Suffolk Onion Soup

Some years ago, there used to be a cafe on St Martin’s Lane in London called, if I remember correctly, the Penguin. There’s a boutique hotel on the site now but back then it was a bistro with a bar and a handy place to meet up with friends. It did a superb onion soup which I ate at every opportunity, breathing allium fumes over potential boyfriends. It took me a long time to find a husband.

Unlike classic French onion soup this wasn’t dark with beef stock, but pale, made with chicken broth, a splash of cider and a dash of cream. It retained the deeply flavoursome caramelised onions and the molten cheesy croutons, the sort you eat too soon because they’re so irresistible, then curse because you’ve blistered the roof of your mouth.

Although it originated in Normandy … most French recipes with cider and cream seem to come from Normandy … this is (of course) a Suffolk version. Cultural appropriation is what us Brits are good at.

This recipe is adapted from one on the BBC Good Food website. It stands or falls on the quality of the stock, so try to use a deep-flavoured one.

Suffolk Onion Soup

Image of Suffolk Onion Soup


50g butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 kg onions, peeled and sliced into thin half moons

1/2 tspn sugar

2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tbsp plain flour

300 ml Aspall’s cider (or another dry cider)

1 litre chicken or ham stock, or a well-flavoured vegetable stock

A splash of cream

1 slice of baguette or good white bread per person (halved if necessary)

120g medium-hard cheese, grated (I used Suffolk Shipcord)

Image of sliced onions


Melt the butter with the oil in a big heavy-based pan and add the onions, stirring them to coat. Clamp on a lid and cook gently for about 20 minutes, until soft.

Stir in the sugar and cook, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes more, stirring often to stop the onions catching. They should be squishably soft and golden.

Image of softened onions

Warm the stock in another pan. If it’s ham stock, make sure it isn’t too salty.

Add the garlic to the onions and cook gently for another couple of minutes, then stir in the flour. Turn the heat up to medium and gradually pour in the cider, stirring continuously.

Now add the hot stock, then salt and pepper to taste, put on the lid and cook at a simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat, check the seasoning and stir through the cream.

Toast the bread on both sides and pile the cheese on top. Grill until molten. Ladle the soup into bowls and float the cheesy croutons on top.

Image of Suffolk Onion Soup, served 

20 thoughts on “Suffolk Onion Soup

  1. Fabulous Linda! Must try this. Looks made for the Aga. Love your comment..”stands or falls on the quality of stock” So true, for so many dishes. Mx

    • Thanks, Mike. It was indeed made on a Aga! Home-made stock is so good and so cheap to make, but I suppose it depends how much freezer space you have. Conor from One Man’s Meat reduces his down to intense flavour bursts and freezes them as ice cubes, so I suppose that’s one solution for people with limited space. Lx

    • That’s very kind, Cindy. I hope my pictures have improved a bit since the early days … I’m no expert when it comes to photography but I do believe that a dish is more enticing if it looks attractive when it comes to the table! Lx

  2. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that we were big on soups in our house growing up lol. Using the pressure cooker to render soup bones down to stock for the soups and the bone meal for the dogs was a regular occurrence. French Onion soup was a frequent fixture on the menu but I don’t recall ever doing one like this. This one sounds heavenly and I know would go quickly! Trick is going to be to find a decent dry cider and a good cheese here.

    • No surprise at all, given your mom’s cooking skills. You could use dry white wine instead of cider, with maybe a splash of apple juice? Can’t help you on the cheese front as I’m unfamiliar with US cheeses. You just need a good melting cheese, ideally with a bit of bite. Lxx

      • I’ll try the wine and apple juice trick. As for the cheeses I’m going to call my local Brit import shop to see what they have or can get. If that washes out there are several posh groceries that have great imported cheese that I can try. 🙂

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