Tag Archives: croutons

“French” Onion Soup with Gruyere Croutons

2 Dec

French Onion Soup with Gruyere Crouton

It has turned really cold here now so soup is what I want for lunch every day and this is one of our favourites. I have actually managed to get the “caramelising onions” time down from the usual 90 minutes in most recipes to a much more realistic 30 minutes. I am always too hungry to wait that long and this way works perfectly for me.

OnionsPeeling and chopping onions is not the nicest of jobs but I have found that cutting off the root end of an onion and putting it on your head like a little hat stops you from crying so much. It looks really stupid and the top of your head smells of onion but much less mascara wastage I find. This tip was given to me by The Washer Up’s nephew Callum and it actually works. I think he spent a day of child slave labour in a Spanish kitchen peeling onions and that is what he learnt.

French Onion Soup

I should really call this Spanish Onion Soup as the only thing that is French about it is the Gruyère cheese on the crouton. That can easily be replaced by a nice mature Manchego which is what we normally do to be honest. The onions are local, organic, Spanish onions, the olive oil is local too and the sherry I use to deglaze the pan is as Spanish as you can get.

Gruyere Crouton“French” Onion Soup with Gruyere Croutons Recipe

Serves 4-6 Vegetarian/Vegan without the cheese

  • 1 1/2 k onions, peeled & finely sliced into half moons
  • 2 0r 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 4 Tbsp sweet sherry
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1500 ml veg stock &/or water (I use 1 litre stock 1/2 litre water)
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp (vegetarian) Worcestershire sauce
  • baguette sliced
  • olive oil, salt & pepper
  • grated Gruyère (or manchego) cheese
  • thyme

Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a large pot. Add the onions, salt, sugar & bay leaves, stir to coat the onions in the oil, cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes until softened.

Remove the lid and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes, scraping the bottom to remove the brown bits until the onions are a deep dark golden brown colour.

Then add the flour, sherry and thyme. Scrape the bottom of the pan again to remove all the caramelised sweet bits and cook the sherry for a few minutes. Add the stock and water, season with salt & pepper, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, taste and adjust the seasoning. Does it need more salt, more sugar or even more Worcestershire sauce?

Brush the baguette slices with olive oil, season with a little salt & pepper and toast under a hot grill until lightly browned. Top with a generous handful of grated cheese, a little thyme and put back under the grill to melt and brown slightly. If you have ovenproof soup dishes you could put the croutons topped with grated cheese directly in the soup, add another handful of cheese and put the whole lot back under the grill.

The Washer Up would not be impressed with that though, it makes a right mess of the bowls so we go for the safer option…

Serve the soup in warmed bowls with the melted cheesey croutons on top.

French Onion Soup with Gruyere Croutons

Enjoy and Stay Warm!

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Spiced Beetroot Soup with Herb Spiked Feta on Rye Crostini

7 Nov

Beetroot is one of those vegetables that I used to hate. It’s because of that nasty pickled stuff in the jars that leaks pink juice over everything else on your plate, contaminating it with cerise vinegaryness. Or is that just me?

It turns out that unpickled freshly cooked beetroot is sweet, earthy and delicious when roasted or made into purees or soups. It is also an amazingly deep, dark burgundy colour that turns a fabulous shade of fuchsia when mixed with anything white. Like white cheese, yoghurt or sour cream. Or clean white tablecloths.

It’s close relationship with white cheese isn’t only about colour mixing, it’s about flavour mixing too. You could just swirl a dollop of sour cream or Greek yoghurt on top of this soup and still be treated to the sweet-sour, spicy-cool, hot-cold taste sensations that you get from every mouthful of this simple soup.

But adding the extra crunch that you get from a toasted slice of rye bread topped with creamy feta mixed with fresh herbs, green chilli and spring onions that you then put under a hot grill to melt, bubble and brown slightly, takes this humble soup to a whole new level.

You could also use pre-cooked beetroot to save time. It comes shrink wrapped in plastic. Don’t buy the pickled stuff in jars for this. That would be a disaster.

Spiced Beetroot Soup Recipe

Serves 3-4, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

  • 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 whole medium-sized beetroot (apple sized ish), peeled, cut into small dice (wear gloves)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper
  • about 750 ml veg stock
  • 200 g tomato passata/tomate frito/tomato puree (not paste)

Heat the oil in a large pot and cook the onion over a medium heat for about 4 minutes until softened then add the garlic, thyme, cumin & chilli flakes and cook for another minute or two.

Add the diced beetroot and the stock and season with salt & black pepper. Bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 10-20 minutes (depending on the size of your dice) until the beetroot is cooked and tender. Add the tomate frito and heat through.

Blend carefully with a stick blender (cover the pot with an old tea towel if you don’t want pink soup everywhere) or puree in a blender or processor until very smooth. Add more stock or water if you need to, to get the desired consistency. Taste for seasoning.

Feta & Herb Crostini

Makes 2, vegetarian

  • 2 thick slices rye bread (I used a rye bread roll cut in half)
  • olive oil
  • about 75 g Greek feta cheese
  • 1 small green chilli, deseeded & finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves, (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano/parsley leaves, (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • black pepper

Preheat the grill to hot and brush both sides of the rye bread with a little olive oil. Mix the feta and a drizzle of olive oil with the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl, mashing it together with a fork.

