Autumn going into winter is the perfect time to get your pots out, rummage through your freezer for all of the chicken carcasses left over from summer BBQs and make soup. Not just any soup of course, soup with a difference, soup with one of my and your favourite things – beer!
The idea of beer in soup was one that to be honest I wasn’t completely convinced about until I made these two soups – then I was hooked. When you think of french onion soup you think of a dark rich beef broth sweetened by the long cooking of the onions with hints of bitterness from where some of the onions have stuck and burnt in the pan (on purpose of course).
So it stands to reason with terms like rich, dark, sweet, bitter, burnt that there are two styles of beer to use in the making of this soup – a good stout and a good porter – I chose the latter for its extra sweetness that will combine perfectly with the sweet onions!
I used James Squire Porter when I wrote this recipe four years ago, but today I would head towards Mornington Peninsula Porter or Lord Nelson Old Admiral, or perhaps Four Pines Stout.
As for the chicken carcasses, I threw them in a big pot with the appropriate veg and made a stock and then wondered what soup I should make. Upon looking in the fridge I noted I had a 500ml bottle of Weihenstephaner so it had to be my German beer soup with cheese and sauerkraut.
I first made this soup for a German beer dinner I did back in 2005 and it was an eye opener. There are lots of ingredients in this soup that complement, cut and contrast with the wheat beer so it gives the soup heaps of complexity. For instance, the fruit character in the beer complements the sweetness of the speck. The melted cheese and cream adds mouth feel that helps cut through the sauerkraut and the subtle spiciness from the beer contrasts with the saltiness from the speck and worcestershire sauce. Hefeweizens are great beers to cook with because of their fruity, sour, spicy, soft and rich characters, so give this soup a go!
French Onion and Porter Soup
45g of unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of olive oil
4 anchovy fillets
1 kilo of brown onions – peeled and sliced
4 cloves of garlic – peeled and chopped
2 330ml bottles of Porter – I used James Squires
500 ml of beef stock
1 tablespoons of chopped Thyme
4 fresh bay leaves
10g of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 Sour dough baguette
100g grated Gruyere Cheese
Put the butter and oil in a large casserole pot over medium heat, once the butter has melted and combined with the oil add the anchovy fillets and cook for about 5 minutes or until they have melted in to the oil mix.
Add the sliced onions and stir well so that all the onion is well coated with the butter oil anchovy combination. Turn the heat down to medium low and put a lid on the pot. Let the onions cook gently for half an hour giving it a stir several times so as to make sure it cooks evenly. After half an hour take the lid off the pot and add the garlic stirring it through and continue to cook gently for another 30 minutes stirring every 5 minutes or so making sure the onions do not overcook or stick to the pot. Now add the thyme, bay leaves, beer, beef stock, sugar, salt and black pepper stirring to combine all the flavours. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for half an hour allowing the liquid to reduce by 1/3 so the soup thickens and it also darkens in colour.
Cut the baguette on the diagonal and toast in a toaster or under the grill in the oven until golden. Place the toast on some al foil and cover each slice with a generous amount of the grated gruyere approx 12g per slice. Slide the al foil onto an oven tray and place under the grill until the cheese has melted.
Ladle the soup into a bowl and then place two pieces of the gruyere toast on top of the soup.
German Beer, Cheese and Sauerkraut soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon of butter
1 cup of diced celery
1 onion chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
150g speck chopped
4 – 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dry mustard
500ml of German Hefeweizen Wheat Beer – Schofferhofer, Franziskaner, Erdinger
500 ml good chicken stock
1 cup of sauerkraut
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup of cream
1 cup of grated cheddar cheese
Freshly cracked pepper
25g of butter
25 g plain flour
In a deep pot over medium high heat add the olive oil and butter, when hot add the celery, onion and speck and fry stirring for about 5 minutes. Add thyme, mustard, beer and stock bring it to a boil and then turn down and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the sauerkraut and stir until it comes back to a simmer then add the milk and cream. Bring back to a simmer and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes before adding the cheese. Make sure to mix the soup thoroughly to allow the cheese to melt evenly throughout. Season with salt and pepper.
Make a rue by heating the butter in a small pan and when foaming add the flour. Stir well to combine and continue to cook over medium heat stirring occasionally to the cook the flour. When it begins to brown slightly add a ladle of the soup to the pot and using a whisk combine well. Add a little more stock until you have a thin or runny paste. Mix this into soup stirring through a little at a time until the soup thickens.