Soupe au Pistou is an institution in Southern France and has its origins in Genoa in neighbouring Italy. It’s generally a soup with green (originally summer) vegetables and a generous helping of Pistou (basil paste or chopped basil) added at the end of the cooking process. There are many recipes that differ slightly and claim to be the ultimate original, but you can adjust this soup to your taste and more importantly what you find in your fridge, as it’s a fantastic veggie use-up dish. I hope I won’t be chased through the streets of Cotignac for not including customary Pasta (aren’t potatoes and beans enough carbs already?) or the recommended 3 cloves of garlic, so this is a lighter and more breath friendly version.
Here’s what I used:
-4 good sized salad potatoes (they need to have firm flesh!)
-2 Jerusalem artichokes (optional, just had some left over)
-1 sweet onion
-1 can of Cannellini beans
-a bunch of basil, chopped
-1 good quality vegetable stock cube
We use our old faithful Le Creuset casserole for this dish.
Peel what needs peeling and cube all the vegetables as neatly as you can be bothered. Drop the tomatoes into boiling water and remove the skin, as well as the stones and cut them into chunks. Keep the tomatoes and courgettes separately for later as they cook so much more quickly than the potatoes and carrots.
Put some olive oil in a large-ish saucepan, and add the chopped onions and the clove of garlic and sweat it gently. Then add potatoes, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes and fry them gently for a few minutes before adding the beans and about 800ml of water, drop in the stock cube. Cook the vegetables for about 30 minutes, until tender, but still with some bite. Then add in the courgettes and tomatoes, and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Just before serving add the basil to your soup as it quickly loses its colour and gorgeous aroma if cooked for too long, also try and locate the garlic clove and remove. Add salt and pepper as per your taste and serve hot with a lovely chunk of bread.
PS. I would stay clear of commercial Pesto preparations as a substitute for real basil for this recipe, as they tend to have lost a lot of the flavour and are very oily due to the cheese and pine-nuts that form part of the Italian recipe.