The ultimate makeover: French onion soup

The ultimate makeover: French onion soup

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(8 ratings)

Prep: 30 mins Cook: 1 hr, 15 mins


Serves 4

Angela Nilsen gives the French classic a makeover, losing the butter and beef stock to make a lighter soup that's still full of flavour

Nutrition and extra info

  • Soup and croutons can be frozen separately
  • Healthy
  • Vegetarian

Nutrition: per serving

  • kcal405
  • fat19g
  • saturates5g
  • carbs44g
  • sugars18g
  • fibre4g
  • protein12g
  • salt1g
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    For the soup

    • 4 large Spanish onions (about 900g/2lb)



      Onions are endlessly versatile and an essential ingredient in countless recipes. Native to Asia…

    • 3 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
    • 4 thyme sprigs


      This popular herb grows in Europe, especially the Mediterranean, and is a member of the mint…

    • 2 bay leaves
    • 300ml dry white wine
    • 1 rounded tbsp plain flour
    • 1 tbsp Swiss vegetable bouillon

    For the topping

    • 1 garlic clove, crushed
    • 1 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
    • 4 long slices from a baguette
    • 25g parmesan, or vegetarian alternative, coarsely grated



      Parmesan is a straw-coloured hard cheese with a natural yellow rind and rich, fruity flavour. It…

    • 50g gruyère, coarsely grated



      Gruyère is an undoubted pinnacle of traditional Swiss cheese-making, a culinary masterpiece as…


    1. Cut the onions in half lengthways, then slice down into very thin slices. Heat a very large pan, add the oil when hot, stir in the onions, 3 of the thyme sprigs and the bay leaves, then season with a little salt. It will seem like a lot of onions, but they reduce right down. Cook over a high heat for 5 mins, stirring often. The onions shouldn’t brown yet, just start to soften. Lower the heat, then cook slowly for 35 mins, uncovered, stirring often until the onions have reduced right down and are very soft.

    2. While the onions are cooking, bring the wine to a boil in a small pan, then bubble away for 30 secs. Remove and leave to cool. Tip the flour into a small heavy pan and toast over a medium heat for a few mins, stirring occasionally, until light brown in colour. Set aside.

    3. When the onions are very soft and reduced, turn up the heat so they caramelise, then cook for another 12-15 mins, stirring along the bottom of the pan occasionally to mix in the brown sticky bits. When the bottom of the pan and all the onions are sticky and a rich brown colour, stir in the flour. With the heat still high, gradually pour in the wine, again stirring in the bits from the bottom. Pour in 1.2 litres of cold water. Stir in the bouillon, then slowly bring everything to the boil. Skim off any froth from the surface. Simmer for 15 mins so all the flavours can mingle.

    4. While the soup simmers, make the topping. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Mix the garlic and the oil together. Brush all over the bread slices, then cut each one into cubes. Scatter over a baking sheet, then bake for 8-10 mins until golden. Set aside. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or a sheet of non-stick silicone. Remove the leaves from the remaining thyme sprig, then mix with the grated Parmesan. Scatter and spread over the lined baking sheet into a 13 x 8cm rectangle. Bake for about 8 mins until melted and turning golden. Remove, leave to firm up, then snap into jagged pieces.

    5. To serve, remove and discard the herbs from the soup. Ladle the soup into bowls – scatter over a few croutons, the gruyère and a grinding of pepper, then perch a parmesan crisp on top. Serve any remaining croutons separately.

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    Comments, questions and tips

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    19th Feb, 2016
    A rare thumbs down for Angela from me here. This took AGES to make (even by the standard BBC Good Food under estimate of time to prep and cook), about 3 hours in the end. I could not get the onions to caramelise for ages, by the time i'd finished i did not have time to make the croutons and eat it so actually made this over two days. Boy it should have been some special soup for all that, but it was bland as you like, i did not even eat it all and it went mouldy.
    6th Jan, 2015
    made this tonight ,really really tasty ! will defo be on my menu from now on ,thank you
    falesia's picture
    1st Apr, 2013
    I have had this for yesterday dinner, yesterday tea, and am about to have it now for dinner again! It's utterly delicious. I made three slight alterations. In Angela's "The Ultimate Recipe Book" it recommends stirring the onions for 20-25 minutes, then turning them down really low and just leaving them for another 15-20 mins. So that's what I did. Her book recipe also uses beef consomme, which I didn't use (beef consomme??? We don't get a lot of that in Lancashire :) ) And I didn't use croutons, I smashed a clove of garlic into some butter, buttered a slice of rye bread, grated parmesan on the top then grilled it. I put the bread in the bowl first, then poured the soup on top of it. Beautiful recipe--going to make this for when people come round.
    15th Nov, 2012
    amazing soup and amazing recipe. i was so happy with the result, the flavor is so delicate. I actually thought that I will not be able to cook this at home after I ate it in the restaurant.
    29th Sep, 2011
    Really, really good
    4th Aug, 2010
    thumbs up.
    25th Nov, 2018
    I am thinking about making this for a dinner party- will it be ok to make the night before and reheat do you think?
    goodfoodteam's picture
    27th Nov, 2018
    Thanks for your question. We'd suggest making up to the end of step 3 the day before.
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