French Onion Soup

Paris in a spoon. Let the onions have a slow low cook so the flavours fully develop. Baking the cheese croutons on the soup bowls pulls everything together.


  1. Peel the onions. Slice each one in half vertically. Slice each half vertically into thin slices. Slice or crush the peeled garlic.


  1. Melt the butter on a low heat in a pot/casserole large enough to take the vegetables. Add the onion. Stir with a wooden spoon to coat all the pieces. Add the garlic. And star anise.
  2. Cover the pan. Cook the onion very lowly on very low heat for 10 minutes, stirring sometimes to prevent sticking/burning. Add the sugar. Cover once more. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until the onion is very soft and mushy. Again, stir occasionally. Remove star anise.
  3. Increase the heat slightly. Remove the lid. All the onion mix to bubble and start to cover. Stir. Lower the heat a bit and cook for another 15 minutes or so until well browned and caramelised but without burning. You’ll need to check and stir a few times for even cooking.
  4. Meantime, heat the stocks and water in a separate pan until hot.
  5. Remove the onions from the heat. Add the flour, a teaspoon at a time, stirring as you do, for even distribution and to avoid lumps. Now, add the hot stock very gradually, stirring as you go. And the alcohol of choice once the stock is in. Strip the thyme leaves and add.
  6. Let the soup boil for 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat so it barely simmers. Cover partially.
  7. Simmer very slowly for a further 30 minutes. Add a drop or water or extra stock if the soup becomes too thick. Season with salt and pepper, tasting. If the soup is too sweet for your taste, add a drop or two of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice or brandy. You are looking for a rich, luxurious, balanced onion finish. The soup is ready to eat now. Or let the flavours develop further by cooling, chilling and re-heating the next day. It also freezes well.
  8. Make croutons on the day of eating. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Slice the bread thinly. Rub each slice with 2 drops of olive oil and a cut clove of garlic. Lay the bread on a baking tray.
  9. Bake the bread until crisp – 5-10 minutes but check as it burns just like that. Remove.
  10. Pre-heat a grill to high or whack the oven up to top temperature. Grate or thinly slice the cheese.
  11. Ladle the soup into heat proof bowls. Top each one with enough croutons to cover the top (slice to make them fit if you need to). Cover the bread with cheese up to the edge and over if using sliced.
  12. Sit the bowls on a tray under the fiercely hot grill or the top shelf of the oven. Grill for a few minutes (watching) until the cheese bubbles and starts to blister into brown bubbles.


  1. Wearing protective gloves, slip the bowls onto plates. Serve up immediately and dig in. This is scorching hot and glorious so watch you don’t burn your mouth.

Useful Cooking Information


Metric Imperial
10 g½ oz
20 g¾ oz
25 g1 oz
50 g2 oz
75 g3 oz
110 g4 oz
150 g5 oz
175 g6 oz
200 g7 oz
225 g8 oz
250 g9 oz
275 g10 oz
350 g12 oz
450 g1 lb
500 g (½ kg)18 oz
700 g1½ lb
900 g2 lb
1 kg2¼ lb
1.3 kg3 lb
1.8 kg4 lb
2.2 kg5 lb


Metric Imperial
50 ml2 fl oz
75 ml3 fl oz
100 ml3½ fl oz
125 ml4 fl oz
150 ml5 fl oz¼ pint
200 ml7 fl oz
250 ml9 fl oz
300 ml10 fl oz½ pint
425 ml15 fl oz¾ pint
600 ml20 fl oz1 pint
800 ml1½ pint
1 l1¾ pints
1.2 l2 pints
1.5 l2½ pints
1.8 l3 pints
2 l3½ pints


Metric Imperial
5 mm¼ inch
1 cm½ inch
2 cm¾ inch
2.5 cm1 inch
3 cm1¼ inches
4 cm1½ inches
5 cm2 inches
10 cm3 inches
15 cm4 inches
20.5 cm6 inches
23 cm9 inches
25 cm10 inches
30 cm12 inches

Spoon measures - mean level measures unless the recipe says 'heaped'

Eggs - are always large for baking, unless recipe says otherwise

Oven Temperatures

Gas °F °C
Mark 1275140

Fan assisted ovens - remember to reduce temperatures by 20°C

Most Useful US/European Conversions

ButterUS 1 cup / 2 sticks8 oz220 g
SugarUS 1 cup6 oz175 g
FlourUS 1 cup4 oz110 g
LiquidUS 1 cup8 fl oz225 ml
Prepped OnionsUS 1 cup4 oz110 g
Cheese, GratedUS 1 cup4 oz110 g
Diced FruitUS 1 cup5 oz150 g
Fresh BreadcrumbsUS 1 cup2 oz55 g

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