Den Stories

Funny how Captain Wisebeard always wants to go outside to do battle with his arch enemy General De’ath on a cold day, or at least that what Harry said when he he reminded me that we needed some “father and son time”. He was right, we’d spent enough time inside watching Back to the Future (again) and stuffing chocolates down our faces, and little toy soldiers wait for no man. So, after wrapping ourselves in full combat gear and scarves, off we went to the den in the garden with our boxes of troops, I always get the baddies under the command of De’ath and they always seem to be missing essential parts like legs and guns, but hey, am I complaining, well yes I am, but usually to no avail.

After a quick scout around the den to make sure the booby traps (small sticks on twine) were still in place, we settled in for the main event which lasted around an hour ( 10 min break for hot choc and mallows) I took out most of Harry’s platoon in the first five minutes but miraculously, they all resurrected  themselves in a matter of seconds and by the time the hour was up I had to wave the white flag (or tissue paper on a twig) and admit defeat, again, argh I always lose! While Harry reclined on his makeshift army bed, I told him my story of how, when I was his age, I had once saved a cat from falling out of a very high tree and it scratched me on the face as a thank you, he found that VERY funny and promised to tell it to all his friends at school. I love that about boys, the more gory the story the louder it makes them laugh and then they will  try and out story you the next time.

Harry in his den

We tried to brave the elements a bit longer, but seeing as how the frost next to us still hadn’t melted and it was 12.30pm, it was time for some hot homemade soup, even army guys need soup, here’s the recipe…..

French Onion Soup

  • 700g white onions thinly sliced in a food processor, makes it less tearful and you get really thin slices.
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil
  • 50g butter
  • 2 crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 ½ lt of good beef stock
  • Dash white wine
  • Dash brandy
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Croutons, you will need

  • French bread, cut into little one inch squares
  • Olive oil
  • 250g Gruyere cheese to top

French Onion Ingredients

The method

– In a heavy bottomed pot, heat oil and butter until quite hot, add onions, add garlic, and stir over a high heat with the sugar until they start to turn colour at the edges to a dark brown, around five minutes, then reduce heat as low as possible and cook uncovered for 25 minutes, stirring now and again.
– Add stock, wine and brandy and simmer gently for around one hour uncovered, stirring occasionally to remove anything from the bottom of the pan to mix in with the onions as this gives it a rich taste, check for seasoning as you go.
– Lay your croutons on a baking tray and drizzle with a little olive oil and toss  them, toast until golden and set aside.
– Grate your cheese and set aside
– Get your grill hot
– After one hour, ladle soup into bowls, top with a handful of croutons then cheese, not too much cheese and place under the hot grill until cheese is melted. Serve straight away either on it’s own or with below suggestions:

Baked ham sandwich with Dijon mustard

Carrot sticks and Aioli (keeping it french)

Quick Aioli recipe

I cheat and use, 150 ml mayonnaise, 2 crushed garlic, 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper, mix it all together, they will never know!

If this doesn’t satisfy an army, nothing will!!

French Onion Soup


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