Provençal Soup with Pistou

Soupe au pistou

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • For

    six

    people

Appears in

Cuisine of the Sun

By Roger Vergé

Published 1979

  • About

Very inexpensive

Ingredients

  • 300 g (10½ oz) fresh white coco beans or 200 g (7 oz) dried white coco beans (these are rounder than haricot beans. They can be obtained from Italian grocers. If you cannot find them use haricot beans)
  • 1 handsome potato weighing 100 g ( oz)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 turnips
  • 2 slender courgettes
  • 2 inner stalks of celery
  • 1 good handful of French beans
  • The white part of a leek
  • 1 onion preferably fresh
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes weighing 80 g (3 oz) each
  • 30 fresh basil leaves
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 8 generous tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 beef or chicken stock cubes
  • 1 bouquet garni containing a sprig of thyme, a bayleaf and four sprigs of parsley, tied with a thread
  • salt and pepper

Equipment

  • 1 stewpot or marmite holding 6–7 litres (10½–12½ pints)
  • 1 pestle and mortar or a liquidiser

Method

Soaking the beans: a day in advance

If you are using dried beans put them to soak in cold water for 12 hours.

Preparing the soup base

Wash and peel the various vegetables in cold water, without leaving them to soak for too long.

Put the soaked haricots on to boil, in 2 litres ( pints) cold water, together with the bouquet garni. Add salt after the water has boiled for 5 minutes. They will take about 1 hour to cook, but test them from time to time. If you are using fresh haricots they will only take 30 minutes; test them occasionally in the same way. When the beans are cooked, set them aside in their cooking water to keep.

Cut the carrots, turnips, courgettes and onion into 1 cm (½ inch) dice and cut the French beans into 1 cm (½ inch) lengths (don’t try to dice these!) Slice the leek and celery finely. Put all the vegetables (except the haricots) into the stewpot with 4 tablespoons olive oil and the same quantity of cold water. Soften over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. During this time the vegetables will first release and then re-absorb their juices giving the soup a good flavour without losing their own. After 10 minutes there should be no water left, but the vegetables should not have started to brown.

Pour 4 litres (7 pints) of cold water over the vegetables and add 2 stock cubes. Bring to the boil over a brisk heat and add salt after boiling for 5 minutes. Meanwhile cut the peeled potato into 1 cm (½ inch) dice and throw them into the soup after it has been boiling for 20 minutes. Make sure that the liquid does not reduce too much: if it does, add a little of the cooking water from the haricot beans. Allow to boil away while you prepare the pistou.

Preparing the tomatoes and basil

While the soup is cooking, peel and halve the tomatoes. Press each half in the palm of your hand to squeeze out the pips and excess juice. Cut them into 1 cm (½ inch) dice. Peel the cloves of garlic and remove the stalks from the basil.

If you are using a mortar, crush the cloves of garlic and the basil thoroughly with the pestle. Add the diced tomatoes (6) and pound the whole mixture together until it is a fine paste without any lumps. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil and stir it in carefully with the pestle. Season with a few turns of the pepper-mill.

If you are using, a liquidiser, or food-processor, first purée the garlic and basil with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then, add the tomato dice (6) and blend, pouring the rest of the olive oil. Season with a few turns of the pepper-mill.

Finishing and serving the soup

You now have three elements: the cooked haricot beans (3), the soup with its vegetables (4) and the ‘ointment’ of garlic, basil, tomato and oil (6). Remove the bouquet garni from the haricots. Add them with their cooking liquid to the stewpot containing the vegetable soup. Bring to the boil briefly and add salt if necessary. Away from direct heat, stir in the ‘pistou’ with a wooden spoon, without letting the soup re-boil. Carry it straight to the table, where the marvellous aroma will have preceded you.

Recommended wines

  • Tavel rosé or any young Provençal rosé, cool but not iced