French onion soup

My eyes were red and swollen. The more I rubbed them with the back of my hands the more tears started flowing out. Why did I put myself through all this? I grabbed a tissue and wiped the remaining tears away then continued with the horrible task in front of me.

This is what it was like to cut 2kgs of onions to make my onion soup the other day. Whenever my brother begged me to make onion soup for him, I’d reject his idea without a second thought. Cutting onions is my pet peeve around the kitchen as I’m very prone to tearing up from the onion juices (like most people I’m sure). This is the only time I wish I wore contacts, although this wasn’t feasible as I’m not shortsighted.

When my parents asked me to make it for a family dinner last week, I finally gave in. Rather than doing 2kgs of onions by myself, I had Yuye help out with the task which made it a lot faster and the tears were shared to his dismay (it’s his own fault though as he wore glasses instead of contacts, why would he do that right?)

I’m always terrible at preparing for large parties because I always end up frolicking around and chatting to people rather than concentrating on the food. In the end Yuye always had to do most of the cooking and I get told off afterwards. This time it wasn’t any different. As my family friends arrived, I couldn’t help but show off the smoked salt and gruyere cheese we had purchased and while I was smiling and chatting away, Yuye was slaving in the kitchen, making steaks for everyone. I don’t know how he puts up with me sometimes…

I made most of the onion soup though and that took a long time, stirring constantly to get the onions caramelised. If you want to make this soup, it’s better to prepare a little before it’s needed so there’s enough time to caramelise and cook the soup down for the right flavours and consistency.

I do LOVE the French onion soup though, I always used to order it when I was addicted to dining at French restaurants and making it at home prompts me to think of all the hard work put into the preparations and how an aspiring young chef to be might have been slaving away for hours cutting those onions…

On a side note, Yuye and I actually bought a fantastic aged Swiss gruyere from Simon Johnson at about $25 for 250g and right afterwards, we saw very cheap (and obviously not as good) gruyere at the grocery store, at only $10 for 250g. An idea popped into my head. Since my parents can’t tell the difference between good and bad cheese, why would I waste the fantastic variety? So, I bought and used the cheap cheese for dinner and kept the Simon Johnson one for myself. πŸ˜›

French onion soup
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
Serves 6-8


β€’ 2kgs brown onions, thinly sliced
β€’ 4tbsp sugar
β€’ 3 sprigs of thyme
β€’ 120g unsalted butter
β€’ 1/4 cup brandy or red wine
β€’ 200g sliced or grated gruyere cheese
β€’ 5 cups of beef stock (or 1.2 litres)
β€’ 6 – 8 slices of baguette (depending on serves)
β€’ Salt & pepper to taste
β€’ 2 tbsp plain flour (optional)


1. Melt butter in a large saucepan on low to medium heat and add in onions and sugar.
2. Caramelise by stirring constantly (or every couple of minutes) until onions are browned and caramelised. This takes roughly 50 minutes.
3. If you like your soup a bit thicker, add in flour now and stir for roughly 1 minute.
4. Add in beef stock (or water and condensed stock cubes according to packet instructions), thyme and brandy (or red wine) and cook for 15 minutes, tasting and adding more water/salt as you prefer.
5. While the soup is cooking, preheat oven to 180C. Place gruyere on top of each baguette pieces and grill in the oven for roughly 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread is crispy.
6. Serve soup in a bowl topped with a piece of baguette.

Alternatively, you can place the cooked soup in an oven proof bowl, top with toasted baguette (without the cheese) and top baguette with grated/sliced gruyere cheese, then bake in the oven until the cheese is melted. I didn’t do this as this process takes longer and makes the bread soggy before serving.

Question time: What’s your pet peeve in the kitchen? Do you often cook for big family gatherings?

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24 comments… add one
  • Rosa August 12, 2012, 6:38 pm

    Beautiful clicks and recipe! A wonderfully comforting soup.



  • Ali August 12, 2012, 8:56 pm

    Gorgeous photos! I don’t think I could cut all those onions in one hit!

