Not so classic French Onion Soup

Is there anything more delicious than a bubbling bowl of onion soup? That cheesy, garlicky giant crouton.. the molten lava under the crouton. It’s just wonderful. I like to use Gruyère for the cheese croutons but if you can’t get your hands on it then cheddar is a great melter.  Don’t be tempted to rush this soup, it’s at its best when you really reduce and caramelise the onions. Trust me with this one, take your time. 

This is a vegetarian recipe, but if you aren’t veggie. Use a good quality beef stock and forgo the marmite. 

Makes 4 – 6 bowls 


  • 2.5 KG onions. A mixture of brown, red, shallots and pearl onions 
  • 1 L high quality vegetable stock 
  • 1 tablespoon of marmite 
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme 
  • 1 L Dry cider 
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar 
  • salt and pepper to taste 
  • 100g butter 
  • 2 tablespoons of plain flour 
  • 100ml brandy 
  • 50 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 baguette stick 
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic 
  • 200g grated gruyere cheese (or cheddar) 


  1. Peel the onions and slice into half moons. You don’t want them to be really thin, you want the slices to be fairly thick 
  2. Melt the butter with the oil in a large heavy based pan pan. Add the onions and stir so the onions are coated in the fat. With the heat on a medium heat reduce the onions for about 2.5 hours, stirring regularly to pan sure they aren’t getting stuck to the base of the pan. 
  3. When the onions have reduced and now resemble a lovely golden, slightly mushy looking onion base add the flour and stir. Cook the roux for a few minuets then add the thyme leaves.
  4. Gradually stir in the cider, stock, balsamic and marmite. Bring the pan to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and allow the soup to cook for another 1.5 hours. Stirring occasionally.
  5. When the soup is almost ready to be served make a start on your croutons.  Slice up the baguette and lightly toast the bread. Drizzle a little olive oil OR butter the toast. Slice the garlic in half and rub the garlic cloves over the toasted bread. 
  6. Grate the cheese and heat the grill to medium. 
  7. Check the seasoning of the soup, add a little salt and pepper if required and even some more marmite if you want it more punchy before stirring in the brandy.
  8. Ladle the soup into oven safe bowls and place on a baking tray. Place the toasts on top of the soup and add a mound of cheese. Place under the grill until the cheese is molten and bubbling. 
  9. Serve imminently.. but be careful not to burn your tongue! 

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