British Cider and Onion Soup
We all know that French onion soup is something that probably can’t be beaten or improved on. So you have the beef stock, the onions, white wine, Gruyere, croutons… doesn’t it make your mouth water just to think about it? However, what you might not know is that the Brits have their own version of French onion soup – an onion soup made with cider instead of white wine and which is white or off-white in colour. In the UK cider is always alcoholic, what the Americans call hard cider. If it’s non-alcoholic they simply say apple juice. British cider is flat or sparkling. Any type is fine for making this recipe.
In addition to the cider we are using butter, leeks, onions, apples, potatoes, stock and herbs. Thyme and bay leaves are used to flavour the soup but they are discarded before serving. We like to add Gruyere cheese, thyme and sometimes a little ground nutmeg for garnish. The Gruyere and thyme are ingredients ‘borrowed’ from the typical French onion soup recipe but they go so well with the onions, so be generous with them here!
This soup would be nice for lunch or dinner, or you could serve half-sized portions as a starter recipe. A lot of the alcohol will be ‘cooked off’ but if you really don’t want to use it then simply sub the hard cider for regular cider or apple juice. The recipe will still taste nice. Served with some crusty white bread, this makes a great meal and there is something so satisfying about the combination of flavours. Try it for yourself and see!
- 75g (2 oz) butter
- 2 sliced leeks (white part only)
- 1 kg (2 lbs) sliced yellow or white onions
- 2 peeled, cored, sliced apples
- 150 ml (5fl oz) cider (hard cider)
- 2 peeled, chopped large potatoes
- 1 sprig thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 litre (1½ pints) hot chicken or vegetable stock
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 200g (7 oz) grated Gruyere cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- Salt and ground white pepper, to taste
- Pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
- First melt the butter in a big, heavy pot over a moderate heat, until it foams.
- Add the leeks, onions and apples.
- Cook for 12 minutes or until tender.
- Now you can add the cider and potatoes.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then cook for 2 minutes or until the liquid has reduced a bit in volume.
- Add the thyme, bay leaves and stock, and grind in some salt and pepper.
- Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 25 or 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
- Discard the bay leaves and thyme.
- Blend half the soup in a food processor until smooth, then put it back in with the rest of the soup.
- Stir over a gentle heat to warm it back up.
- If you think the soup is too thick, you can add more hot stock until it's thinned down a bit more.
- Divide between 6 warmed serving bowls and sprinkle some Gruyere and thyme over each.
- You can also grind some salt and white pepper over each serving.
- Another idea is to add a pinch of grated nutmeg.
This creamy white soup just begs to be eaten, and what you will experience in your mouth is a real explosion of amazing flavours – you will get onion, apple, herbs and just pure enjoyment from this soup. We are using cider and onion as the main flavours, then adding fresh herbs to add aromatic hints plus other ingredients to make the texture and taste just perfect. This soup is like a British take on French onion soup. Call it British onion soup if you will, although that might sound a little odd. The is one of those dishes that has to be made and sampled before passing comment, because yes, you will be surprised how good this tastes.
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