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Classic French Onion Soup

4 large onions
30 mi/2 tbsp sunflower or olive oil, or 15ml/1 tbsp of each
25 g/1 oz/2 tbsp butter
900 ml/1 1/2 pints/3 3/4 cups vegetable stock
4 slices French bread
40-50 gm 1 1/2-2 oz Gruyere or Cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Serves: 4
Peel and quarter the onions slowly and carefully, the onions and slice or chop them into 5 mm/ ? in pieces. Heat the oil and butter in a deep saucepan, preferably with a medium-size base so that the onions form a thick layer.
Fry the onions briskly for a few minutes, stirring constantly.
Reduce the heat and cook gently for 45-60 minutes. At first, the onions need to be stirred only occasionally but as they begin to colour, stir frequently. The colour of the onions gradually turns golden and then more rapidly to brown, so take care to stir constantly at this stage so that they do not burn on the base.
When the onions are a rich mahogany brown, add the vegetable stock and a little seasoning. Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes, then season with salt and pepper.
Preheat the grill and toast the French bread. Spoon the soup into four oven proof serving dishes and place a piece of bread in each. Sprinkle with the cheese and grill for a few minutes until golden. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
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