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Cream of Spring Onion Soup

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Serves: 4
115g / 4 oz unsalted butter
1 kg / 2 1/4 lb yellow onions, sliced
1 fresh bay leaf
105ml / 7 tbsp dry white vermouth
1 litre / 1 3/4 pints good chicken or vegetable stock
150ml / 1/4 pint double (heavy) cream
a little lemon juice (optional)
salt and ground black pepper
croutons or chopped fresh chives, to garnish

Melt 75g / 3 oz of the butter in a large heavy-based pan. Set about 200g / 7 oz of the onions aside and add the rest to the pan with the bay leaf. Stir to coat in the butter, then cover and cook very gently for about 30 minutes. The onions should be very soft and tender, but not browned.

Add the vermouth, increase the heat and boil rapidly until the liquid has evaporated. Add the stock, 5ml / 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Leave to cool, then discard the bay leaf and process the soup in a blender or food processor. Return the soup to the rinsed pan.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in another pan and cook the remaining onions slowly, covered, until soft but not browned. Uncover and continue to cook gently until golden yellow. Add the cream to the soup and reheat it gently until hot, but do not allow it to boil. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a little lemon juice if liked. Add the buttery onions and stir for 1-2 minutes, then ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with croutons or chopped chives and serve.

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