A rich onion soup is a bowl of hope. When we're tense or tired, it can unwind us and fix a poor body. I like to make mine with cider instead of wine, and finish it with apples fried in butter.
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A Recipe from the book Gather, by Gill Meller
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large knob of butter
4 firm, large onions halves and thinly sliced
1 handful of sage leaves, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
1/2 glass of cider
good splash of apple brandy
1 litre (35fl oz) beef of chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE GARNISH
4 thick slices of good country bread or sourdough
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1 small knob of butter
2 dessert apples, cut into thick slices
150g (5 1/2 oz) mature cheddar cheese, grated
Set a large heavy-based pan (that has a snug-fitting lid) over a medium–low heat. Add the olive oil and butter and when they’re bubbling away throw in the onion slices, breaking up the layers with your fingers as you do so. Add the chopped sage, bay leaves and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring regularly, until the onion begins to caramelize around the edges and is golden and soft and lovely. Then, turn the heat right down and place a lid on the pan. Cook for 25–35 minutes, stirring once or twice during that time.
Remove the lid from the pan and add the cider and the brandy. Bring up to the boil, then add the stock. Bring the soup back to a gentle simmer, stirring regularly. Cook gently, with the lid slightly ajar, for a further 30–40 minutes over a low heat, then season the soup with salt and pepper and keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat the grill to high. To make the garnish, trickle the bread with olive oil and rub with a little garlic. Toast the bread on each side, until golden.
At the same time, set a medium frying pan over a medium heat. Add the butter followed by the apple slices. Fry the apple gently for 3–4 minutes on each side, until the slices are golden around the edges and soft in the middle.
Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the slices of toast and place back under the grill to cook until the cheese is bubbling.
To serve, ladle the hot soup into four warm bowls. Drop a cheese toast into each one and top with a spoonful of buttery apple wedges. Season and serve at once.
Photography by, Andrew Montgomery