This recipe is not particularly authentic, I don’t think, but it comes close. Soupe au Pistou is a French recipe that comes from that time in Europe where travellers would go to some far flung land, in this case, Italy, and come back saying, “OH MY GOD YOU GUYS. GUESS WHAT I ATE. IT’S THE BEST THING EVER,” or, much in the same way that Australia as developed its national dishes, brought to the country by immigrants, and the home country ends up integrating it into their culinary culture.
My understanding is that this soup is like a Minestrone al Pesto (if you hadn’t guessed already, ‘Pistou’ is French for pesto) and hails from the Provence region. Just like many of these traditional recipes, every region, town, street and family has their own variation. This is mine.
2 carrots, chopped small (but not fine)
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 leek, white part only, sliced finely (apparently this should not be included, as the soup must only have summer vegetables. Mine does. Sue me.)
2 ribs celery, chopped small
500g fresh peas (for all fresh beans, you end up with about 200-250g after podding)
500g broad beans, podded
500g fresh borlotti beans, podded (for Inner Westies, Banana Joes in Marrickville has a ready supply)
300g green beans, chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 zucchini, chopped small
2 potatoes, chopped small
1 bunch kale, stripped from the ribs, chopped finely
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Bay leaves, sprigs of thyme and parsley stalks, tied up in a bouquet garni (or just dumped into the pot. See below)
1 bunch basil, picked
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Grated Parmesan or Parmagiano Reggiano to serve
1. Place a big pot on a low to medium flame and pour in a good lug of olive oil. Gently cook the carrot, celery, onion and leek until the onion is translucent. If you’ve got kitchen string and muslin, chuck you bouquet garni in with it. If not, chop the parsley stalks finely, pick the thyme leaves off and chuck them and the bay leaves in with the mirepoix.
2. Add the podded beans and let them cook for a bit. I let them it sit over a low flame and mixed it occasionally while I chopped up the potato and zucchini.
3. Add water. I think I added about 2-3 litres. I can’t remember. Add enough to cover it when you turn it up enough to boil.
4. After it has reached boiling point, turn back down to an excited simmer (this is a thing!) and added the zucchini, potato and chopped tomatoes. Top up with more water if it doesn’t look soupy enough.
5. Take your basil and garlic and whiz it in a food processor. If you don’t have one, use a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one of them, you’re dead to me. If you decide that buying a jar of pre-made pesto is a good idea, I will find you and burn your house down. Add enough olive oil so that it looks like a smooth paste, but not a sauce. Season to taste and put in a sterilised jar. Cover with a cm of oil (and the lid) once you’ve served it with the soup. Store in the fridge. I have no idea how long it will last, but mine kept for about a week. You may be able to keep it longer, I don’t know. Just don’t come crying to me when you have botulism.*
6. When everything looks cooked, add the kale and season with salt and pepper to taste. Adding the kale last means that it retains its flavour and doesn’t end up being tasteless pieces of string.
7. Once the kale has wilted, take the pot off the heat.
8. Ladle the soup into bowls, grate Parmesan over it and put a dollop of Pistou on top. The idea is that you mix the Parmesan and Pistou through the soup before eating.
*You know how you buy a whole bunch of basil and you’re like, “Fuck yeah, my pasta sauce is gonna be awesome with three basil leaves in it!”, and have no idea what to do with the rest? This is what you do. It means you have a basilly-garlicky combo you can add to pasta dishes or soups, such as this one. Or put on meat. Or on your face. Whatever floats your boat.**
**I mean make a Pistou or a basil paste out of it, not get botulism.
***The little red blob in the picture is Jolokia paste. I only recommend adding that if you’re not concerned with keeping it authentic, you like chilli, and/or are insane.