French Onion Soup Recipe

It somehow amuses me how a basic dish for poor people managed to become gourmet. If you didn’t know it, find out that onion soup was a popular dish in ancient Rome. Onions were widely available and very easy to grow, so one didn’t need to have advanced gardening skills to be able to cultivate onions in their own backyard.

Another interesting finding is that the word “soup” comes from the Latin “suppa”, which means “bread soaked in a broth”. So, croutons are also originating from ancient soups.

The modern version of this onion soup with beef broth and croutons was born in the 18th century, in France, hence the name “French onion soup”.

What makes a good French onion soup recipe? Although the ingredients are pretty much standard, not everybody can cook a delicious onion soup. Some chefs claim the secret lays in the cooking time, because caramelized onions make the difference, therefore it’s important to cook the onions as slowly as possible to unleash all their wonderful flavors. Caramelization is the process in which the onions are very slowly cooked in olive oil or butter, with the purpose of bringing out the flavors of onions sugars. After the onions turn brown, wine is used to deglaze the skillet and to enhance the flavors.

The French onion soup is made from beef broth and caramelized onions, served with croutons and cheese toppings. The most popular cheese used to top the French onion soup is Gruyere. Various recipes, though, use other types of good melting cheese such as Swiss cheese, mozzarella, Cheddar or even parmesan.

The easiest French onion soup recipe is the one that uses canned beef broth or beef stock and dehydrated onion soup mix. Although it’s easy to just buy, heat and mix, I’m not a big fan of such ingredients which may be full of preservatives, thus not so good for you. I’m for the old-fashioned cooking style, which means starting from scratch and using fresh foods as much as possible.

Ingredients for 4 persons:

  • 5 yellow onions, medium sized (sweet onions are best)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (if you can’t find it fresh, replace with 1 teaspoon of dried thyme)
  • 4 cups homemade beef broth
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 slices of white bread, toasted
  • 1/2 cup Gruyere or Emmentaler cheese, grated
  • salt, pepper

Directions:

Get five medium-sized yellow onions:

Five yellow onions

Five yellow onions

Cut the onions in halves, peel them and slice them thinly. You don’t need to worry too much about how the slices look like, because you’re going to cook them for a long time anyway.

Sliced onions for French onion soup

Sliced onions for French onion soup

I have to tell you that my chopping board is small, so what you see in the above photo is only a part of the whole quantity. This is how five chopped onions look like:

Chopped onions ready to turn into soup

Chopped onions ready to turn into soup

In a heavy bottomed cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil, then add the onions and a bit of salt. I used a large, thick-bottomed stainless steel pot, as you can see from the image above.

Saute the onions over medium to low heat, stirring from time to time. After 1-2 minutes, set the heat to low, cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Don’t stir too often, because you do want the onions to turn brown and to caramelize.

Caramelized onions

Caramelized onions

After the onions get brown, add the fresh thyme and the garlic. Gradually pour the wine and scrape the burnt onions off the skillet bottom.

Pour red wine over the caramelized onions

Pour red wine over the caramelized onions

Keep on cooking and stirring for a few more minutes. Pour the beef broth, add a bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. If the soup is dark brown, you know you’ve done a great job with caramelizing the onions.

French onion soup with homemade beef broth

French onion soup with homemade beef broth

Ladle the soup into four oven-proof soup bowls, making sure to put some of the caramelized onions in each bowl. If you have a traditional onion soup bowl set, use it, because those bowls have a special shape that makes the soup stay hot until the last spoon. Float the toast croutons, one on top of each soup bowl. Lay the grated cheese on top of the croutons. I found it easier to first set the grated cheese on the toast, then place it on the soup.

Toast floating on French onion soup

Toast floating on French onion soup

Put the soup bowls in the oven and broil them until the cheese melts and starts to get brown spots. This will happen in less than one minute. Make sure to closely watch the food at this stage, because it’s extremely easy to burn the cheese and spoil the whole meal.

French onion soup in the oven

French onion soup in the oven

This last photo was taken with the soup still in the oven, just before it was done. The cheese had already melted, but it looked like it was going to sink, so there wasn’t time for a proper table setup before taking the final shot.

