Sunday, 20 November 2011

Come on baby, make it hurt so good

Onion soup. Call it French, English, Guatemalan, whatever, there is going to be some pain involved. I'm not generally one of those 'pain is pleasure' people. If a chilli makes my tongue sweat so much I can't taste anything else, I bail. I'm willing to accept that after a brilliant session in the gym or going for a long run you might be both aching and deliriously happy, but endorphins will do that. Chemicals are marvellous things.

Onion soup though, is one of those no pain, no gain meals. To get to the dark, rich, wintry liquor, you must first weep. I scanned through Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home book and came across his recipe for English Onion Soup with Sage and Cheddar. He recommends that to get a rounded flavour you should use different types of onions - namely leeks, red onions, white onions, banana shallots and garlic. I'll be honest, I contemplated skipping a few stages to keep the sobbing to minimum but, you know, no pain no gain.

I have no idea whether my onions were English or not. They could have come from anywhere, but I'm pretending the leeks were Welsh. And so I took my sharpest knife and started slicing.

It might not look like much, but it was enough to make my eyeshadow migrate across my face. It hurt, but I was buoyed by the fact that the very expensive waterproof mascara I'd splashed out on seemed to be staying on my lashes. Silver lining.

With everything finally sliced I started cooking the onions down. This requires patience and Jamie specifically says not to rush it. If Jamie gives me orders, I generally obey, so I began taking the onions on their final journey from crunchy to jammy.

If you make it to this stage, it's plain sailing for the rest of the way. Once the soup has the flavour and consistency you're happy with, the idea is to sink your cheese-on-toast into the liquid and put it in the oven to melt. My bowls aren't ovenproof, so I had to leave mine on the side and dunk it. Everyone loves a good dunk anyway, right? Never trust anyone who doesn't enjoy the danger of dunking a biscuit in their tea or coffee!

So was it worth it? Yes, of course it was. It stung, but it hurt so so good. And the next day I strained the leftovers, thickened it and adjusted the seasoning to make a tasty gravy for Toad-in-the-Hole. I do so love multitasking food. 

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