Roasted red onion soup with cornmeal croutons

1 lb 12 oz/800 g red onions, quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp margarine
generous 1 cup dry white wine
5 cups vegetable stock
1 fresh rosemary sprig, plus extra to garnish
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
1¼ cups water
2¼ oz/60 g fine instant cornmeal
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
olive oil, for brushing
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Place the onions and oil in a roasting pan and toss to coat. Dot with the margarine, season with salt to taste and roast in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, turning occasionally, until very tender and slightly blackened around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
2. Discard the outer layer of each onion segment if crisp, then cut the remainder into thick slices. Place the onions into a large, heavy-bottom saucepan with the wine and bring to a boil. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated and the smell of alcohol has disappeared.
3. Stir in the stock and herbs and cook over medium–low heat for 30–35 minutes,or until reduced and thickened. Stir in the mustard and season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Meanwhile, to make the cornmeal croutons, heat the water to boiling point in a saucepan. Pour in the cornmeal in a steady stream and cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes, or until thickened and the mixture starts to come away from the sides of the saucepan. Stir in the salt and rosemary.
5. Cover a cutting board with a sheet of plastic wrap, then, using a palette knife, spread out the cornmeal in an even layer about ½ inch/1 cm thick. Let cool and firm up. Cut into bite-size cubes, brush with oil, and arrange on a baking sheet. Cook in the preheated oven, turning occasionally, for 10–15 minutes, or until crisp and lightly golden brown.
6. Remove and discard the rosemary. Transfer half the soup to a food processor or blender and process until smooth, then return to the saucepan and stir well. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve topped with the cornmeal croutons and rosemary sprigs.

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