The People’s French onion soup with cheesy toasts – ready in 30 minutes

easy french onion soup

I love a stocky soup, especially when it starts to feel cold outside. Slurping up onion soup and dipping bits of cheesy toasts in to it is deeply satisfying. Traditionally this soup is topped with small rounds of baguette and melted gruyere cheese but I had to budget hard with shopping this week so used regular bread and cheddar cheese, and dried herbs. Still delicious and a simple dish to make as long as you don’t mind chopping and stirring a bit!

Plus you have the added bonus of finishing off the wine with your meal.

The People’s french onion soup (serves 4)

Olive oil
4 largish onions, peeled, halved and sliced thinly
A large knob of butter
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
A good sprinkle of dried herbs
Salt and pepper
180ml dry white wine (cheapest is fine)
3 cubes veg stock, crumbled (I like OXO)
2 – 4 pieces of any bread (allow half to one slice per person depending on how hungry people are)
Approx 80g cheddar cheese, grated

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add all the onions, stirring regularly to avoid burning. You may need to add more oil. After about 10-15 minutes they should be soft and a little sticky. Add the butter, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, continuing to stir. Add the wine, cook for another 5 minutes to reduce it down and then add the stock cubes and some boiled water until you are happy with the consistency. It should be be pretty watery. Simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile place the toast under the grill on one side until browned, take out and top the other side with the grated cheese and then finish off grilling that side until the toast is brown and the cheese is melted. Cut each slice of cheesy toast in to 4 pieces. Ladle the soup in to bowls and top with the pieces of toast. Eat greedily.

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Sausage/veggie sausage tray bake (10 mins prep/50 mins cooking)

veggie sausage tray bake

I love tray bakes because you just chuck everything on a tray and the oven does (almost) all the work!  This sausage tray bake is made up of meat or veggie sausages, whole cloves of garlic, torn sage, parsnips, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and is topped with feta cheese.  You could easily add/subsititute other vegetables such as broccoli, courgette, butternut squash (if you want to sprain your wrist chopping awkwardly..), carrots, asparagus and peppers or use goats cheese instead of feta.  Remember that vegetables shrink when roasting so don’t assume you have too much.

veggie sausage tray bake

I was first introduced to roast whole cloves of garlic over a camp fire and have never forgotten it – you can pop the insides out and eat them whole as they become soft, sweet and almost caramelised! And sage is an unusual and distinctive tasting herb that goes well with veg and sausages.

Allow at least 1 hour for chopping the veg and cooking time.

Sausage/veggie sausage tray bake (serves 4)

8 meat or veggie sausages (for veggie sausages I like the Cauldron range)

2 red onions, cut in to wedges

2 parsnips, cut in to chunks

2 small sweet potatoes, cut in to chunks

100g mushrooms, chopped in half

8 whole unpeeled cloves garlic

1/2 20g pack sage, roughly torn

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

200g feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Put the sausages on a non-stick baking tray along with the veg, garlic and sage. Pour over some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Mix everything up well with your hands.

Cook in the oven for around 50 mins, until everything is cooked through.  Shake the tray regularly to avoid burning.  You may need to add more oil.  About 5 minutes before taking the tray out of the oven crumble over the feta cheese.  Serve with salad!

Caribbean saltfish with peppers and onions (20 mins plus soaking time)

I recently had saltfish for the first time, cooked by St Lucia born Marilyn.  She topped it with peppers and onions, and I had a rude amount of it.  You have to soak the saltfish before cooking (to rehydrate it), and then once it hits the saucepan it becomes tender, flaky and delicious and, of course, pretty salty.  A simple dish with lots of flavour!

saltfish with peppers onions

Saltfish is eaten lots in the Caribbean alongside a fruit called ackee, which I will have to try next time.  It is also popular in Spain where it is eaten with tomato sauce and potatoes.  And I think it goes well with a salad or some rice.  We live in a multicultural area so can buy the saltfish in our local corner shop or supermarket, but am not sure how easy it would be to find otherwise!

Allow at least a few hours for soaking the saltfish before making the dish, and change the water at least once!

Ingredients (serves 4)

300g saltfish (skinless and boneless)
2 different coloured peppers, cut in to strips
1 onion, cut in to strips
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Once the saltfish has soaked, give it a good rinse to get off some of the salt, then chop it in to chunks.

Fry the peppers, onion and garlic in vegetable/sunflower oil for about 5 minutes until softening and then add the fish.  Heat and stir for about another 10 minutes until the fish is tender, cooked through and flaky. Serve alongside some rice, salad, or if you want to be really authentic, ackee.