French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

Here we go with another recipe from the eloquent, food-loving madame that is Sophie Dahl. The soup itself has a mere four ingredients, but lacks nothing when it comes to flavour. Rich and earthy, with a gentle tang creeping through from the balsamic vinegar, it is one for the cooler nights. The process is a bit of a waiting game given the leisurely pace at which the onions soften up in the butter – but don’t be tempted to speed the process up. This is slow-cooking minus the slow-cooker; a heavenly soup glorified by ciabatta topped with cheese; warm, inviting and perfect for winter. You can use half beef stock and half chicken stock to mellow the flavour, though pure beef is traditional (and quite delicious, may I add). A baguette sliced into angled rounds could be substituted for the ciabatta buns also. Top the bread with your choosing with whatever cheese pleases you, as long as it has a tendency to melt well. For this reason, mozzarella would be the perfect accompaniment, given its gorgeously stretchy nature. Other than that, respect the simplicity of the dish – and don’t forget the balsamic for that much-needed edge! This soup can also be frozen in individual portions, and reheated later for belly-pleasing convenience. Finally, aside from all its decadent glory, it’s also incredibly cheap to make.


  • 3 TBS butter
  • 3 large brown onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced
  • 8 cups of liquid beef stock
  • 1 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • A ciabatta bun, per person
  • A small handful of grated cheese, per person


01 Melt the butter in a wide, deep saucepan until it starts to bubble. Add a few lugs of olive oil too, if you have it on hand.

02 Add the onions to the pan, stirring to coat. Turn the heat down as low as possible, cover, and sweat the onions for between 40 minutes to an hour, until they are completely soft. Stir the onions occasionally. The wider the pan, the more evenly the onions will cook.

03 When completely soft, turn the heat up and continue to cook the onions until they develop a deep brown glow. Good French onion soup gets its flavour from the onions being well caramelised, so be patient.

04 Add the stock and balsamic vinegar to the pan, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for a further 15 minutes.

05 Halve the ciabatta buns and sprinkle generously with cheese. By this I mean absolutely overload them with cheese. Grill at 200°C until the cheese is bubbling and golden.

06 Ladle the soup into bowls and plonk the toasted ciabatta on top. They will slowly absorb up liquid. Magic.

$15, serves 5
This article first appeared in Issue 12, 2012.
Posted 7:58pm Sunday 20th May 2012 by Ines Shennan.