French Onion Soup

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Back in the mid 1970's, during my University Days . . . I had a friend named Julia. She always seemed extremely exotic and daring to me.

For one thing, she came from the big city of Montreal . . . whereas I had grown up in small town nowhere.

For another thing she was living with her boyfriend . . . something else I would never had dared to do back then. Just the thought of it would have killed my mother . . . really.

She eschewed bras, shaving under the arms, and wore halter tops, and she spoke with a very posh Canadian Accent . . . not the small town Nova Scotian Accent that I had . . .

She loved to cook. Wonderfully exotic dishes . . . things I had never heard of in my lifetime, or tasted. Cooking was art to her and . . . while I loved to cook too . . . I had a very narrow repertoire, my sole experience having been based on my mother's simple country cooking and what I had been taught in Home Economics and the few Madame Benoit shows I'd managed to catch on the Take 30 show on weekday television.

This was way before Yan Can Cook, or the Galloping Gourmet!! Or at least before I had ever heard of these chefs . . . (Yes, I was very naieve and innocent!)

Julia introduced me to such exotic dishes as boeuf bourginon and poulet saute a l'estragon . . . I thought she was ever so sophisticated, and I devoured all of her ideas and recipes.

To this day, I never ever cook French Onion Soup without thinking of Julia. I remember thinking this simple soup was a little taste of heaven the first time she made it for us at a little soiree she threw. I remember watching her make it very carefully. She used tinned beef consomme, Campbells if I remember correct and then she used mozzarella and parmesan cheeses . . . the Parmesan pre-grated and from a green cardboard cylinder and the mozzarella also from a hard block and grated. I can remember there being so much mozzarella cheese that we almost choked on it. I think the idea was to have so much Mozzarella that it really strung out when you dipped it out of your bowl.

I have come a very long way since then . . . and I would never use tinned beef consomme . . . I'd also never use cheese from a green cardboard cylinder or mozzarella . . . my cheese of choice being freshly grated Parmesan and sweet and nutty freshly grated Gruyere . . .

I expect that Julia would never use them anymore either . . . I often wonder what happened to her. I imagine that she is the lady in residence of a beautiful country home or the wife of a Canadian Diplomat . . . or maybe she is just like me . . . a card carrying foodie, that just can't get enough . . .

of what else . . . but . . . food, recipes, and . . . French Onion Soup.

*French Onion Soup*
Serves 4 to 6
(Depending on how greedy you are)
Printable Recipe

Sitting down to a hot bowl of this delicious soup, one might imagine that they are sitting in a little Bistro in the middle of Paris, instead of in a windswept and wet cottage in the middle of Kent. Ahh . . . perchance to dream . . .

50g unsalted butter
1 TBS olive oil
3 large spanish type of onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 TBS plain flour
1 litre of well flavoured beef or chicken stock
600ml dry white wine
1 fresh bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 baguette, thinly sliced
200g freshly grated Gruyere cheese
4 to 6 TBS of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Heat over medim heat, until the butter is melted and beginning to foam. Add the onions, reduce the heat and cook over low for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for several minutes until very fragrant. Stir in the flour and cook for another minute. Add the stock, wine, bay leaf and thyme. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, then immediately reduce the heat and simmer on low, very gently for 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Turn out the heat and allow it to stand for about half an hour to an hour.

When you are ready to serve, gently re-heat the soup until it is hot. Pre-heat the grill to high. Place the baguette slices on a baking tray and brown under the grill until lightly toasted on both sides. Ladle the soup into oven proof bowls and place the bowls on a baking tray. Top each bowl of soup with a few baguette rounds and sprinkle evenly with first the Gruyere cheese and then the Parmesan. Place under the grill and cook until browned and bubbling. Serve immediately.


  1. A windswept cottage in the middle of Kent sound pretty dreamy to me! Even wet! A lot of my ancestors came from Kent, and I've often wanted to visit there...troll around the graveyards, small towns where they lived, etc...But I digress! The soup! Ah, the husband will love you even more now! This is his favorite, and yours sounds simply perfect! Can't wait to try this--no canned soup or cheese for me, please!

    Hope you're having a wonderful day, and that it will dry up just a bit for you!

  2. I think French Onion soup is one of the tastiest things on earth (when done right), but I'm the only one in my family who does, so I tend to just order it at restaurants.

    Jason is down South today. Hope that your wind & rain doesn't blow him away. I may actually be bringing Graham to the London Zoo on Saturday. I'll think of you when I'm there.

  3. Cute story..My mother would not have been happy either:)

    Hope you and Julia find each other one day!I love this soup...

  4. Mmm-mmm! I love French Onion Soup...and I think it would taste even better in your windswept and wet cottage!

    I love your narratives with your recipes. They really paint a delightful picture!

  5. I really miss this soup a lot. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Oh I am going to make this for myself. I tried to make french onion soup once and it was a disaster, but I crave it often so I will give this a go. Thanks!

  7. I LOVE THIS SOUP MARIE!! and think yours look specially fantasctic, I want a bite of this soup righ now!!!! je, huggs amy dear, xxxxxx

    Absolutely beautiful pics!!!

  8. Ohhhhhhhhh.. yummy!!! the French Onion soups sounds devine!

  9. This is one of my fave's too. It was a nice reminder of how far food has come, especially in the UK. I too liked to cook in the 70's and there was a distinct lack of interesting ingredients especially if you were in Scotland! That pre-grated parmesan was foul and I don't think you could get mozarella at all - well maybe at an Italian specialist shop, but i wouldn't have been able to afford it. We did have an excellent Chinese Supermarket though and bought some exciting things there.

  10. I really enjoyed reading about Julia and everything she meant to you. How lovely to have such a friend just as you were branching out on your own!

    I've not made French Onion Soup in years. It was very popular as a dinner party staple back in the day, but fell out of favour. Sometimes these old recipes are worth reviving and today was that day. This was a lovely, warm, delicious and filling meal for us. The onions were beautifully caramelised from the slow cook and all of the flavours worked together so well. I made an Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette to go with it. Really tasty!

    1. Yes, it was a very popular recipe in the 70's/80's. One wonders why these recipes fall out of favor. They are so delicious and really do stand the test of time. Your salad sounds just wonderful! I love Arugula! And Lemon vinaigrette also! Yum!! xoxo


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