Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup

Much as I enjoy a blue fillet steak or a bacon sandwich,  there are times when it feels good to lay off the meat and enjoy meals without. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavour though.  Hot and Sour Soup is perfect for days like these. Filling, warming, and full of exciting flavours. If you want to add cooked chicken or prawns though,  go ahead. Extra vegetables? Go for it!

20161109_202020

This version was inspired by a recipe from a much used and favoured cookbook, Gok Cooks Chinese. Although my predictive text called him God. He’s good, but not quite THAT good!

Ingredients (to serve 4 generously)

  • 1.5 litres of light, unsalted vegetable stock or use water
  • 50g approx of mushrooms, sliced  (I used chestnut with a few shitake)
  • 1-2 fresh red chillis, finely sliced (or a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes) depending on  how hot you like your soup
  • 50ml light soy sauce
  • Approx 3 heaped tablespoons of thinly sliced bamboo shoots (I used tinned, drained bamboo)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and very finely sliced then diced
  • 5cm piece of fresh ginger peeled and grated (or use frozen chopped ginger)
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and grated or crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons of rice vinegar  (to taste)
  • Optional 2 heaped teaspoons of cornflour dissolved in a little cold water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Finely chopped spring onion or chives to serve

Bring the stock to a gentle boil and add the carrot. Simmer for about 5 minutes then add all the ingredients except the cornflour, vinegar,  egg and spring onion.

Simmer for about 10 minutes then gradually add the vinegar, tasting as you go until it reaches a level of sourness you enjoy.

If you prefer a slightly thickened soup, add two heaped teaspoons of cornflour to about 50mls of cold water and add to the simmering soup. Allow to thicken (this will take a minute or two).

Turn off the heat and add the egg, whisking as you do to create fine ribbons of cooked egg. Serve garnished with the finely sliced spring onion and marvel that it was quicker to prepare than ordering and waiting for a takeaway delivery.

(For a gluten free option use tamari instead of soy sauce and omit the cornflour).

There’s (almost) no such thing as a free lunch….

So, here we are, back in Spain. The sun is shining, the horrible hot wind we get in southern Spain (El Terral) has finally died down and we’ve caught our breath from the long drive.  We’re very lucky to have two lovely homes, but when you get back to a house that has been shut up for a few months, you find that the dust monsters have been to visit. We managed avoidance tactics for a few days with a combination of going out to catch up with people, and staying in feeling grumpy and full of cold (me)/Man Flu (Big Man) germs.

Finally the day came when we couldn’t ignore The Big Clean Up any more and today we made a start. Mrs and Mrs Mop began a vaguely systematic attack on the house and garden and, while there is still plenty more to be done, we felt satisfied that we deserved a nice lunch in the garden. Spring and autumn are perfect for outdoor lunchtime dining. Sometimes you get a lovely warm day in winter or a cool summer day which also permit al fresco lunches…but you definitely make the most of those perfect days.

In Spanish terms, it was almost dangerously vegetarian (well, apart from the seafood and salami). We didn’t worry, the village fiesta is upon us and we know we’ll be eating our own body weight in grilled meat and pinchitos (little kebabs) over the next few days. What did make us smile was the fact that pretty much everything we were eating had been gifted to us by kindly friends and family, or recycled from another meal. It’s good to be a frugal houseperson when the food is this good!

Lunch included:

Salmorejo (my very favourite cold soup) made from stale bread and tomatoes given to us by kindly brother-in-law. These are the ripe and ugly tomatoes which are used for soups and sauces

Almuerzo Sep 2015 (12)

Garnished with hard boiled eggs from kindly neighbour who adopted our chickens and jamon (bought from local butcher)

Salad made with leftover prawns and squid which had been barbecued the night before and avocados from kindly neighbour who also keeps us supplied with oranges later in the year to make marmalade.

