A major part of my undergraduate memories include grocery shopping, making a mess in the kitchen with various food experiments, followed by sitting at a kitchen table for hours on end with laughter, Deep Meaningful (or meaningless?) Conversations, and the occasional trashy Stephen Chow film streaming in the background. What did we talk about? I remember one of us saying in our final year that if we digitally documented all those Meals (Meals with a Capital M because they were such Majorly Long Ordeals), an albumful of 100 gluttonous evidence may even be an underestimate.
Whenever I chop onions, three
four things happen:
1. I cry. Unless I have contact lenses in, which then becomes some sort of eye-armour – I suppose that’s one up for not being equipped with perfect vision,
2. I always think of the scene in Julie & Julia where Julia Child comes back from the Cordon Bleu with a vengeance and determination to outshine her male counterparts in the onion-chopping department, and proceeds to almost blind her husband with the pungent smell of a small mountain of chopped onions.
3. Which leads me to be reminded of the time I was in the middle of slicing about 16 onions for an exceptionally large batch of this soup, when one of my flatmates J walked through the kitchen door and had a similar to Julia’s husband
4. Having the knife slip and cut my finger. Again. (But I’m sure that only happens to clumsy people like me!)
I knew I wasn’t ready to leave the UK when I graduated, so much so that after a year I came back to do a year-long Masters. It’s also when I realised that no matter how long you cling on, once daily occurrences will inevitably become nothing but a memory. The other day, leafing through my 1/10th completed Moleskine Recipe book, I realised that there were so many oldies I’d isolated in pursuance of newer, more complicated, perhaps even weirder food combinations. Or that I’d fallen back into comfort zones of making the same few things over and over again. Gone are the days where I’d find a recipe online, get really excited and run straight out to the stores to buy ingredients. And in less than a month I don’t think I’ll ever get this freedom again.
So amongst the badly scribbled down recipes, here are a series of
those which weren’t fortunate enough to be graced with the revision of the iphone camera my favourites.
French Onion Soup
(adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
Prep time: 2hrs
650g thinly sliced yellow onions*
40g unsalted butter
15ml olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
2 sprigs of thyme
1L beef stock
100ml dry white wine or vermouth
Freshly ground black pepper
45ml cognac (optional)**
1. Melt the butter and oil together in the bottom of a 2.5L+ pot over low heat. Add and coat onions with the oil and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to very low and let them sit for 15 minutes.
2. Uncover the pot, raise heat to low / medium-low and stir in salt and sugar. Allow onions to caramelise by stirring frequently for 30 – 40 min until they have turned an even, deep golden brown. (Don’t skip this step – it’s what gives the soup its flavour!)
3. After the onions have caramelised, sprinkle in flour and stir for about 1 minute. Add the wine, then stock in 6 goes, stirring between additions. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Simmer (partially covered) for 30-40 more minutes. Finally, stir in the cognac.
Topping: although not most authentic, I used two slices of toast and two slices of cheese, put under a grill for 2 minutes until the cheese was melted. I also used red leicester as a) it was the only cheese around and b) I like stronger savoury cheeses. Mmmm.
*I discovered that Sainsburys Online Delivery does ready-sliced onion! (Although I chopped my own onion this time which resulted in tears streaming down my cheeks. I also am irrationally overexcited about Sainsburys Online Deliveries.)
**I used Grand Mariner and I think it added a faintly sweeter and zesty tinge to the onion soup, which I liked!
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