There's something so incredibly humble about onion soup. It's absolutely one of my favorites but unfortunately I only ever get to make it in the restaurant or for myself as the missus thinks she's allergic to onions. (She's not, because I whiz them up into loads of dishes without her knowing!) If you have the opportunity, get hold of as many different types of onion for this soup as you can - you need about 2 pounds in total. Sweat them gently and you'll be amazed at all the flavors going on.
Put the butter, 2 glugs of olive oil, the sage and garlic into a heavy bottomed, nonstick pan. Stir everything round and add the onions, shallots and leeks. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place a lid on the pan, leaving it slightly ajar, and cook slowly for 50 minutes, without coloring the vegetables too much. Remove the lid for the last 20 minutes, the onions will become soft and golden. Stir occasionally so that nothing catches on the bottom. Having the patience to cook the onions slowly, slowly, gives you an incredible sweetness and an awesome flavor, so don't be tempted to speed this up.
When your onions and leeks are lovely and silky, add the stock. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. You can skim any fat off the surface if you like, but I prefer to leave it because it adds good flavor.
Preheat the oven or broiler to maximum. Toast your bread on both sides. Correct the seasoning of the soup. When it's perfect, ladle it into individual heatproof serving bowls and place them on a baking sheet. Tear toasted bread over each bowl to t like a lid. Feel free to push and dunk the bread into the soup a bit. Sprinkle with some grated Cheddar and drizzle over a little Worcestershire sauce.
Dress your reserved sage leaves with some olive oil and place 1 on top of each slice of bread. Put the baking sheet into the preheated oven or under the broiler to melt the cheese until bubbling and golden. Keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn't burn! When the cheese is bubbling, very carefully lift out the baking sheet and carry it to the table. Enjoy.
Recipe Excerpted from JAMIE AT HOME by Jamie Oliver. Copyright (c) 2008. Published in the U.S. by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved. Available wherever books are sold. www.jamieoliver.com