Thursday, 7 March 2013

Recipe: Marmite French Onion Soup

It seems like Spring has started, finally, but nights are still chilly. May I suggest French onion soup? I recently had one at Brasserie Zedel, an enormous gorgeous French-style brasserie near Piccadilly Circus where I managed to have a tasty three course meal for £10.50p. The Maitre d' didn't want to let me in for some reason "you can go upstairs and have a cake" he sniffed dismissively, but it was bitterly cold outside and I needed French onion soup dammit. I gazed upon an almost empty restaurant, with a live piano player tinkling in the background reading music from an iPad. "May I see the menu?" I asked him. Reluctantly, from underneath his desk, he pulled out a large sheet of card, all in French. I then proceeded to trill, airily, in fluent French, about what I felt like eating, snapped the menu shut and confronted him with a steely-toned arch-eyebrowed"So you won't allow me to eat here?" 
He smiled tightly through gritted teeth and said "Of course Madam, but I'll need the table back by 6".
It was 4.30pm.
Maybe he was tired. The rest of the waiting staff were lovely. They gave me an English menu. I think the French one is kept at the front to put people off. So almost a decade living in France and consecutively shagging approximately four French boyfriends over a number of years were well worth it after all.
At home, my Riverford Organic box delivery had left me with a full basket of onions, built up week by week. Once I'd fished out and chucked all the soft ones at the bottom, plenty remained.
Do not listen to those that suggest French onion soup only authentic with a beef stock. That is complete couilles. A spoonful of Marmite, (appropriately the word 'marmite' in French, means a pot-bellied casserole dish) plenty of white wine and softly cooked good quality onions is all that you need. In fact it's so rich that it's an entire meal in a bowl: soup, bread, cheese.
Enough for 6-8

1.5 kilos of good brown onions, sliced thinly, into rounds or half rounds
Olive oil to cover the bottom of your pot
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tablespoon of Marmite
3 fresh bay leaves
1 bottle white wine
1 litre of vegetable stock
1 loaf of French baguette or French pain de campagne or sourdough bread
300g of Cheddar, Gruyere or Emmental cheese, grated
1 tablespoon of freshly ground pepper or a sprinkle of pickled green peppercorns

Simmer the onions until soft in the pan containing olive oil. Add the garlic, Marmite and bay leaves.
Add the white wine, let the onions soak it up.
Then add the vegetable stock.
Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve into oven proof bowls, ceramic or enamel.
Add 2 slices of bread to each bowl and scatter the grated cheese all over the bread, overlapping until it cover the bowl.
Put under the grill for 10 minutes. (Aga instructions, leave on the top shelf of your hottest oven for 15 minutes)
Grind on the pepper. Serve with a green salad and a good bottle of red (this soup is rich enough for red) or white wine.


  1. Brilliant recipe, great story! Thanks for kicking that snooty maitre d' into shape. I love it when we 'little women' kick ass. : )

  2. Awesome Frenchie-Anglo combo, I will definitely try this as I never have good beef stock lying around and am reluctant to pay good money for the stuff you buy in pouches!There is always, however, marmite in my house!

  3. Onion soup, mmmmmm love it. I find it works with chicken stock too. Hadn't thought of marmite, thanks for the tip.

  4. One of the best "French" onion soups I ever had was in Germany, and it had lots of thyme in it.
    Why is it that some restaurants turn away business even when they are not busy?? Do they expect all diners to come along in parties of 8 and spend hundreds of pounds? Don't they realise that THEY are there to serve US, and not the other way round?

  5. My last blog post reviewed Zedel's and we too had the same, "You must be out by 6pm" malarky. Their website states that they always keep a goodly number of tables for walk-ins so we took this ruling with a pinch of salt. We outstayed our welcome by an hour and a half and no-one seemed to notice. Then the next day we did a walk-in for oysters and they were all hearty welcomes. But again the restaurant was quiet. I reckon there's an accountant making table turning rules as it is incredibly cheap for the location, beauty and quality of food. Fabulous that you flummoxed them with your French!

    I have the flu this week and am living on Marmite on toast so may adventure into your soup at the weekend.

  6. Mark willis: I don't know why he was like that. As I was on my own I was out in 45 mins so yeah I didn't spend a lot but bums on seats is always good.

  7. Gill: it took a lot of insisting so not sure what the policy is here.
    Hope you feel better soon :(

  8. Debs and dinner lady:
    Little ass kickers we certainly are.

  9. Hal : this is rich enough without beef stock!

  10. Wonderful recipe, and very well suited to kitchen renovation work currently being undertaken. Not a lot of fussing about, which is what I need right now.

  11. Great recipie I love onion soup .... so comforting.. and I love marmite. So really looking forward to trying this. Especially appreciate that it is suitable for my vegetarian diet. Will definetly share this with my Canadian friends who like I were raised on marmite when growing up in England. Thanks. Virginia

  12. Will try this recipe next time I make soup at the Public School I work at Marmite sounds a good addition.Thanks

  13. IMO shagging French men is infinitely preferable to actually having a relationship with them. Or at least the ones I dealt with. Maybe I just had bad taste in French men?


I would love to hear what you think of this post! I try to reply to every comment (if there is a delay, I am probably away from an internet connection or abroad)