Toast the bread slices under the grill, on one side then lightly on the other. Pile most of the herby feta on each lightly toasted side, (leaving a little to top the soups) pushing out evenly with a fork then put back under the grill until golden and bubbling.

Reheat the soup and serve in warmed bowls topped with a little of the herby feta and the toasted rye crostini on the side.

Buen Provecho!!

Spanish Onion Soup On The Beach

5 Jan

This is my Spanish interpretation of  a French Onion Soup using Andalucian Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Spanish Sherry, (Jerez) Vinegar, Saffron & Paprika. It is served with grilled Manchego cheese croutons. We woke up this morning and decided to take the dog to the beach so we packed our Spanish Onion Soup & Manchego Croutons in a rucksack and drove down to Malaga.

The beach we go to is called Los Alamos. It is between Malaga & Torremolinos, near the airport. Hence the low flying planes. I love this beach it’s so quiet at this time of year. I can’t believe its only January – the weather is beautiful and the planes don’t bother me…

Rufus loves this beach too. He gets to dig and run. We were watching the fishing boats..

And the horses walking along the shore…

We walked quite a long way and came across this sign – fortunately it was deserted…

We walked back along the shoreline, the light today was so gorgeous…

We ate our lunch at some picnic benches overlooking the sea….

Spanish Onion Soup with Toasted Manchego Cheese Croutons

serves 4-6 vegetarian

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4  onions, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  •  a couple of pinches of sugar
  • 4 tbsp Spanish sherry (Malaga Virgen or Pedro Jimenez would be good) you could use wine.
  • 2 tbsp Sherry (Jerez) vinegar (substitute balsamic if you don’t have it)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 litres veg stock (you can use chicken or beef)
  •  1 tsp fresh thyme leaves chopped (dried is fine)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a good pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt & black pepper
  • some sliced rustic bread
  • cured Manchego cheese, grated
  • a sprinkle of paprika to garnish

Saute the onions & sugar in the olive oil over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until softened & translucent. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaves, vinegar & black pepper. Cover and cook fairly gently for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Deglaze the pan with the sherry/wine, stir to loosen any sticky bits off the bottom of the pan then add the saffron, paprika & stock. Season with plenty of salt, bring to the boil, cover and cook on medium for another 20 -30 minutes.

When you are ready to serve your soup. Put a generous amount of grated Manchego on each slice of bread and put it under the grill for a minute or so until the cheese is bubbling and the bread is golden. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, top with the cheesy croutons and sprinkle a little paprika over the cheese.

I can see this becoming a regular thing now, picnics on the beach. It makes a change from the mountains. We really are very lucky to live in such a beautifully diverse area. We haven’t been up to the Sierra Nevada yet this year either. Sun and snow can’t wait!!

Hasta Luego…

Avocado “Caesar” Salad with parmesan croutons

3 Jan

Sometimes inspiration for lunch is staring you right in the face. This is what we saw growing today while walking the dog…

Rows and rows of beautiful bright green lettuces growing next to avocado trees….

Some avocados were just lying on the ground so I had to rescue one. They would rot otherwise. I bought the lettuce though. I bought some lettuce hearts or little gems as they are sometimes called. An original Caesar salad is made with Cos or Romaine lettuce. The smooth avocado is the perfect contrast in texture to the crunchy juicy lettuce and the parmesan croutons have to be big. Don’t bother with those bags of smelly centimetre cubes you can buy. Homemade croutons taste so much better…

This is my vegetarian interpretation of a Caesar dressing. It doesn’t have any anchovies in it but feel free to add a couple if you like that sort of thing. You  could also make your own mayonnaise, this is my quick, cheat version using good store-bought mayonnaise.

Avocado “Caesar” Salad with Parmesan Croutons

serves 2 vegetarian

For the croutons:

  • about 10 cm of a baguette or other rustic bread cut in to 2cm cubes
  • 2 or 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • finely grated parmesan

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over a medium high heat. Throw in the bread cubes/chunks and fry until browned on all sides (about 2 or 3 minutes). Line a bowl with kitchen paper, put the cooked croutons in the bowl, sprinkle with salt, black pepper & finely grated parmesan. Shake them around a bit to coat them in parmesan and set aside. They are best served immediately but can be kept in an airtight container for a couple of  days.

For the Salad & Dressing:

  • 1/2 a large avocado
  • 2 little gems or lettuce hearts
  • some shaved parmesan
  • 3 heaped tbsp good mayonnaise
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 or 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 or 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp finely grated parmesan
  • parmesan croutons (see above)

To make the dressing put the mayo, lemon juice & parmesan in a bowl and blend with a stick blender or balloon whisk. Slowly trickle in the olive oil while blending or whisking until you reach the desired consistency. I like it quite thick. Taste it and add more lemon juice/parmesan/olive oil to your taste. When you are happy with your dressing cut the core end off the lettuce hearts then cut them lengthways into quarters/wedges. scoop out the avocado and slice it lengthways. Lay the lettuce wedges on your plate and place the avocado slices in between. Drizzle a good amount of the dressing all over the letuce wedges with a spoon, top with the croutons and shave over some fresh parmesan.

Enjoy!

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