The Onion Family
The Onion Family
Allium vegetables – the ones from the onion family – form an important part of our diet. In addition to regular onions and spring onions, they include shallots, garlic, leeks and chives. Allium is the Latin word for garlic. These highly versatile vegetables are high in beneficial sulphur compounds, which is what gives them their distinctive smell, taste and, of course, tear inducing pungency.
2 leeks, washed and sliced into 2cm rings
90g of unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, sliced
60g of flour
600ml whole milk
1 bay leaf
150g of mature cheddar, grated
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, (optional – omit for vegetarian)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Tabasco, to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Topping: 2 tbsp Panko breadcrumbs, 1 tbsp sunflower seeds, freshly ground black pepper
Place a large frying pan over medium heat and add 30g of the butter. Once melted, add the leeks and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, until the leeks have started to soften but remain bright green. Set aside.
Gently bring the milk to a boil in a small pan with the bay leaf – keep an eye on it as it bubbles over quickly.
Meanwhile, place a saucepan over medium heat with the flour and remaining butter inside. Use a spatula to stir the ingredients into a paste (a roux) and cook for a minute to cook out the raw flour taste. Whisk in the warmed milk (discarding the bay leaf) bit by bit until you have a thick, smooth sauce.
Beat in the cheddar, reserving a big handful for the crumb topping. Once fully melted into the sauce, add in the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat an oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
Stir the leeks into the sauce, then tip out into an ovenproof dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs, remaining grated cheese and sunflower seeds and cover with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
Cook in the oven for 30–40 minutes and serve up hot.
French Onion Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1kg onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp sugar
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tbsp plain flour
250ml dry white wine
1.3l hot strongly-flavoured beef stock
4-8 slices baguette (depending on size)
140g gruyère, finely grated
Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan. Add the onions and fry with the lid on for 10 mins until soft.
Sprinkle in the sugar and cook for 20 mins more, stirring frequently, until caramelised. The onions should be really golden, full of flavour and soft when pinched between your fingers. Take care towards the end to ensure that they don’t burn.
Add the garlic cloves for the final few minutes of the onions’ cooking time, then sprinkle in the plain flour and stir well.
Increase the heat and keep stirring as you gradually add the wine, followed by the beef stock. Cover and simmer for 15-20 mins.
To serve, turn on the grill, and toast the bread. Ladle the soup into heatproof bowls.
Put a slice or two of toast on top of the bowls of soup, and pile on the gruyère. Grill until melted. Alternatively, you can cook the toasts under the grill, then add them to the soup to serve.