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 14, 2012, 11:35 pm

      It was a very difficult task I can assure you Ali. πŸ˜› But since my boyfriend helped out, it was not as bad. Haha

  • tastyfoodsnaps August 12, 2012, 9:01 pm

    ive been seeing so many soup posts which I LOVEEE cause its freezing in Sydney at the moment! crazy winds here

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 14, 2012, 11:35 pm

      It’s crazy windy and raining here in Melbourne too! I’d love to have a bit more soup some time…maybe a soup that takes less tears. πŸ˜›

  • Charles August 13, 2012, 3:11 am

    I love onion soup so much – when it’s got a big hunk of bread in the top, all bubbly and hot with the melted cheese. Totally understand the pain of chopping onions though. Oh the tears I’ve shed over the years πŸ˜€

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 14, 2012, 11:34 pm

      Haha yes the tears the tears! It’s all well and worth it though, just seeing the happy faces when they’re drinking the soup makes me forget it. πŸ˜› I didn’t top the soups above with as much cheese as I liked, I should have because cheese makes everything taste better. πŸ˜€

  • kitchenriffs August 13, 2012, 5:56 am

    Really like the use of a brown paper bag as a background. I’m usually OK with cutting up onions, although like everyone they do sometimes bring tears. I prefer to chop by hand, but with that amount of onions I’d be tempted to use the food processor. Good post – I haven’t had French onion soup in ages, and now I’m craving it!

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 14, 2012, 11:33 pm

      It wasn’t actually a brown paper bag, it was brown wrapping paper that came with something I bought online. πŸ˜› But now that you mention it, it does look like a paper bag!

      I don’t actually have a food processor to chop those onions so it wasn’t an option for me. Maybe it’s time to invest in one…

  • Anne@FromMySweetHeart August 13, 2012, 8:08 am

    Oh Jenny…those tears were so worth it! I love onion soup and yours looks fabulous! But truthfully, I can’t concentrate on the soup because I am so taken with your gorgeous photography and food styling! Your photos are just beautiful! : )

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 14, 2012, 11:31 pm

      Thanks so much Anne! Hearing kind words like yours makes it all worth while. πŸ˜€

      In hind sight, I guess my tears were worth it too. πŸ˜› Didn’t feel like it at the time though! haha.

  • Tania @ A Perfect Pantry August 13, 2012, 10:03 am

    This is perfect for cold nights… and since it’s winter here, I’m going to make it. I love french onion soup.

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 14, 2012, 11:28 pm

      It was a perfect winter warmer, although it disappeared too quickly but me to get seconds…love soups when it’s cold. πŸ™‚

  • yummychunklet August 13, 2012, 11:03 am

    Simply tasty and stunning photos!

  • Georgia August 13, 2012, 1:49 pm

    Your photos are just getting more and more beautiful, Jenny – I’m in awe!! πŸ™‚

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 14, 2012, 11:26 pm

      Aww thanks so much Georgia! πŸ˜€ I’m trying but sometimes I feel like I’m not getting very far. πŸ™ More practice is the key. πŸ™‚

  • choux choux August 13, 2012, 9:36 pm

    Jenny, this is training for the onion challenge on masterchef πŸ˜› This looks so good. I had onion soup in cambodia and I can just imagine how amazing it would be to have french onion soup on a cold winter’s day.

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 14, 2012, 11:00 pm

      OMG I was just thinking that when I was writing it. πŸ˜› Lucky I didn’t have to dice them all and no one was there to judge me. haha…

  • Nami | Just One Cookbook August 16, 2012, 5:51 pm

    This is by far my husband’s most favorite soup! I remember we made French Onion Soup before for Christmas dinner and it was delicious. I forgot how we made it but I remember it took a long time to caramelize the onion. I forgot which recipe we followed, but now I have another recipe to try it on. And onion crying… not so looking forward to it. I usually keep them in fridge for a while (that’s what I was told by someone) and then run in water before I cut (technique from my mom). Hopefully my eyes won’t suffer!

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 22, 2012, 9:24 pm

      Thanks for the tip Nami! I will remember that and try it next time I have to cut so many onions again…my eyes suffered so much, but it was well worth it. πŸ™‚

  • Heather G August 26, 2012, 5:36 pm

    Really looking forward to this soup. How much stock did you use?

    A friend served FOS recently with a dab of English mustard and a splash of sherry. Divine.

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 26, 2012, 7:41 pm

      Oh my! I re-read the post and realised I had forgotten to write the amount of beef stock! I’ve now updated the post to reflect that, thank you Heather! It’s roughly 5 cups of beef stock or 1.2 litres. Hope the soup turns out ok for you! πŸ™‚


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