This is the ultimate dinner party soup. It looks impressive, is rich and delicious. I grew an abundance of onions in my vegetable garden last year and am always looking for delicious onion recipes and this one certainly fits the bill. I have added a Wealden twist and used a local dry cider instead of wine which complements the sweet caramelised onions perfectly.
First prepare the croutons:
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350F (180C)
Drizzle the olive oil on to a large baking sheet, add the crushed garlic and spread the oil and garlic all over the baking sheet by using your hands.
Place the bread slices on top of the oil and turn each one over so that both sides are lightly coated with the oil.
Bake in the oven for approx 10 mins until crunchy. Set aside.
Using a large heavy-based saucepan or flameproof casserole of 3.5 litres (6 pint) capacity:
Place the saucepan on a high heat and melt the oil, butter and sage together. Add the onions and garlic. Stir occasionally until the edges of the onions have turned dark. Now reduce the heat to a low setting, cover with a lid and leave the onions to continue cooking very slowly for approx 30 minutes. Take the lid off and cook for another 20 minutes. The base of the saucepan should be covered with a brownish, caramelised coating.
Turn up the heat and pour in the stock and cider. Season well and stir together with a wooden spoon making sure you stir in all the caramelised coating off the bottom of the pan.
When it reaches the simmering point, turn down the heat again to the lowest setting. Now leave to gently cook without a lid for approx 1 hour.
When you are ready to serve, bring the soup up to simmering point and season to taste. At this point, and if it’s particularly cold outside, add the Cognac.
Preheat the grill. Sprinkle the grated Gruyère thickly over the croutons and place under the hot grill until the cheese is brown and bubbling.
Serve the hot soup into soup bowls and place the hot croutons so they are floating on top.