French comfort food: The ultimate feast

When the temperature drops, the temptation to hibernate kicks in. Ugg boots, open fires, blankets, classic movies and a belly full of good food can be all it takes to convince you to stay indoors for the weekend.

Why not spend this weekend whipping up a feast of French comfort food. Start with a bowl of French onion soup topped with cheesy croutons and end with a light, fresh smoked salmon and basil tart.

Lock the doors and succumb to the aromas of simple French cooking this weekend.

French onion soup

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 60g butter
  • 1kg brown onions, halved, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbs plain flour
  • 750ml (3 cups) salt-reduced beef stock
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) white wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 crusty bread rolls, cut into 1cm-thick slices
  • 40g (1/3 cup) coarsely grated gruyere or Swiss cheese
  • Fresh thyme sprigs, extra, to serve


  • Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until the onion softens. Add the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until the onion is golden.
  • Add the flour to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. Gradually add the stock and wine, stirring until combined.
  • Place the onion mixture over medium heat. Add the thyme and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for a further 5 minutes. Season with pepper.
  • Meanwhile, preheat grill on medium. Place bread on a baking tray. Cook under grill for 1-2 minutes or until toasted. Turn and sprinkle with the cheese. Cook under grill for a further 1-2 minutes or until the cheese melts.
  • Ladle soup among serving bowls. Top with croutons and extra thyme to serve.

Smoked salmon and basil tart with lemon and parsley salad

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 200ml light sour cream (or creme fraiche)
  • 1/3 cup basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 250g sliced smoked salmon, chopped
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked
  • 2 baby fennel bulbs, very thinly sliced
  • 50g capers, rinsed, drained
  • 2 tbs olive oil

Parmesan pastry (or you can use large shortcrust pastry sheets)

  • 1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour
  • 110g chilled unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1/3 cup (25g) grated parmesan


  • For the pastry, whiz the flour, butter and a pinch of salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the parmesan and 1/4 cup (60ml) water. Process until pastry comes together in a ball. Enclose in plastic wrap, then chill for 15 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, and grease a 24cm loose-bottomed tart pan. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thick on a lightly floured surface, then use to line the tart pan. Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with pastry weights or uncooked rice. Blind-bake for 10 minutes, remove paper and weights, then bake for a further 5 minutes until golden.
  • Whisk the eggs and extra yolk in a bowl with the creme fraiche. Season with pepper (the salmon will be salty enough) and stir in the basil. Scatter the salmon over the base of the tart, then pour over filling. Bake for 30 minutes or until set.
  • Meanwhile, zest the lemons and place the zest in a large bowl. Cut away the lemon skin and pith. Holding the fruit in your hand, use a knife to cut the segments away from membrane. Add the segments to the bowl with the parsley, fennel, capers, oil, salt and pepper, then toss.
  • Cool the tart for 10 minutes, then slice and serve with the salad

Ready to taste the real thing? Take a look at all our small group and self-guided trips through France.

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Source: Delicious, February 2008, Page 96. Recipe by Valli Little

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