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Tomato Soup Recipe

Tomato soup is considered one of the most popular comfort foods in the US. It can be made from scratch, but it is also available in shops in powder form. Although instant powder soup is very fast to prepare, it may contain food additives and preservatives, which make it not so healthy. Besides, a homemade soup made with fresh, high quality ingredients will always taste much better.

Ingredients for 4-5 servings:

  • 7-8 medium size, ripe, fresh tomatoes
  • 1 medium size yellow onion
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth (for a vegetarian version of this tomato soup recipe, use vegetable broth instead)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Peel and slice the onion. Core and chop the tomatoes. Peel and crush the garlic cloves.

In a pot, melt the butter, then add the onion, garlic, Stir, cover and cook over low temperature for about 5 minutes. You don’t want the onions to go brown. After 5 minutes add the garlic, stir, then add the tomatoes. Gradually add the chicken broth and simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes.

Puree the soup using a food processor or a blender. Return the purred soup into the stockpot, add salt, peppercorns, bay leaf and fresh basil and bring it to a boil.  Serve the soup hot. Croutons are a nice addition.

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Leek And Potato Soup

Leek and potato soup is one of the cheapest and easiest homemade soups. Besides, it’s so tasty that even fussy eater children will love it. Here’s a basic recipe which you can tweak by adding your favorite spices.

Ingredients:

  • 2 leeks
  • 2 potatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 4 cups water
  • salt and pepper

Directions:
Clean the leek, trim the top and bottom and remove the outer layer. Section the leek longitudinally in quarters, then chop them. Rinse the chopped leek thoroughly in running water. Peel and dice the potatoes.

In a deep skillet, melt the butter, then add the leek, garlic and potatoes and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. Stir for a few times. Add water, vegetable stock cubes and a little salt (if stock cubes are already salty, you may not want to add more salt at all). Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are done. You can check them with a fork after the first 15 minutes of cooking to see if they are soft.

If you prefer your leek and potato soup to have a chunky texture, you’re done. Ladle it into bowls, sprinkle some chopped fresh parsley and some ground pepper on top and serve it hot.

If you’d rather have your potato leek soup creamy, just let it cool for several minutes, then blend it with a handheld food processor. You’ll need to reheat it a little before serving.

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Cabbage Soup

Cabbage soup is my favorite whenever I’m a bit under the weather. Even if it doesn’t take away the cold, it makes me feel better. That’s why it’s high on my comfort foods list, especially in winter time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small cabbage, cored and chopped (or 1/2 of a big cabbage head, in case you can’t get a small one)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
  • 1/2 cup whole kernel corn
  • 1 can diced tomatoes in tomato sauce
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • salt, pepper to taste

Directions:
In a big pot, heat the olive oil, then saute the onion and garlic for about 4-5 minutes. Do not let the onion brown, you only want it to become translucent.

Add the chicken stock, celery, carrot, corn, salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil.

Add the cabbage and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, bring it to a boil, then set the heat to low and simmer the soup for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Vegetarian version: replace the chicken broth with vegetarian soup stock and you’re done.

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Macaroni And Cheese With Cream Of Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

  • 300 g macaroni (elbow, fusilli, penne etc)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup (or 1 pack instant mushroom soup)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • 2 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded (you can use any cheese mix you wish)
  • salt, pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook the pasta al dente, which usually means 1-2 minutes less than the time indicated on the box. Drain well.

In a pot, heat the cream of mushroom soup until you bring it to a boil. Remove from heat, add the cheese and stir until it melts. In case the sauce is too thick, you can add 2-3 tablespoons of milk. Add the garlic, chopped ham, salt and pepper, then pour it over the macaroni. Stir well, until the pasta gets covered in cheese sauce.

Put in in a baking dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake in the oven preheated to 350 F. After 10-15 minutes of baking, remove the dish from oven and cover it (either with a lid or with aluminum foil), then bake it for 15 minutes more.

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Tomato Egg Curry

Ingredients:

  • 3 average size tomatoes, quartered
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 2 average size onions, chopped
  • 1 spring onion, chopped small
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3-4 green chili peppers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 small piece of ginger
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 curry leaf
  • Salt to taste

Directions:
Heat the olive oil in a pan. Saute the onions, green onions, curry leaf and green chili peppers for about 4-5 minutes. Add the chili powder, turmeric, mustard seeds and ginger and cook for one more minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 2-3 minutes, then add the beaten eggs. Let it cook for about 2-3 minutes. Serve hot.