Almuerzo Sep 2015 (10)

Tomato, mint and onion salad made with “tomates para picar” (tomatoes for chopping up!), again from kindly brother-in-law and mint from our garden.

Almuerzo Sep 2015 (9)

Salads dressed with our own olive oil and juice from our lemons

Almuerzo Sep 2015 (11)

Cheese and salchichon (salami). Salchichon given to us by kindly local bar owner as a welcome home present.

Apple Sorbet 003

Dessert was figs from our tree and apple sorbet made with apples from kindly cousin. Inspired by Rosemary’s ice cream making, I dug out my own ice-cream maker. To serve 2 people – 500g apples (peeled and cored), cooked with 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice then blended, cooled and churned in my machine. Maybe I should make more Apple Roses – I certainly have enough fruit!

Almuerzo Sep 2015 (17)

I drank a glass (or two) of Spanish wine, but Big Man was clearly feeling a bit nostalgic for England and opened a bottle of English beer.

Almuerzo Sep 2015 (14)

I thought we’d bought those beers with us as gifts for kindly friends and family. Ooops!

Almuerzo Sep 2015 (8)

PS. You know we hate waste here….the prawn shells are now bubbling away to make stock…maybe we’ll have an “arroz caldoso” in the next few days…

Smoked Prawn and Smoked Bacon Chowder and a Down by the Sea Salad

I’ve just tried something new for the first time – it’s quite exciting at my age to do that! Nothing saucy or involving dressing up in latex…I’m talking food here of course. What else?!

Smoked prawns are what have got me all excited and giddy. Am I just late to the party or is this something new? I came across them in our little Down by the Sea fishmonger’s the other day and they are sold in the traditional measure for cooked prawns here – by the pint.

Of course, I had to try them and along with two cooked and dressed crabs I had a delicious salad in mind for supper. It was utterly delicious and with some homemade mayonnaise for the crab (some of which I turned into a Marie Rose sauce for dipping) and a balsamic vinaigrette for the salad and some new potatoes drizzled with olive oil it was a wonderful meal. But not really a recipe to impress you with.

DSC_0017

I still had half a pint of prawns left (25 of them to be precise) so the next day I decided to make a kind for chowder for lunch. I don’t claim this to be a completely authentic chowder as I didn’t have any corn, so it’s more a cross between a chowder and the lovely soup from Scotland, Cullen Skink. Strange name, great soup.

Ingredients (to serve 2)

  • About 24 peeled prawns (smoked or plain)
  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
  • Half an onion finely chopped
  • 2 small sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of plain flour
  • Half a litre of liquid (I used a mix of milk and fish stock made with the prawn shells)
  • 1 tablespoon of crème fraiche
  • A finely chopped spring onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Smoked Prawn & Bacon Chowder (2)

Gently fry the onion and celery in a little olive oil until it starts to soften then add the bacon and fry until it starts to crisp. Add the prawns and plain flour and cook gently for a few minutes. Add the stock/milk and bring slowly to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, it will thicken. Taste and season if necessary. To serve stir in the crème fraiche and sprinkle over the spring onion.

Autumn Tomato and Vegetable Soup

Lunch in our home right now doesn´t always happen at lunch time. Sometimes it doesn´t happen at all, but we do eventually eat and everything tastes even better as hunger – so they say – is the best seasoning.

Soups are perfect as they just need to be heated up and can be eaten quickly if we´re in a rush, or enjoyed with a hearty sandwich or some cold meats and cheeses if we have the luxury of a little time. This was a quick one to prepare, and was warming and tasty due to the addition of fresh ginger and smoked pimentón.

Of course, I´d recommend a soup bowl and not a coffee cup without a handle, but the choice is yours!

