Back in September, I attended the annual Food Blogger Connect conference. It was a really fun weekend – I saw some fab speakers, stayed in a lovely hotel all weekend (massive double bed all to myself!!), and hung out with some of my favourite blogging friends (I won’t start naming names here because I’ll inevitably miss someone out accidentally, but they know who they are!).
One of the speakers I saw at FBC was Ben from the YouTube channel SORTED Food – so I thought I’d recreate one of their recipes today in homage! If you’re subscribed to my monthly newsletter, you’ll have seen that I mentioned this particular video recipe in this month’s email – and after sending it out to you all, I couldn’t resist giving it a try myself. I couldn’t risk sending you to a recipe that doesn’t work properly, after all… oh, and I also just wanted a really tasty lunch.
I knew Ben was clever when I saw him talk at FBC, and I was right. Brilliant recipe.
Here were a few of the other highlights of the FBC conference this year:
– watching food photographer William Reavell style and shoot a pavlova during his food styling workshop. This session was really interesting, I learned a lot from him! As bloggers we pretty much make it up as we go along (or is that just me…?), so it was great to see a professional in action.
– watching food stylist Emily Jonzen styling a cucumber salad. It doesn’t just get plonked on a plate, you know! This was another of my favourite sessions from the whole weekend.
– the beautiful grounds of Chiswick House. It was a stunning location for the event!
– enjoying a drink in the hotel bar with some lovely friends. Getting to meet other bloggers is one of the best parts of any blogging conference, and luckily there was lots of down-time for chatting (and wine!). I believe the other hands in this photo belong to Jen, Elizabeth, Kevin, Emily and Kate (though maybe not in that order).
– spending two blissful nights at the Heathrow Ibis hotel. It’s always fun to stay in hotels, especially when you get a double bed all to yourself! It was super comfy and clean, and I slept so well both nights. Next time I fly from Heathrow, I will definitely be staying there again.
– breakfast at the hotel! Is there anything better than a buffet breakfast? Hash browns, fried eggs, mushrooms… It was all delicious, and nice and hot too – definitely a good way to gear us up for the long days ahead. We also had a lovely dinner in the Ibis hotel restaurant in the evening – I had a veggie burger, which may sound like a boring choice, but I always think it’s a good way to compare restaurants and gauge how good they are! This one was very good, for the record.
I definitely came away from the conference feeling motivated and inspired – hence this roasted French onion soup!
Turns out this soup is pretty amazing. As you may have gathered from the name, the onions are roasted before being thrown in the soup, which makes them even more intensely flavourful than with the usual stove-top method (the little charred bits you get on the edges are amazing). Not to mention, it’s a more hands-off way of cooking, so you can be off doing other things instead of standing there stirring.
I did make a few small tweaks to the SORTED Food recipe – I omitted the butter, for example, because I wanted the soup itself to be vegan. Whether or not you then decide to add a massive cheesy crouton on top is up to you! I would definitely recommend the cheesy crouton though (duh) – it takes the soup to the next level, and makes it feel like a really indulgent treat (even though you actually only need a small amount of cheese each).
The bottom of the crouton soaks up all the flavours of the soup and gets nice and soft, and the cheesy top stays crispy. It’s amazing.
The secret ingredient for making the soup really, really flavourful (soup-er flavourful, you could say… sorry) is a dollop of Marmite! If you’re not familiar with Marmite, it’s really popular in the UK (and elsewhere, I’m sure), and is usually eaten spread on toast. It’s basically a yeast extract, which sounds revolting, but it’s actually delicious – in small doses, of course. Don’t go slathering it thickly on your toast thinking it’s going to taste nice, because it won’t. You only need a tiny bit (preferably with some butter to dilute it a bit!). In this soup, though, a good dollop works really well to give that lovely, salty, savoury flavour. Try it!
Disclosure: I was provided with a room at the Ibis Heathrow free of charge, but all opinions are my own.
Roasted French onion soup
- 4 white onions
- 4 red onions
- 5 whole cloves garlic (unpeeled)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- Black pepper
- 1.5 litres hot water (~ 6 cups)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp Marmite or Vegemite
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 thick slices of French bread, cut at an angle
- 60 g gruyere cheese, grated (~ 1 cup grated)
- Heat the oven to 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F).
- Peel the white and red onions, and thinly slice. Add them to a large bowl, along with the unpeeled garlic cloves, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, crumbled veggie stock cube, and plenty of black pepper. Toss to coat. Spread the onions out onto two large baking trays. Roast for around 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway.
- When the onions are soft and just beginning to char around the edges, transfer them to a large saucepan, popping the garlic cloves out of the skin. Add the hot water, sugar, Marmite and whole sprigs of thyme, and bring to a simmer. Cook for around 30 minutes, or until ready to serve.
- To serve, remove the stalks of thyme (don't worry if the leaves have detached), and ladle the soup into bowls. Top each bowl with a slice of French bread, and add the grated gruyere. Put the bowls under the grill (broiler) for a minute or two, to melt the cheese. Serve immediately.
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose.