Despite red and green being the internationally agreed colours of Christmas, I prefer purple. Granted, purple is my favourite colour all year round, but I think that the connotations with majesty and royalty are too wonderful to overlook. We are, after all, celebrating the birth of a king (in albeit humble surroundings) and whether you believe it or not, the whole nativity story is centred around the miraculous happenings on the night that Jesus was born into the world. Angels, shepherds and wise men, all regarded this baby as royalty, King Herod was threatened by the child’s very presence and, still today, we sing carols about the lordship of the baby Jesus.
I feel completely justified, therefore, in counting my deeply purple onion soup as a Christmassy dish! I can’t resist a bowl of French onion soup but my impatience usually leads to the onions being either burned or rather too anaemic to give the dark caramel colour to the soup, so I tried it with red onions instead. In an effort to preserve some of the gentle mauve of slow-cooked red onions, I don’t caramelise them like you would with a French onion soup. Milder than the more common Spanish onion, red onions still have a delicious sweetness that translates into a rich soup and red wine cuts through some of that sweetness while boosting the resulting darkly aubergine shade.
It seems only right to serve this soup with a cheesy crouton and, with a well-stocked Christmas cheeseboard, there are a world of options to try. The usual gruyere will never fail, but why not top your crouton with a smoked cheese like Greens of Glastonbury smoked cheddar instead?
Ingredients: to serve 4
4 large red onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
a small glass of dry red wine
750ml stock (vegetable or chicken will do, or a light beef stock)
a sprig of rosemary
- Heat a little oil in a saucepan and add the sliced onions. Stir to coat with oil then clamp a lid on. Leave to sauté very gently over the lowest heat possible for at least 30 minutes.
- Remove the lid from the saucepan and stir the onions, they should be soft and uniformly lilac. Add the sliced garlic, a pinch of salt and a good grinding of pepper, and continue to sauté for a further 5-10 minutes. You’ll notice that the onions will have released a lot of liquid, keep cooking until all this liquid cooks off.
- Turn the heat up and add the wine. Bubble away until the alcohol smell has mellowed and add the stock. Chuck in the rosemary sprig and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Taste and add more seasoning if needed (there’s nothing more insipid than under-seasoned onion soup) and serve with your melty, cheesy crouton.