Ingredients (serves two to four, depending on how hungry you are)

  • 500ml of sieved tomatoes (passata)
  • 500ml of water or vegetable stock
  • 1 large carrot peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • 1 large courgette peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • 1 large onion peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium parsnip peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • About 10 green beans cut into small pieces
  • A level teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • One heaped teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
  • A teaspoon of marmite (optional)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • A tablespoon of fresh olive oil

Put all the ingredients except the oil into a saucepan and simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Taste for seasoning and either serve as is with chunks of vegetables or add the olive oil and blend until smooth and creamy.

PS. The pretty napkins were made from an old sheet my best friend gave me that she found in a charity shop. She knows how I like to recycle and refashion and was sick of me commenting that I was missing sewing/knitting/crochet etc.  She gave it to me and said “there you go, it´s big enough for you to make a tablecloth and six napkins by hand”. So I did!

Sopa de Picadillo – Chicken Soup Spanish Style

Cloudy is good, clear is bad!

The first time I ate a bowl of chicken soup in Spain, I was a little surprised by the way it looked. I was staying in my rented Cortijo in the middle of nowhere, with my lovely, crazy landlords living in the adjacent house and popping in on me at weekends to make sure I was fine. In true Spanish Mama style, my landlady often bought me things to eat, just to make sure I was going to stay nice and well rounded.

One lunchtime she came over with a bowl of chicken soup. I was surprised because in the UK a good chicken stock is clear, transparent…and highly valued for these attributes. What I had been presented with was cloudy, almost a yellowy white in colour. It smelt amazing and the bowl was packed full of other goodies too. Pieces of chicken, fine noodles, chopped hard boiled egg and jamon and some pieces of fresh mint. I was also instructed to squeeze lemon juice into my soup.  Then off she trotted, happy to have kept her (not so) starving tenant alive to see another sunny Andalucían day.

Of course, once I had tasted it, I was in love. Such deep chicken flavours, quite a salty (but not disagreeably so) taste and the tang of lemon and mint. The name of the soup, Picadillo, comes from the verb Picar. This means to chop finely or into small pieces. Hence the final additions of hard boiled egg and jamon.

This is not a recipe, more a method. Spanish chicken stock is made with whole joints of chicken (I use thighs and legs usually), salted pork bones and salted pork belly with plenty of fat on it.  If you can´t get the last two ingredients use a couple of pork ribs and a piece of normal pork belly or a thick slice of pancetta.  Add a couple of bay leaves, about 4 cloves, 1 or 2 dried chilies (optional) and cover with water. I also add in a few carrots and sticks of celery, but this is not typical. If you have not used salted bones, add salt to taste and check again at the end of cooking.

Now boil it fast for about 10 minutes, this is when the water will turn cloudy, then turn down the heat and simmer for at least an hour. Strain the stock and leave it to cool, you will then be able to remove the layer of natural fat from the meat which will set on the surface.

Remove the bones, bay leaves, cloves, chilies and discard. To serve a typical Sopa de Picadillo, boil up the stock, add some fine angel hair noodles and the chicken (pork belly too if you used unsalted)  and cook until the chicken is warmed through and the noodles are cooked. Sprinkle over hard boiled egg and jamon (or use lardons or pancetta) and if you have some fresh mint to infuse in the soup it really adds a special touch. Don´t forget the squeeze of lemon too!

Like most chicken soups, it is claimed to be the cure for all ills, but you don´t need to be feeling under the weather to enjoy it.

Split Pea & Squash Curry

Now that we seem to have caught up (vegetable-availability-wise) with everyone who was posting squash and pumpkin recipes back in the autumn, I am finally cooking lots of warming winter dishes which include this fantastic ingredient. Having said that, it´s not actually very cold here at the moment, but it is Janaury, so I feel justified in making wintery food.

Although we didn´t put on any extra kilos over Christmas, no one could ever accuse either me or Big Man of being under weight, so recipes which are healthier and packed with vegetables are perfect for us.

