Onion Soup

Compared to other 18th century soups, which almost always seem to include some obscure meats or animal parts and take hours to make, this is a relatively easy and inexpensive recipe from Elizabeth Raffald’s 1769 book The Experienced English Housekeeper.

I followed Maggie Black’s somewhat simplified instructions for this recipe, given in The Jane Austen Cookbook. She suggests using 2 pounds of onions, which only worked out to about 2 and a half very large onions for me; the onions Elizabeth Raffald was using in the original recipe must have been much smaller. It really isn’t necessary to change the milk and water 3 times; just boil the onions until they are soft. Then, heat them again with chicken stock, add cream and breadcrumbs, and purée everything until smooth. The authentic 18th century method would be to rub everything through a sieve, but using a blender is much, much easier.

Onion soup, pre-toppings

To finish, the soup is seasoned with salt and cayenne, and topped with brown bread crumbs and either asparagus tips or blanched spinach leaves.

Tasting Notes:

This is a beautiful creamy soup. The onion gives it just enough flavor, without being overpowering. The spinach was good, but honestly unnecessary – I almost think the soup looks prettier without it. I liked the rye breadcrumbs, but might use bread croutons instead of crumbs in the future for easier preparation. Otherwise, I wouldn’t change anything about this recipe. It was delightful for a chilly fall evening.


Black, M., & Le Faye, D. (2002). The Jane Austen cookbook. London: The British Museum Press.

Raffald, E. (1769). The experienced English housekeeper. Manchester: J. Harrop. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=lY4EAAAAYAAJ&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA9

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