I used a variety, red, white and a couple of sweet onions, but you can just use one type)
1.5 Litres Water or Chicken Stock (I used organic stock cubes)
20g Butter
Tablespoon Olive Oil
Dash Worcestershire Sauce
Rustic Bread

Gently heat the Olive Oil and butter in a large saucepan or deep frying pan.
Sweat down the onions over a low heat until they are golden brown and fragrant. This could take up to an hour.
Pour over the stock or water and a dash of Worcestershire Sauce and bring to the boil. Turn heat down to a brisk simmer. Leave for another half an hour, ensuring it doesn’t reduce too much.
Taste for seasoning (it will take quite a lot of salt and pepper) and pour into heat proof soup bowls.
Bob your slices of bread on top of the soup and grate over some Gruyere.
Put under a hot grill and once bubbling and browned, serve.

CREAMY ONION SOUP IN A PUMPKIN – serves 2, very generously
As French Onion Soup plus
Half a teaspoon Garam Masala
Dessertspoonful of Creme Fraiche
10g Blue Cheese
2 Baby Pumpkins or Squash
Preheat the oven to 200c.
Cook the soup as French Onion soup, except add the garam masala to the onions before you add the stock, cooking for a minute or two to activate the spice. Then proceed as above.
Once you have seasoned the soup to your satisfaction, remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, prepare the squash. Carefully cut the top off, reserving to one side. Scoop out the innards of the squash, removing all the seeds and strandy bits.
Place the prepared squash on a baking tray with sides.
Stir the Creme Fraiche and Blue Cheese into the slightly cooled onion soup and divide between the two squash.
Replace the ‘lids’ or tops of the squash and cook in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. Once the squash yields to you pressing it, it’s ready. Any longer and it will collapse and take your soup with it.
Serve in large bowls to catch any spills, with crusty bread and butter.


Saffron said...

next time I'll be in England again (I hope soon), I'll come to eat one of your wonderful soup!
You're great!!!

Helen said...

Hi Freya,

What an awesome blog! Your soups are making me so hungry :)

I love the parsnip chip idea. I'll have to try that sometimes.


Brilynn said...

You get bonus points for serving soup in a pumpkin!

mooncrazy said...

Oh yum, it's the melty gruyere what makes it.

Homesick Texan said...

I agree, French onion soup is just a vehicle for a mountain of melted Gruyere. I like you variation with cream, garam masala and the pumpkin--very creative!

mrbunsrocks said...

How cute is that little pumpkin???!!! Looks yummy!

Joyce said...

Hard to miss with a rich onion soup,the perfect vehicle for the bread and cheese.
A cup of red wine added to les onions gives it a marvelous kick. But then so does a heavy dollop of brandy!
Marvelous pairing the onion w/ the sweetish squash.

Lydia said...

Making one soup a day is amazing -- making two soups....well, I'm in awe! I too love French onion soup for the crusty cheesy bits. Squash soup with blue cheese is a great combination, too. Thanks for the recipes; I'm loving soup month!

Julia said...

You've inspired me Freya! I'm making soup tonight for dinner.

Where on earth did you find a fresh pumpkin this time a year?

Keep up the good work!

D-man said...

Mmmmm, steamy cheesy gourdy goodness. And the garam masala addition sounds perfect, I'm always for adding spice (I added a large mortar and pestle to my kitchen last Autumn and it is essential for such spice in my house.)

Whoever'd thunk you could cook a soup inside one of those things though must be a bit wacky....don't ya' say?

s'kat said...

Oh, my! I have never before heard somebody (or seen somebody) use the word "recherché" in a sentence.

Or at all! Bravo!

/word geek

At any rate, both sound great. I have a very warm place in my heart for French onion soups and their ilk.

Chef Jules said...

Fabulous "Week of Soup" collection!
I'm of the mind to head to the kitchen right now and whip some Mushroom Bisque up.

"It was a dark, and steamy night.."

Lovely blog you have.

rob said...

Freya, onion soup is a wonderful thing. I applaud your experimentation, though I have to say, a crunchy crouton oozing with melted gruyere is hard to beat. Though roquefort....

Kathryn said...

I love French onion soup too. But that mini pumpkin is sooooo cute!!!

Kathryn x

Schweitz said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog - nice to know someone is reading. A week of different soup is a great idea and I love the creamy spin on french onion soup (especially the edible bowl). The constant inspiration is the best part of reading blogs!

Rebecca said...

What a great idea, putting the onion soup in a pumpkin! So much classier than those so called "bread bowls" that get so disgusting in the middle. We had soup in a large pumpkin at our wedding so it really takes me back...