A mild flavoured curry was on my list – Big Man doesn´t like them hot, and I can always add a little dried chilli at the end to turn up the heat in my own portion.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a hearty soup or more as a side dish)

  • 200g split yellow peas (the last of a stash bought over by visitors…so sad)
  • 500g squash peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 cup of tomato conserva or chopped tinned tomatoes
  • 1 onion peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
  • 1 head of garlic (you will be roasting this and only using half)
  • 2-3 cups of vegetable stock or water
  • 3 heaped teaspoons of your favourite curry mix (I usually make mine with ground turmeric, chilli, cumin, dried coriander, black pepper and cardamom seeds and then add a little fresh grated ginger when I cook)
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 1 dried chilli crumbled (optional)
  • Oil for frying

Turn the oven onto a high setting and place the squash on a tray lined with foil. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle a little oil over.  Roast for about 30 minutes until soft and brown at the edges.  Put the garlic in at the same time, wrapped loosely in foil.

Start by dry frying the mustard seeds until they pop. Remove them from the pan. Add a little oil to your pan and fry the onion and garlic until they are soft, then add your curry powder and mustard seeds and fry until the lovely aromas start to come out, then add the split peas (or you could use lentils).  Now add the tomato conserva and 2 cups of the stock or water plus the crumbled chilli if using.

Cook gently until the split peas are almost soft (you may need to add more liquid, just keep an eye on them). Remove the squash and garlic from the oven and cut the squash into smaller bite sized chunks.  Add these to the split peas.  Pop half of the garlic cloves out of their skins and add to the curry. Mash the other half and cover with a little oil, it will keep for at least a week in the fridge and can be used in other dishes or dips.

Add a drop more liquid to the vegetables if necessary, cooking the curry for about 10 more minutes until everything is soft and cooked through.  You can mash some of the squash, garlic and split peas with the back of a wooden spoon, leaving some chunky.  Add salt, you´ll probably find it can take quite a lot, but the choice is yours. Eat as a thick soup or a side dish and it´s lovely served with rice or naan bread.

Delicious with a squeeze of lime juice and chopped coriander, but I didn´t have either of them so I just used lemon juice. If you like it even milder and more creamy, stir in a couple of big spoonfuls of thick creamy yogurt.

We had some leftovers, so the next day I added some more stock, yogurt and some finely chopped chard (you could use spinach, kale, cabbage) and warmed it through to make a delicious soup – I´m not sure which version I liked best!

Salmorejo Cordobés – Another kind of gazpacho

 

Creamy Salmorejo

As promised, another version of the famed Andalucían gazpachos.  This one originates from the beautiful city of Córdoba, and is my favourite version of all.  It is different in that it uses very few ingredients but can be served three ways – very thick as a dip with small breadsticks (known as Picos), medium thick garnished with chopped hard boiled egg and jamon or tuna as a chilled soup starter, or diluted with water as a refreshing drink.  So…three dishes in one!

Ingredients for this are few and it will serve from 6 (as tapas) to 2 (as a soup) approximately:

  • 2-3 slices of stale bread without the crust (should be a fairly dense bread rather than sliced white from the supermarket)
  • About 500g of tomato, cored and peeled (I had one HUGE tomato as you can see in the photo) but usually the volume of the tomato once in the jug is a little more than the volume of the breadcrumbs
  • A chunk of red pepper (optional)
  • Half a clove of garlic (don´t recommend you use more or it will overpower the taste the taste of the salmorejo)
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Once again, the holy trinity of water, salt and vinegar appear but we´ll use very little water this time.

Dribble a very little amount of water onto the bread which you will have put into a mixing jug, and leave for a minute or two to absorb it.

Start with bread and water

Add the tomato and pepper if you are using it.  The truly authentic recipe doesn´t use red pepper, but after wondering why my salmorejo never looked as red or tasted as sweet as anyone else´s, I was let into the secret of the locals round here – red pepper!

Tomato and Red Pepper

Add your garlic, a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of vinegar and at least two tablespoons of olive oil and start to blend with the hand blender.

