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Woodfired Onion Soup for a dank day

Today is a dank, damp and dreary November day in need of a cheering and warming lunch. We have a surfeit of onions at the moment and cheese so French onion soup sprang to mind. We love coming up with new ways of using our woodfired ovens so we can tell the students on our courses how we’ve been using them so here’s what we did for 4 servings, using the oven like a hob –

  1. Fire up the oven so it’s well flooded with heat – we used our small Bushman. You want a hot floor and a good bed of embers pushed to the sides to which you can add small bits of kindling to keep the heat and flames up.
  2. Peel and slice 12 onions. This may sound a lot but they will reduce right down so accept those tears, sharpen you knife and get slicing.

    Cornish seasalt

    Peel and slice lots of onions and season well

  3. Toss the onions in 4tbsp olive oil and 1tsp seasalt.
  4. Put a large wide deep pan in the oven to heat up – we used our Netherton Foundry pan as it’s light enough to turn round easily in the pan to make sure you get an even cooking.

    Netherton pan

    Slow cook the onions in the oven

  5. When the pan is hot, add the oily onions and let them sizzle away. Move them every now and then with a wooden spoon so they cook evenly. After a while they will start to give out moisture and start wilting.

    Onions starting to wilt

    Then they’ll start to colour. What you want is about a quarter of the volume of the onions that you started with and a good dark caramel brown. This will take about 30 minutes but the slow cooking will bring out the sweetness of the onions. If they brown too quickly they will taste bitter.



    Add 300ml white wine and reduce that by half then add 1tbsp red wine vinegar and about 700ml beef or chicken stock. The sharpness of the vinegar will balance the sweetness of the slow cooked onions. Bring the liquid to the boil and season with salt and pepper as needed.

    Add wine and stock

    Bubble the liquid to reduce the volume

  7. Let the soup simmer in the oven for about 5 minutes.
  8. Slice up a day old French baton – you want about 8 slices of bread, 2 per person. Put the slices on top of the soup and cover with grated cheese. To be honest, any stalish bread would be fine – we used some David had made on a bread course. The cheese we used Cheddar and Parmesan as they were lurking in the fridge but Gruyere or Comte would be more authentic.

    Mmm cheese

    Put cheesy croutons on top of the onion soup

  9. Put the pan back in the oven towards the embers. Add bits of kindling to get some flames to grill the cheese. Turn the pan so you get an even grilling but be careful as it will be full of the hot soup.


    Stringy cheese and sweet onion soup – delicious!

  10. When the cheese is bubbling and golden brown, serve the soup with 2 croutons per person and lots of stringy grilled cheese. A great way to cheer up a dull November Tuesday lunch time!