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Thai Red Curry Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds chicken, cut in bite sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10-12 basil leaves
  • 2 green chili peppers, seeded, halved
  • 2 red chili peppers, seeded, halved
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, crushed
  • 1 cup thick coconut milk
  • 2 cups thin coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon sweet basil
  • 3-4 tablespoons red curry paste (see below)

Ingredients for seasoning:

  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce

Ingredients for the red curry paste:

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 5 shallots
  • 2 coriander roots
  • 2 tablespoons chili paste
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper, ground
  • 1/2 cup lemongrass, thinly sliced

Directions:
Grind and combine all ingredients for the red curry paste, then put the powder in a jar, so you can store it for later use.

Brown the chicken in olive oil, then mix it with the thick coconut milk and cook it over moderate heat for about 10-15 minutes or until the meat is tender (the cooking time depends on the chicken pieces size). Warm the thin coconut milk, then add 3-4 tablespoons of red curry paste. Continue cooking on low heat and keep stirring. When you see oil separating from the mixture, add the cooked chicken, red and green chili peppers, kaffir lime leaves and seasoning. Keep cooking for about 15-20 more minutes or until the gravy becomes thick.

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Mixed Vegetable Curry

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped small
  • 2 green chili peppers, chopped small
  • 2 courgettes, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 average size potatoes, chopped
  • 10 button mushrooms
  • 1 average size carrot, sliced
  • salt

Directions:
In a wok, heat the olive oil, then stir fry the garlic for 4-5 minutes. Add turmeric, cumin seeds, green chili peppers and coriander powder and mix well. Add the onion and continue cooking for about 2 minutes. When the onion turns light brown lower the heat and add the rest of the vegetables and some salt. Cook the food for about 15-20 minutes more. Serve hot with steamed rice.

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Thai Green Curry Beef

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound beef, cut into cubes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1/4 pound Thai mini eggplants
  • 1/4 pound green beans
  • 6 kieffer lime leaves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fish juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon rind
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh coriander

Ingredients for the green curry paste:

  • 5 green chili peppers
  • 20 green bird’s eye chili peppers
  • 10-15 garlic cloves, skinned, chopped
  • 3-4 shallots, chopped
  • 2-3 lemongrass, chopped
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh coriander
  • 2 tablespoons coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoons shrimp paste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder

Ingredients for the marinade:

  • 3-4 cups fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • salt

Directions:
In a pot, mix the fish sauce with pepper, garlic, salt and sugar, then add the beef. Make sure the meat is completely covered by the liquid. Put it in the fridge and let it marinate for 4-5 hours minimum.

Put the green curry paste ingredients in the food processor and blend them until they turn into a fine paste.

In a bowl, mix the coconut milk with 2 cups of water.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a wok. Stir fry the shallots with 2 tablespoons of the green curry paste. After one minute, add the coconut milk and bring it to a boil. Add the kieffer lime leaves, the eggplants and the green beans. Mix well and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Add the beef, the lemon rind, lime juice, brown sugar and fish sauce. Continue cooking for about 10-15 minutes or until the beef is tender. Sprinkle with coriander. Serve hot.

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Lamb Curry Madras

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds lamb shoulder, cut in 2 by 2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 3 dried red chili peppers
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 green chili peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 400 ml coconut milk

Directions:
In a pan, roast the black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cloves, fenugreek and fennel seeds. Let them cool down, then grind them.

Fry the onion in olive oil for about 4-5 minutes. When it gets a bit brown on the edges add the garlic, the ginger and the green chilli peppers. Fry them for one minute, then add the lamb and some salt. Continue cooking until the lamb gets a nice brown color.

Add the ground spices and stir fry for a little bit more. Add the coconut milk and the tomatoes, then simmer for about two hours. The meat should be tender and the sauce thick and sticky. If you want, you can reduce the sauce on high heat in a separate pan. Serve the curry hot with grilled courgettes, rice or any other side dish of your choice.

From: Foolproof Indian Cookery by Madhur Jaffrey.

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