Add Vinegar and Salt

You need to get this really smooth, almost like a purée.  The more oil you add, the smoother the mixture will be, although I tend to go easy on it just for the sake of my waistline!  Taste every so often and adjust the salt and vinegar to your liking.  Again, it should be “alegre” or lively in flavour.

Start to blend

When you´re done, leave to chill in the fridge for about an hour.

Get it smooth and thick

Traditionally it´s served in a deep earthenware bowl (to maintain the freshness) with chopped hard-boiled egg and jamon on top.  Some people substitute the jamon for tinned tuna but I guess chopped bacon would also be nice.

It´s also great as a dip or sauce served with little breadsticks (like very short grissini) or croutons.

Pea, Spring Onion and Mint Soup

 
I´ll have a Pea please…

I think I´m still about bit confused as to whether it´s Winter, Spring or Summer here in Andalucía.  The calendar says May, so I´m thinking Spring.  Last week we had torrential rain and had to light the fire again in the evening.  Yesterday I was sunbathing and gardening and the temperatures reached the high 20´s.  No wonder I´m feeling a little confused.

Soup always fits the bill, especially for a light supper.  Warming when you want it to be, chilled when you need cooling down and always very comforting.

Saved...from the compost heap!

We still have the last of our Spring Onions in the garden which have grown to enormous proportions. Big Man is going to pull them up as the last few are pretty tough, but the centres are still incredibly tender, so I thought I´d save a few before they ended up on the compost heap and turn them into a soup.  A quick nip outside the back door led me to my beautiful mint which has really taken off again after its winter rest and a trip to the freezer for some frozen peas and I was almost set.

Now, Big Man claims not to like peas, so when I first made this soup for him I told a porky and said that it was made with a mixture of broad beans and peas.   Once he had declared it “delicious, you must make this again” I confessed and it´s become a bit of a favourite.  Our broad beans are now ready to eat, so perhaps next time I´ll make the “true” version and see which one we prefer.

The serving I made fed two accompanied with plenty of crusty bread and is equally good served piping hot or icy cold.

I have a saucepan which I know makes a perfect serving for two, so measurements are a bit vague for this one I´m afraid.   Will try to explain!  Ingredients used were:

  • Just under half the pan full of frozen peas (a cup and a half approx)
  • A potato the size of my clenched fists (I don´t have big hands – if only the rest of me was in proportion!)
  • 2 very large spring onions, including the green stems cleaned and chopped
  • About 10 large mint leaves
  • Water
  • Seasoning

This is quick and also very low fat (well, no fat actually), so also good if you´re watching the waistline.  Which I really should be doing, but hey, back to the cooking.

I had a ready cooked potato left over from some potato salad – I cook them in their skins and then peel them and tend to keep these in the fridge as a staple.  If you don´t have a ready cooked one, peel, cube, boil until tender and then drain.

Put all your ingredients into a saucepan, season and cover with twice the volume of water (or vegetable stock) and bring to the boil.  Cook for a few minutes until the peas are done and then leave for another few minutes to cool down slightly. Check and adjust your seasoning.

Then all you need to do is to blitz it with a hand blender and it´s ready to serve.  Quick, delicious and easy!

Nearly ready

I´ve also served this with cubed jamon (or you could use lightly fried lardons or diced bacon). If you wanted a creamy version you could swirl in some cream or yogurt just before serving.  A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over the top just seems to finish it off perfectly.  No photo of the finished dish I´m afraid as we were clearly too hungry and forgot to take one!  Enjoy…

Mussel Soup – A hearty bowl of mussels cooked with garlic and tomatoes

A Rare Sunny April Day in the Garden

Well, it´s been a while since I posted anything at all, let alone a recipe.  It´s been a hectic 5 or 6 weeks with 3 lots of visitors, which was wonderful.  Also, a fall down the patio steps (am still feeling rather delicate in the nether regions) and a broken camera which meant that I couldn´t take any pictures.  All very frustrating but the derrière is now on the mend and we´ve bought a new camera.  Hurrah!

