Here’s a soup that’s a special favourite in winter, to warm the stomach and the heart.
February is a blisteringly cold month! I first arrived in Winnipeg from Europe in early summer many years ago, and the winter that followed came as a real shock. The cold was something I could not have prepared for. I remember a wind chill of something in the -50 range that first year.
After living here these many years, though, I have in an odd sort of way grown to look forward to the bitterness of winter. The long drawn-out nights, the beautiful clear crisp skies, with air so cold it takes my breath away to this day.
This leads me to a romance unlike no other. I love onions! French onion soup is my all-time favourite food for several reasons: its pure heartiness, the warmth you feel as you savour each spoon, memories of yesteryear. It heats you up from the inside out.
• 6 tbsp unsalted butter
• 5 large onions
• 1 carrot
• 3 sticks celery
• 4 litres (17 cups) beef broth
• ½ cup of regular flour
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp black pepper (ground)
• 3 pounds of beef bones
• ¼ cup red wine
• 1 bottle brown ale
Melt two tablespoons of the butter in a large pot and peel and chop the onions, carrots and celery, placing them in the pot and simmering gently. When the onion is clear, add the beef stock. Bring to a boil, then add the beef bones, brown ale and red wine. Bring to a boil once more, then transfer to a slow cooker and cook for eight hours on the low setting.
Turn off the slow cooker and leave to cool for several hours. Strain the soup through a colander into a large bowl. Then, using a large pot, strain the ingredients once again through a sieve, this time into the pot and heat slowly.
Melt the remaining butter in a large frying pan. Slice the onions and place in the frying pan. When they have started to turn clear, add the flour and stir through. (Do not leave the pan untended or allow the flour to burn). When these ingredients are fully mixed together, add to the now-clear beef broth and bring to a boil for no more than three minutes, stirring occasionally.
To serve, pour the soup into bowls and add a thick slice of buttered French bread in each. Sprinkle some good cheese—Havarti, Gouda, your choice – over the bread. Place the bowl of soup under the broiler to melt the cheese. Serve and enjoy!