Me? I have a tiny little cubby behind a teak door. Gin, vodka and cognac always have their places; at least one can of Guinness is in the fridge. That's it. That's all. Quite utilitarian in a way. Everything else is incidental and only in when gifted or when needed.
People who know me well aren’t that surprised to know this. I don’t drink that much and when I do it’s usually one of the above, but it’s my taste for Guinness is what throws some people off. It’s an acquired taste, one which I took to immediately.
Friends once mocked my half pint glass of dark liquid, assuming it was a cola and not a “real” drink. I told them it wasn’t and they didn’t believe me. I offered them a sip as proof. Eyes wide, and barely able to swallow, they went back to their rum and Cokes (heavy on the cola).
I can only describe this tar-black stout as meaty, rich, and with flavours that remind me of roasted coffee beans or cocoa beans. And it’s smooth. Very, very smooth.
In the kitchen, my favourite stout gives a depth to chocolate cakes and steaky stews that usually appear near St. Patrick’s Day. This year’s stew’s been sopped up and the cakelettes have yet to appear, but this year I’ve added to my Guinnessy repertoire.
Onion soups topped with cheesy toasts are a weakness: poking the cheesy lake with my spoon, pushing the bread into the broth, the savoury-sweet melange of a hearty broth and sweet onions, made with wine or stout, it’s all good as far as I’m concerned.
I looked at a number of recipes when I came up with this one. The soup part itself is rather easy to muddle through without a recipe—simply caramelise some onions and add a mix of beef broth and Guinness, with some bay leaves and thyme—but versions with bleu cheese croutons held my attention. I cubed the bread and made a batch of croutons to be used and snacked on, but you can simply lightly pre-toast a slice, fit it to the mouth of your soup crock, sprinkle it with blue cheese, a bit of olive oil and a grinding of pepper and then pop it under the broiler for about a minute.
Bleu Cheese Croutons
1 stale slice of bread, cubed
1 tsp bleu cheese
Preheat the broiler or set the oven to 200C/400F.
Stir the bleu cheese into an overflowing tablespoon of olive oil until smoothish. Add a good pinch or two of pepper. Toss the bread in the mixture.
Tumble the cubes onto a foil-lined tray and pour any remaining oil mixture over the bread.
If broiling: set under the broiler for about 60-90 seconds, or until golden.
If baking: bake for about 10-15 minutes or until golden.
Guinness Onion Soup
Yield: approx 1.3L (5c)
1kg (2lbs) medium cooking onions (approx 4-6 onions)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
330ml (1.3c) Guinness (or other stout)
750ml (3c) beef broth
2 bay leaves
0.75 tsp dry thyme
1 tsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
In a pot, put the onions, garlic, a pinch of salt and some pepper and enough cold oil and butter and cook until the onions are soft and caramelised.
While the onions are browning, reduce the Guinness to about 200ml (a bit more than 0.75c).
Add the reduced stout to the onions, along with the broth, thyme and bay leaves. Bring up to a boil and then let simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Add sugar and vinegar, stir well and balance flavours to taste.
Serve with bleu cheese or cheddar croutons.
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