Fish Man came by this morning, and I decided to see what he had tucked in the back of his little van.  I´d been fancying a warming soup as we´ve had the worst (and wettest) Easter here in Andalucía for 80 years, and the rain and storms are set to last for a few days more.  Combine this with the most dreadful hay fever and I feel like I have a bad dose of flu with a serious hangover on top.  I don´t actually have a hangover, although it might have been fun putting in the work to achieve it, just the pain! Fortunately Fish Man had some beautiful mussels, not of the bicep kind you understand, so I bought a kilo.

I was torn between doing them in a creamy, oniony, white wine base or a garlicky, tomatoey one.  The tomato won – I felt that my nose needed a good assault of powerful smells! This is a very easy and quick to cook dish that looks as though you spent hours in the kitchen creating something “gourmet”.

The serving I made would feed two as a main course or four as a starter.

Ingredients used were:

    • A kilo of mussels
    • 3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
    • Half a medium onion finely chopped
    • About a cup or half a tin of chopped peeled tomatoes
    • Olive oil for frying
    • Small glass of white wine
    • About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
    • Salt and pepper
    • Water (optional)
Rinse the Mussels Several Times
    Start by cleaning the mussels.  Not as tricky as it may seem.  I usually rinse them three or four times in cold running water.  Throw away any that are cracked or open.  You then need to remove the “beard” which is the small strand of seaweed looking stuff which usually just pokes out of the straighter side of the mussel.  Hold the mussel in one hand with the point facing down and the curved part into the palm of your hand.  Grab the seaweedy strand with your thumb and forefinger of the other hand and pull it upwards – it will slide out and you´re done!
Cleaned and De-Barnacled!

If your mussels have any barnacles attached, you can pop these off with the blade of a flat (butter) knife.  Finally a quick scrub (I use a metallic pan scrubber for this) and a final rinse and they´re done.

Put the mussels to one side and start on the base.  In a deep saucepan which has a lid, heat some olive oil (enough to sweat the onion and garlic).  On a low heat, sweat them off for a few minutes until soft and transparent. I used a red onion today as it was what I had, but it´s just as good, if not better, with a stronger tasting white onion.

Gently sweat the onion and garlic

Now add your tomato (you can also add a teaspoon of tomato puree if your tomatoes are a bit pale or lacking in flavour).  Keep on a low heat and put the lid on and leave to simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove the lid, add your wine and seasoning and bring to a bubble then reduce to a simmer and leave to cook gently for 5 minutes.

Make the tomato base for the soup

 

The base is now ready and you can stop here until you´re ready to eat – the final stages will only take you about another 5 minutes, so this is a good “prepare ahead when you´ve got guests” dish.

Finally...add the mussels and parsley

When you´re ready to eat, warm the tomato sauce, add the mussels and the chopped parsley and put the lid on.  I usually do this on a medium heat and after about 2 minutes check and see how the mussels are doing.  You may need to put the lid on and give the pan a shake to move the mussels around a little.

Once they´re all open they´re ready to eat.  The mussels will release their juices so see how much you have in the pot.  If you feel you´d like a little more liquid, add a glass of water (or fish stock or wine), if not, they´re fine as they are. I don´t usually add more liquid, these measurements give two large bowls of mussels and enough stock for two good bowls of soup.

Enjoy - but don´t forget the wine!

You can serve with a salad and plenty of crusty bread to mop up the juices.  I recommend serving with a spoon and fork.  The fork is for getting those mussels out of their shells for those guests who don´t want to use an empty shell to do this, and the spoon is for the soup part.  They´re also nice, particularly if you serve them with less liquid, with crispy chips and garlicky mayonnaise.  Don´t forget to put an empty bowl on the table to chuck the shells into and a bottle of chilled white, rosé or red wine.  Yes, I do mean chilled red, believe me, it works! It´s one of those dishes that works with any wine.  A bit like me really…

Onions and Rainbows – Onion Soup for a Rainy Day

That´ll Warm You Up!

