Have you ever listened to the tunes that took you straight back to the certain time and places?
The time and places that always make you go 'arrrrh'... if you know what I mean.
I have those moments with food and drinks.
Certain ingredients, dish or just the way it is done... all bring me those joyous moments of the past and somehow manage to stick a big smile on my face. Even the disastrous ones!
Just for the sheer fact of being really bad makes it somehow quite funny. Because it is done, I guess.
'Looking back' kind of makes it all easy, doesn't it?
I often cook something particularly for this reason, almost to compensate the things I can't do or places I can't be.
I might fry some flat fish and serve it with okra in tomato marsala wishing if I was back in the beach by the lighthouse in Kerala. Or I could be rustling up rather big portions of paella missing the wonderful moment of romantic evening of Barcelona... and so on.
I supposed you can tell me I am mildly obsessed with this world of edible things.
French onion soup always does it for me.
When it is freezing cold outside and you feel desperately blue, it grabs me and hugs me and cheers me up.
It is an ultimate comfort food.
Beautifully caramelised onion gives you the first kiss of sweetness, supported by gooey and velvety melting in your mouth cheese. Then you have this crunchy croutons giving you the satisfaction of the bite. Wash it down with another mouthful of deep rich meaty juice that are packed with punch from the generous drop of brandy and white wine.
You've got to be warm by now.
I'm definitely knocked out from the amount of brandy I put in usually!
French Onion soup
400g mixed onions, sliced (I use half red and half white for different textures and sweetness.)
1 garlic clove, chopped
1tsp brown sugar
Handful of sage, chopped
1-2 bay leaves
50ml brandy or whisky
125ml white wine
500ml good beef stock
60g gruyere cheese
Few slices of day old baguette
knob of butter
salt and pepper
Start by melting some butter with little olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gently saute onion, garlic, sage, bay leaves with a little pinch of salt and generous amount of black pepper for 5mins.
Add good heaped teaspoonful of sugar into the pan and cook for further 10mins without stirring them too much. You want them to stick to the bottom of the pan a little to caramelise.
If you start to see sticky bottom of your pan, it is now time to add brandy and white wine. Crank up the heat and let it bubble up for few minutes.
Pour the stock in and bring them up to boil then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid ajar for 40mins.
Meanwhile, rub a little oil onto your sliced baguette and make croutons by baking them in the oven (190º) for 10mins.
When soup is ready, divide them into 2 bowls (4 if served as starter) and place the croutons while making sure they rise on top of the liquid. Cover them with grated cheese and cook them under the grill until the cheese has melted.
It was the most perfect way to lift up my tiresome winter.
I can plod along now... dreaming for the sunnier summer days.