Caramelized Onion and Brussels Sprouts Soup

It is wonderful when you can make a meal which you didn’t specifically plan for from the ingredients in your kitchen. I had a bag of brussels sprouts languishing in the bottom of my fridge and yesterday I decided to try to make something new out of them (normally I just cut of their ends, remove the tougher outer leaves, and fry them in a mixture of butter and olive oil until they are browned and soft). I make a lot of soup so, that seeming the easiest option, I turned to the internet and got this Sophie Grigson recipe from the BBC Food website. I modified it just slightly (partly due to my lack of pepper and sour cream to add, and because I decided that to add something more interesting to the texture I would fry up a shallot to garnish with).

First I finely sliced two very large onions.

Then I melted two and a half table spoons of butter on medium-low heat at the bottom of a large pot and added the onions. Stirring occasionally so they won’t stick I put a lid on the pot and let them sweat for 30-40 mins until they were soft and gooey (because they sweat out a lot of their juice you don’t have to worry too much about them burning as you do when you are regularly frying unions, so long as you make sure that none have crept up the sides of the pot and are beginning to brown there). After they were done, I added two heaped tablespoons of white sugar. I let them cook, uncovered, for another 10 mins until they became a gooey, jam-like mixture. It was at this stage that I saw that  near the sides of the pot some of the mixture was becoming a caramel colour, so I turned up the heat a bit (to just over medium) and encouraged a bit of browning. At this stage, things begin to smell amazing…

Meanwhile, while the onions were doing their thing I prepared the brussels sprouts, cutting off their hard ends, removing the tougher outer leaves, and halving them. I’m not exactly sure what quantity I used – it was a big bag, and looks like maybe there are thirty there from the picture. You want lots, anyway.

When the onions were nice and caramelly I threw in the sprouts along with pinch of dried thyme, four cups of vegetable stock, and two tablespoons of cooking sherry. I also decided to season the soup myself at this stage, and this led to the one flaw of the meal – that it was a bit to salty. I suggest adding pepper, but restrain yourself when it comes to putting in any more salt, as the onions, the stock and the sherry are going to add a lot of salt. Also, when making soups it is often best to not to try to add too much liquid as otherwise they get too watery in the blending stage, but with this things were actually different – I didn’t just cover the vegetables, but added the full four cups, and the soup still turned out very thick.

Once everything was in I brought it to the boil and let it cook for roughly 15 minutes until the sprouts were soft, and then left it for a little while to cool slightly.

Finally, I blended it in batches, transferring the lots that I had done to a separate bowl, and then pouring it all back into the pot when I was done.

Then, as I put the pot back on the stove just to reheat a little, I prepared my own final little touch which really was the making of this meal. I finely sliced an (American) shallot and fried it up on medium-high heat in a pan with some butter and olive oil until it was really brown and crispy. After transferring the soup to bowls, I garnished with the shallots which added a wonderful crispy texture.

The soup served me and my friend Matt nicely, with enough left over for at least one more (two at a push). It was extremely delicious, and I liked the fact that the texture of the shallots added to the flavour of the caramelized onions. As I said before, I slightly over-salted mine, but the affect of this could have been reduced by adding some sour cream , which would make a very nice addition.  It not really being sprout season, though, I am going to have to move on to some more seasonally appropriate vegetables next time, I think.

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