The French appreciate Scotland's rugby team, and my neighbours certainly appreciate a good single malt, but Scottish cuisine has a reputation for being deep-fried and hardly haute. During the last Six Nations, a contingent from the village visited Murrayfield Stadium to watch the French and Scottish rugby teams battle it out. They were less than impressed by the pies on offer, and it took a lot of persuading to get them to try home-cooked versions of some Scots classics upon their return.
The undoubted winner of the evening was a whisky and onion soup, designed to pander to childhood memories while still keeping a sense of Scotland. It would make an excellent Burns' Night supper for the haggis-shy.
1kg large onions
¼tsp brown sugar
1 litre stock (use vegetable if serving to vegetarians)
½ tbsp (heaped) plain flour
75ml cider or dry white wine
2 tbsp good whisky (single malt if possible)
salt and pepper to taste
25g butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
½ small, day-old baguette
½ garlic clove, peeled and halved
85g Gruyère, grated
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
2. Peel, halve and finely slice the onions. Melt 30g butter in a large, heavy-based lidded pan over a low heat. Add the onions. Cover and sweat very gently, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Uncover, turn up the heat, sprinkle in the sugar and cook for at least 45 minutes, stirring regularly, until the onions are tender, golden brown and quite dry.
3. Meanwhile, make the croutes. Rub the outside of the baguette with the cut garlic clove. Cut into 8 slices and lay closely together on a buttered baking sheet. Drizzle over the melted butter, strew with most of the cheese, and bake for about 15 minutes until golden and bubbling. Leave to cool. When the cheese is hard and the bread crisp, you will need to carefully separate the slices as they will be stuck to each other with the cheese.
4. Bring the stock to a simmer in a pan. In another, small pan, melt the remaining 20g butter. Stir in the flour, add two ladlefuls of hot stock and whisk until thick. Stir this into the remaining hot stock. When the onions are ready, add the cider or wine. Cook until the liquid has evaporated. Pour the thickened stock over the onions. Stirring constantly, bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Add the whisky and season well.
5. To finish, preheat the oven to its highest setting. Decant the soup into heatproof bowls and arrange the croutes on top. Cover the croutes with the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from www.waitrose.com.