Originally from Brittany in north-west France, Richard Bertinet trained as a baker from the age of 14. Today the UK-based chef is a best-selling author who makes regular TV appearances. Bertinet was named BBC Food Champion of the Year 2010 at the BBC Food & Farming Awards on 24 November 2010. The Bertinet Kitchen, the chef’s cookery school, opened in September 2005 in the centre of beautiful and historic Bath. Now a regular France Today contributor, Bertinet offers some tips for the classic French dish.
I use white onions as they’re slightly sweeter. Finely slice and caramelize them very slowly in a bit of butter and oil until they’re really soft and brown.
Add a bottle of red wine and a good beef stock, with a few peppercorns and one or two bay leaves to bring out the flavours. We use bay leaves a lot in Brittany – they’re my secret ingredient. Add a crushed clove of garlic with the skin left on.
Let the liquid reduce to just level with the onions so that it’s nice and thick – if the soup’s watery it’s disgusting. Put the whole dish into the oven and, when it’s nicely gratinated on top, serve it in a big earthenware pot so that everyone can sit around and just help themselves. It’ll stay hot for hours.
I serve it with toasted or stale sourdough and some nice Gruyère cheese on top. Gruyère is the classic cheese to use but Comté is fantastic too – you can really change the taste of your soup by experimenting with different cheeses.
Any good French brasserie will always have a classic soupe à l’oignon on the menu. My grandmother used to rub fresh garlic on the toast and then put the cheese on top – every family has its own tricks.
From France Today magazine