Walking past the farms at the moment it is clear that we are at an “in-between” seasons moment. The tomatoes are still green, the peppers are on their way but apart from that not much is happening.
The only vegetables being harvested are the new season potatoes…..
And the enormous Spanish spring onions..
Potato, leek and onion just sounds like a soup doesn’t it? But I didn’t want to make a thick, creamy leek and potato soup, it’s far too hot for that. And Vichysoisse, non! Call me a heathen if you like but, even coming from the land of Gazpacho, I can’t eat cold soup. I wanted something light, fresh and clean tasting.
I remembered seeing Raymond Blanc making his mother’s (Maman Blanc’s) summer vegetable soup which he served with a basil pistou. Pistou is the French version of pesto, without the nuts. It looked so clean, clear, healthy and delicious. Just perfect for a summer’s day, and it’s quick too. The vegetables are still quite al dente (or whatever the French word for al dente is) which adds to the freshness of the dish.
The pistou is amazing. I made mine with parsley instead of basil because I didn’t have any. When I buy basil here in the summer it wilts in the heat before I get home, so annoying.
You just blitz a big bunch of parsley (or basil) leaves with extra virgin olive oil and loads of garlic. The original recipe uses parmesan as well. I left that out to keep it vegan and it was still stunning. Drizzled over the finished soup it lifts all the flavours and takes it to another level.
It keeps really well in a sealed jar in the fridge too. If you make this amount you will have some left so you are only minutes away from a quick and delicious dinner. Just stir the pistou through some cooked pasta and garnish with toasted pine nuts and/or parmesan. Or drizzle it over some sliced fresh tomatoes for an impressive side dish or salad.
This recipe is actually a combination of Dorie Greenspan’s Warm Weather Pot- Au-Feu and Maman Blanc’s Soupe Au Pistou. The original Soupe Au Pistou would also contain white beans so you could add some cooked haricots or cannellinis towards the end of cooking to heat through if you like. I thought the new potatoes were enough to give it body. Chopped fresh tomato is another ingredient that is sometimes added. I just cleaned out what I had in my fridge.
Soupe Au Pistou Recipe
serves 3-4, vegan, gluten-free
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 1 Spanish spring onion, finely sliced
- 1 leek, cut off dark green parts (could keep for making veg stock), quartered lengthways, rinsed and sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 stalks celery, sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces (reserve leaves)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 6 baby new potatoes, cut into 1cm slices
- 2 large carrots (or 4 small) quartered lengthways & chopped into 1/2 inch pieces diagonally
- 1 – 1 1/2 litres good quality veg stock ,preferably homemade (or water)
- 1 strip lemon zest (use a peeler)
- 2 inch piece lemongrass, cut in half, lengthways and bruised
- 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off, cut into thirds
- 4 or 5 mushrooms, removed stems, cleaned, finely sliced
- 100 gr frozen spinach (or a bag of fresh, stems removed)
For the Pistou
- a big bunch of basil or parsley leaves
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
- pinch of sea salt
- ground white pepper
- fresh grated parmesan (optional)
First put all the pistou ingredients in a processor (or mortar & pestle) and blend until smooth. Pour into an airtight jar and store in the fridge.
In a large soup pan, heat the oil over a medium heat then add the onions, leeks and celery and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes until the onions have softened but not browned. Then add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Stir in the potatoes and carrots season with salt & pepper and pour in the stock/water. Throw in the lemon zest and lemongrass, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer gently (uncovered) until the vegetables are just tender about 10 minutes. The soup can be kept in the fridge now until you are ready to serve.
Bring back to the boil and add the asparagus, mushrooms (beans & tomatoes if using) and frozen spinach. Cook for another 4 minutes until asparagus is tender (add fresh spinach and celery leaves if using to wilt).
Taste for seasoning add more salt if necessary. Ladle onto a warmed soup plate and drizzle generously with the pistou.
Things That Made Me Smile Today….
Jacarandas en la Plaza Alta…
Have a Great Weekend & Happy Father’s Day !! xxx