A colourful vegetarian version of classic French onion soup, this makes a filling lunch or supper. The secret of the rich flavour lies in frying the onions very slowly until they are well browned, caramelised and sweet.
Parmesan cheese is not truly vegetarian, as it contains animal rennet. To make this dish 100% vegetarian, omit the cheese or find a suitable vegetarian substitute made without animal rennet. In supermarkets look for the 'parmesan style hard cheeses' which are suitable for vegetarians.
For a pepper and onion soup, replace the spinach and broccoli with 1 red and 1 orange pepper, both seeded and thinly sliced. Add the peppers with the onions in step 1. Just before serving, stir in 200 g (7 oz) skinned and diced tomatoes and some torn fresh basil leaves. * Use 55 g (2 oz) crumbled feta cheese instead of the Parmesan on the crostini. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the cheese and tomatoes before grilling them.
Spinach is a good source of several antioxidants including vitamins C and E, and carotenoid compounds. It also provides useful amounts of niacin and vitamin B6, and is a good source of folate. * Although spinach is traditionally thought of as a good source of iron, only 2–5% of the iron can be used by the body. This is due to oxalic acid in the spinach, which binds the iron, making most of it unavailable. Eating spinach with something that provides vitamin C, such as the tomatoes here, makes more of the iron available. * Broccoli is a good source of folate, which is vital for women planning a baby or during the first 3 months of pregnancy.
A, C * B1, B6, B12, E, folate