This Guest Recipe from Paula McIntyre for a French onion soup using Carol’s Stock Market Beef Bone Broth and some great local ingredients. There’s a bit of work involved but the result is well worth it. Originally published in Farming Life Magazine, October 2019.
The America novelist and food writer Lawrie Colvin wrote that “To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night, all you really need is soup.” I’d add “good soup” to that quote. Nothing gladdens the heart and soothes the soul like a well made soup. The essence of making this complete meal a success should start with a good stock. The first thing we were ever taught at college was to make these aromatic liquids – roasted bones, simmering with vegetable trimmings and herb stalks. They were cooked gently for hours – only bad chefs boiled their stocks, we were told. Once strained they were used to make stocks, sauces, stews, cook vegetables and anything you needed to add flavour to.
Over the years of working in kitchens I’ve seen crimes against stock pots that would have made my lecturer’s skin crawl back in the College of Business Studies kitchens. I once watched a chef peel a dirty parsnip into a stock pot. Potato skins and egg shells were added and it generally was a dumping ground for waste. A stock is only as good as the original parts. Don’t put anything into a stock pot that you wouldn’t want to eat.
There is a lot of effort involved in making good stocks but Carol Banahan has a product that gives you all of the taste with none of the effort. She gave up her job working with stocks and shares to start making stocks and gravies at her factory in Derry/Londonderry. She roasts the bones, adds only organic vegetables and herbs and slowly simmers them to perfection. One of her most popular varieties is beef bone broth. This has become a trendy “superfood” but one that people of a certain age were raised on in this country. My mum almost always had a pot of shin broth, redolent of soup celery, turnip, carrots, leeks and barley, on the go. It was deliciously rich, warming and sustaining.
You can buy Carol’s stocks in good delis and butchers or check out the stockists page. This recipe uses her beef bone broth to make a classic French onion soup. This is one of the first things I cooked, aged about 10, religiously following the recipe from the Cordon Bleu cook book. After, what seemed like a mountain of onions were chopped, they were cooked slowly to almost caramelized and brandy and the beef stock added. Cheese croutons were glazed on top and I thought I was the most sophisticated person on the planet.
1 kg onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced
1 tablespoon Broighter Gold rapeseed oil
75g finely chopped Kennedy smoked bacon
35g plain flour
50ml cognac (optional)
200ml local dry cider
1 litre Carol's Stock Market Beef Bone Broth
2 tablespoons Burren Balsamics roast onion vinegar
4 thick slices baguette
1 clove garlic
125g local grated cheese (I used Dart Mountain Kilcreen)
Heat the butter and oil in a pan and add the bacon. When the bacon becomes crispy add the onions and cook gently for about 20 minutes – allowing the onions to become almost caramelized. Add the flour and mix in well. Add the cognac and cider and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time. Add the stock, water and vinegar and simmer for 30 minutes or until nicely thick. Check the seasoning. Toast the baguette on one side and rub the toasted side with a cut clove of garlic. Spoon the soup into 4 heat proof bowls and turn on the grill. Place the cheese on the untoasted side and place in the middle of the soup. Grill until golden and bubbling. Serve straight away.