We´ve had some amazing mild, sunny February weather, but yesterday things changed and the rains came down.  The temperature dropped and made me yearn for warming soups. I had bought a couple of kilos of red onions from a lady in the market a few days previously.  They were probably home grown as she had a wheelbarrow full of them and nothing more.  The onions were eye wateringly strong, as I had found out when I used some in a salad, so I thought that perhaps they would have a gentler flavour if cooked slowly in a chutney or soup.

Memories of a romantic week in Paris with Big Man reminded me of French Onion Soup. I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower for him, despite a severe dislike for heights.  After returning to ground level, pale, shaking and cold, we found a little bistro where we warmed ourselves up with Onion Soup and a bottle of red wine shared on one of those tiny Parisian Bistro tables which lend themselves to knees and hands touching over a romantic meal.

If you fancy a bowl of cockle warming Onion Soup, with or without the Gallic Romance, open yourself a bottle of white wine, pour yourself a glass and get ready to chop and cry.  For two, you´ll need:

  • Half a kilo (or more if you don´t mind chopping them) of onions, finely sliced.  French if you have them, but otherwise any nationality of onion – it doesn´t even need a French accent
  • Two tablespoons of olive oil
  • A thick slice of butter
  • A level teaspoon of sugar
  • Two heaped teaspoons of plain flour
  • 750mlof beef stock or chicken stock with  a teaspoon of marmite or Bovril (or you can use stock made with a beef stock cube)
  • A glass of dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • A slug of brandy (optional)

It´s not a difficult dish to make.  It´s cheap too, but needs a bit of patience.  No rushing this one I´m afraid!

Cry Me A River...

First you´ll thinly slice those onions, then you´ll blow your nose, wipe your eyes and melt the butter with the oil in a large frying pan.  Add the onions, mix them around to coat them and turn the heat down to low.  These will now cook very gently until they start to caramelize but still remain soft. 

This can take at least half an hour, sometimes double that.  It just depends on the time of year and how much water the onions have.  Stir them with a wooden spoon from time to time and when they start to turn brown, sprinkle the sugar on top and keep cooking until they are dark brown.  This can take another 10-20 minutes. 

Starting to caramelise
Add flour and wine

Now sprinkle over the flour and cook gently while stirring for a minute. 

At this point you can add your wine and then your beef stock (if you have it, but it´s very hard to buy good beef, let alone find beef bones to make stock in Southern Spain).  I use chicken stock (if I have some made) otherwise water and a stock cube and I add a good teaspoon of marmite to give it a beefy taste.  I know it´s salty, but you haven´t seasoned yet, and depending on how much salt you like to use, you can leave this part of the seasoning out at the end.

Add stock and simmer

Today I used homemade chicken stock, and because our chickens are corn fed, my stock is very golden in colour.  This means that unless I add loads of marmite to darken it, it won´t be as dark as it usually turns out.  Too much marmite makes it super salty, so I live with golden coloured soup sometimes!

Simmer gently for about 15 minutes and you´re almost ready to serve.  Taste to check and add salt and pepper if you like.  If it´s a touch sweet from the caramelized onions, I find a sprinkle of salt and a slug extra of white wine usually balances the taste out.

If you like you can serve with little rounds of melted cheese on toast at the bottom of the soup bowl, or floated on the top, but what really gives it that extra warming hit is a small hit of brandy poured in just as you serve. Bon Appétit!

Just as I finished making my soup, the sun broke through the clouds and rain, and I had a beautiful rainbow to look at and brighten my day.  Lucky me, Onion Soup and a Rainbow – life can be full of the most unexpectedly lovely moments.

A Pot Of Golden Soup At The End Of My Rainbow