The third Thursday in November is a significant date in France, traditionally known as Beaujolais Nouveau Day. This date marks the release of the first wine of the season just weeks after the Beaujolais grapes have been harvested and it is traditional to celebrate with fireworks, music and parties. We like to bring a bit of that celebratory atmosphere to our little corner of Bolton and have celebrated Beaujolais Nouveau Day for the past 15 years with much success. As well as plenty of the famous wine, we also serve up some serious French cuisine – which is the inspiration behind this week’s dish.

Onion soup is a classic French dish that dates back centuries but which saw a resurgence in popularity in the 1960s thanks to a fashion for French food. It is traditionally based on meat stock and onions, and often served gratinéed with croutons or a large slice of bread with cheese on top. This is a really warming and nutritious Autumnal dish that’s perfect for a cold evening in front of the fire.

The key to making this dish a success is to use a good stock with a strong beef flavour. Many stock cubes just won’t cut it for this soup so either make your own or buy a good quality ready-made one: your soup will only be as good as the stock you use. The second tip is to cook this slowly and make sure the onions are properly caramelised. Again, this will have a big impact on the final flavour of your dish.

Bon Appétit...

Ingredients (serves 4)

50g butter

1 tbsp. olive oil

900g onions, thinly sliced

1 tsp sugar

3 large garlic cloves

2 tbsp. plain flour

250ml dry white wine

1.2 litres of strong beef stock

4 slices of French bread/baguette

150g Gruyere cheese

Black pepper & salt to taste

Heat the butter and oil in a large pan over a high heat before adding the onions, garlic and sugar. Reduce the heat slightly and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and started to caramelise. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and continue to cook slowly for a further 20 minutes, taking care not to let the onions burn.

Stir in the flour and increase the heat before gradually adding the wine followed by the hot stock and seasoning. Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat again. Cover and simmer very gently for another 15-20 minutes.

To serve, toast the bread slices under the grill then flip over and top each slice with some Gruyere before returning to the grill until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned. Ladle the soup into the bowls and top each one with a cheesy crouton.