Classic French onion soup

  • 4 large onions
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil, or 1 tablespoon of each
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 1/4 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 slices French bread
  • 11/2-2 ounces Gruyere or Cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel and quarter the onions and slice or chop them into 1/4 inch pieces. Heat the oil and butter in a deep, medium-size saucepan, so that the onions form a thick layer. Sauté the onions briskly for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and cook gently for 45560 minutes. At first the onions need to be stirred only occasionally, but as they begin to color, stir frequently. The color of the onions gradually turns golden and then more rapidly to brown, so take care to stir constantly at this stage so that they do not bum on the bottom.

When the onions are a rich mahogany brown, add the vegetable stock and a little seasoning. Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Preheat the broiler and toast the French bread. Spoon the soup into four ovenproof serving dishes and place a piece of bread in each. Sprinkle with the cheese and broil for a few minutes, until golden. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Serves 4.