Know your onions
I decided to start with this recipe because this soup is an absolute favourite in our household and always has been, even before we started reducing our meat consumption. Hearty and filling with a perfect sweet onion and savoury broth balance of flavour. My daughter loves it and I am always on the hunt for child friendly lunches we can all eat together. It also freezes well, in the unlikely event you have some left over.
I also chose it because it highlights something that I think we are going to see a lot more of in the coming years and that is the direct effect of climate change. You may have noticed (and if you haven’t make an effort to look) that the British seasonal onions this year are small, certainly smaller than in previous years. That is a consequence of the dry summer we had last year. Lack of water has meant that crop yield is reduced and the size of onion bulbs are smaller. It is possible to still buy large onions but by and large they are either imported or expensive.
So often global warming and environmental change seem somewhat abstract, something that is unlikely to touch us at home and in our lifetimes. I fear that is a serious misapprehension, a view that seems to be held by sciency people with a lot more knowledge and expertise on the subject than me.
Maybe one small positive is that to my taste buds the smaller onions seem to have a more concentrated flavour. Certainly the small brown British onions have more flavour than the large white varieties commonly imported from Spain and China. Slightly on a tangent but maybe of interest to any Enfield residents reading this, the best onions I have ever tasted were from the pick your own at Park Farm on the Hadley Road, open over the summer. Probably because they were so fresh and possibly because of the added satisfaction of having picked them out of the mud myself. It is fun trip out for children, certainly more fun than the supermarket. My daughter always has a great time when we go and it’s a good way to show children where and how their food grows.
Anyway back to the recipe! It is super simple and doesn’t have many ingredients but it does take a bit of time to make because the key to this recipe is getting the onions caramelised and that can’t be rushed. Traditionally this is made with beef stock. Good homemade stock will make great soup but frankly I just use stock cube because, satisfying as it is, I just don’t have time to be making my own.
If you want to go full veggie on this recipe adding a little marmite (vegemite if you’re anti Unilever products) to the vegetable stock gives it a bit more depth of flavour.
6 - 8 small/medium sized onions halved and sliced (about 500g)
A little oil and/or butter to fry
1 litre of beef stock or veg stock
2 cloves of minced/grated garlic
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
A bay leaf
Salt & pepper to season
Makes enough for 2 -3 adults and a child
1. Add the onions to a pan and fry gently in the butter and/or oil, stirring frequently, on a medium heat for 25-30 mins until the onions soften and turn golden brown in colour. You want the onions to caramelise but not burn (which will produce a bitter taste) so if it looks like it’s starting to catch add a splash of water to the pan and lower the heat slightly.
2. Sprinkle the flour over the onions, add the garlic and cook for a further 3-5 minutes.
3. Add the vinegar, stock, sugar and bay leaf and simmer for 1/2 an hour.
4. Fish out the bay leaf and discard.
5. Season to taste.
6. Et voila, eat with something cheesy. Traditionally a cheesy crouton but I like cheese scones.
Let me know if you want the recipe for the scones.