Billy Hannigan’s number one tip for perfecting this classic French soup is simple. “Pro tip: A good quality beef stock is important,” he tells Broadsheet. “My suggestion is Campbells Real Stock. It will give the soup a rich dark colour and a beautiful flavour.”

Hannigan is head chef at Sydney’s modern French bistro Loulou, a three-in-one venue also offering a boulangerie and traiteur. With his team, the seasoned professional (who has worked at Bistro Guillaume and London’s lauded The Ledbury) serves a lot of the French standards, such as steak frites, hand-cut steak tartare, pommes dauphine and this soup-pie hybrid.

“Serving this soup with the puff pastry on top is a little nod to the famous dish soupe aux truffles that Paul Bocuse – who ran the three Michelin-starred Lyon restaurant L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges – cooked for the French president in 1975. This famous soup was on monsieur Bocuse’s menu ever since.”

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Hannigan says you can prepare the soup component in advance and when ready to eat, pop on the sheet of pastry and slide it into the oven to serve hot and fresh. And because no one has time to make their own pastry, his recipe calls for shop-bought stuff (although you can make your own if you want).

It’s a good one if you’re looking for something to mark France’s national day, Bastille Day, which is on July 14. While it feels very fancy, Hannigan says it’s not at all. “This recipe is perfect for a cheap and cheerful winter night in. It’s hearty and very simple to follow.”

French onion soup “en croute”
Serves 2
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:
1 tsp olive oil
6 brown onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
80ml white wine
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
1.2 litres beef stock
Salt and pepper
2 sheets all-butter puff pastry
100g Gruyere cheese, grated
2 egg yolks, beaten

Method:
In a large heavy-based pan over low-to-medium heat, add olive oil, onions, garlic and good pinch of salt. Stir regularly until onions are dark golden-brown and smell sweet and caramelised. If onions catch on the pan, add a splash of water to “deglaze” the pan.

Turn up heat a fraction and add wine, bay leaf and thyme. Reduce liquid by 50 per cent before adding beef stock. Cook on low heat for around 30 minutes or until soup has thickened slightly. Remove bay leaf and thyme, season with freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.

Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 180°C. Cut puff pastry to size. It should cover the top of each oven-proof soup bowl with 1–2cm overhang. Set aside.

Pour soup into deep bowls leaving around 4cm below rim and top with Gruyere. Carefully place puff pastry over each bowl and use thumbs to firmly press down pastry edges to seal. Brush with egg yolk and bake in oven until golden brown and puffed.

The soup can be made in advance, though it’s best served fresh from the oven.

Looking for more recipe inspiration? Check out Broadsheet’s recipe hub here.

@loulou.sydney
@billy.hannigan