French onion soup cooked the right way is like building up suspense in a story.
To paraphrase Hitchcock, you can show an explosion in a restaurant and, sure, it’s surprising to the audience, but if you show the bomb under the table while two men have their dinner totally unaware, that’s suspense.
Similarly, with onions you can flash fry them so they brown quickly and, yes, the end result tastes like onions. But to truly appreciate the sweet flavours of the onions, you need to slowly ratchet up the tension. You need to see the onions slowly sweat down and watch the natural sugars caramelise into a soft brown. Only this way of cooking onions produces the most satisfying French onion soup.
And what can I say of welsh rarebit? It’s essentially the best cheese on toast you will ever eat. It works so well as a crouton, you get the crunchiness of the crust but the middle melts in your mouth all gooey and cheesy and delicious. You won’t be able to have normal cheese on toast again without daydreaming about welsh rarebit.
Total cost (approx.): £3.23
Cost per Serving (approx.): £0.54
For the soup:
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
For the croutons:
Small tiger loaf baguette or other French stick style bread
1 tsp. English mustard
3 tbsp. Guinness
1 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. Worcestershire
200g grated cheddar
2 egg yolks
Slice your onions into long strands—slice the onion in half along the root end, then slice thinly parallel to the root, this will give you long, thin, semi-circle strands—and put them in a large pan with the oil and butter over a low heat, and cover with a heavy lid.
Be patient with this bit, give those onions an hour. Go read a book, write a short story or do some household chores, whatever tickles your fancy.
When the onions have turned golden, add the chopped garlic and cook turn the heat up to medium for a couple of minutes. Then add your stock, stir and let the soup simmer gently while you prepare the welsh rarebit.
Slice the baguette into at least eighteen pieces—or more if you prefer your bread thinner, just make sure there are no holes in the dough—and lightly toast them under the grill on both sides.
Put the Guinness and English mustard in a small pan over a low heat and whisk lightly with a fork until the mustard is evenly distributed in the Guinness. Add the butter and stir until it has all melted and combined. Add the Worcestershire sauce. Tip in the cheese and stir until it has completely melted.
Take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool—you want the mixture warm so it is still pliable, but not hot so you don’t scramble the eggs—then add the egg yolks and stir until completely combined.
Spoon the mixture onto the bread then grill until golden brown.
Serve the soup in a bowl and place three welsh rarebit croutons on top. Grab a spoon and a good book and tuck in.