25 g unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 kg large onions, very thinly sliced
250 ml dry white wine
1 litre rich beef stock
good pinch of grated nutmeg
small handful of fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh bay leaves
75 ml good-quality Madeira
1 day-old baguette or other crusty bread, cut into slices
1 garlic clove, peeled
150 g Comté cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan or flameproof casserole dish and add the oil. Add the onions and season with salt.
Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for at least 45 minutes until they have reduced right down to a golden, sticky mass.
Add the wine and bubble, stirring, for a minute, then add the beef stock, a good grating of nutmeg and the herbs. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the Madeira and bubble for 5 minutes more. Check the seasoning and spoon into four small ovenproof bowls or dishes.
Preheat the grill to high.
Toast the slices of crusty bread and rub one side all over with the garlic. Put the toasts on top of the bowls so that they cover the surface of the soup. Sprinkle with lots and lots of cheese and put on a baking sheet under the grill until the soup is bubbling and the cheese toasts are melted and golden. Serve straight away.