At first glance French Onion Soup may seem to be an incongruous choice for a 5-2 fast day meal idea. Visions of deep bowls filled with caramelised onions simmered in a rich beef broth and thick gratinéed croutons of bubbling gruyere cheese first spring to mind. Followed by the word associations delicious and ‘calorie laden’. In this version, however, the croutons are replaced with crisp discs of parmesan cheese, and the beef broth with a lighter miso paste infused stock. Cleverly cutting down on the crucial calorie count whilst adding “umami’ or an incredible ‘je ne sais quoi’ depth of flavour to the soup.
I first encountered Japanese style classical French haute cuisine many years ago at a wonderful kaiseki restaurant tucked away in the narrow cobbled lane ways of Kyoto. Delicious. Understated. Memorable. These days one of my family’s favourite cooler weather meals is a Japanese style Boeuf Bourgignon which replaces some of the more traditional French ingredients with shitake mushrooms, leek, miso paste, soy and mirin. Today’s fast day version of French Onion Soup, deeply flavoured with a miso enriched broth, borrows key elements from that dish. At just 215 calories per serve one bowl provides an incredibly satisfying fast day meal.
Japanese Inspired French Onion Soup With Oven Baked Parmesan Crisps
Serves 6 (215 calories per serve, 173 calories per bowl of soup plus 42 calories per parmesan crisp) )
2 tablespoons olive oil (240 calories)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (102 calories)
6 large (1 kg) brown onions, thinly sliced (378 calories)
1 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced (12 calories)
4 sprigs thyme (4 calories)
1 tablespoon brown sugar (52 calories)
1 tablespoon flour (28 calories)
2 tablespoons red or white miso paste (60 calories)
6 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock (120 calories)
2 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine) (35 calories)
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (8 calories)
freshly ground black pepper
MELT the butter and oil together in the bottom of a heavy based Le Creuset style pot over moderately low heat.
ADD onions, garlic, thyme and salt. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden.
ADD sugar and cook, stirring, for a further ten minutes until onions are nicely caramelised.
MEANWHILE place the miso paste in a small bowl. Add one ladle of the hot chicken stock. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.
SPRINKLE the flour over the caramelised onions and cook stirring continuously until all the flour has been incorporated.
ADD the hot chicken stock. Stir well to combine, then add the miso paste mixture in a steady steam stirring continuously.
GENTLY simmer the soup for 15 minutes. Remove the sprigs of thyme.Season with mirin, soy and freshly ground pepper.
LADLE one and a half cups of soup into bowls and garnish each with a parmesan crisp.
Makes 6 rounds (42 calories per round)
50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated (250 calories)
PREHEAT oven to 200C. Line a large oven tray with baking paper.
USING a 6cm food presentation ring or cookie cutter as a guide, place six heaped tablespoons of the grated parmesan on the prepared oven tray. Lightly pat down each round of grated cheese.
BAKE for 3 to 5 minutes in a hot oven until the crisps are light golden brown.
REMOVE from oven and allow to firm up a little before transferring the crisps to a wire rack to cool completely.