In August the markets are bright and full of beans! There are many different varieties and they are so pretty, I can’t resist them.
I decide to make a Soupe au Pistou, which uses three types of beans, coco rouge, above, coco blancs, below
and haricots verts, green beans.
Soup in summer? I hear you cry. I know, soup is for winter, salad is for summer, but believe it or not this soup is quite refreshing and lovely on a warm balmy summer’s evening and can be often found as a starter on Provençal menus in the summer months.
I ask the man who I buy my vegetables from how to cook the soup, as I know he is a vrai Provençal.
He says that besides the three different beans, I need carrots, courgettes, an onion and some potatoes. I ask if I need a leek or celery and he says, if I want to but it’s not necessary, (I can tell he doesn’t really approve), but I add a stick of celery all the same. After he’s weighed the vegetables and I’ve paid, he hands me a basil plant, “and you’ll need this…..” I ask him how much and he says “cadeau,” gift.
When I get home I go through some recipe books, it seems you can add more or less any vegetable that you like which is in season, as long as you stick to the three beans varieties. Some recipes say to use leeks, some to use chard and some even add a ham hock. I decide to keep it minimal with the basic ingredients.
The soup itself is a rather boring vegetable soup, made with water and no stock, but what gives it its kick, is the pistou, which is the Provençal version of pesto, but is made without pine-nuts and with tomato. The pistou with its strong taste of garlic and basil sets off the blandness of the soup and gives it another dimension.
Most recipes tell you to sweat the onion, but my vendeur said to just throw everything into a big pot and add water and a bay leaf, so this is what I do.
Next I leave everything to cook for 40 minutes or so. Now this means that the vegetables are quite well done, which is right for the texture of the soup and for old fashioned taste buds, but nowadays people like their vegetables a little more al dente, in which case you cook the beans first and then add the rest of the vegetables about 20 minutes later. 10 minutes or so before the end of the cooking time, throw in some pasta, I used what are called coquillettes, which are small shell shaped pasta, but you can of course use what ever you want.
Whilst the soup is cooking, I make the pistou. I first pound the garlic with the basil leaves and then add the tomato and lastly the olive oil and just before I serve it, I pour a ladle of the broth from the soup into the pistou and mix it in.
The pistou, and the grated gruyere cheese are served alongside the soup and everyone takes as much or as little as they want.
Relax and enjoy with a glass of rose and a fresh baguette and be grateful that the temperature has at last dropped and cicadas have stopped their chirping for the night!
- 300g fresh red beans
- You can used dried beans but you have to soak them the night before
- 300g fresh white beans
- Again soak overnight if using dried
- 500g green beans
- 2 carrots
- 1 courgette
- 1 small onion
- 1 potato
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 oz pasta shapes
- salt and pepper
- 3 litres water
- Soupe au Pistou
For the pistou
- a large handfull of basil leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tomato, peeled and chopped
- grated Gruyere cheese
- 2 tabls of olive oil
Cut the beans into small lengths and shell the red and white beans. Dice the onion and the courgette, along with the carrots and potatoes. Put all the vegetables into a big casserole dish, add the bay leaf and cover with 3 litres of cold water. Add salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for approximately 40 minutes. Add the pasta 10 minutes, or however long the pasta needs to cook, before the end of the cooking time.
Meanwhile make the pistou. Chop the basil (you can also do this in an electric blender) and pound in a pestle and mortar with the peeled garlic. When these are well mixed add the chopped tomato, then add the tomato and gradually add the olive oil to make a well blended paste. When the vegetables are cooked and the soup ready to serve, ladle a cup of broth into the pistou, mix well and serve alongside the soup with some grated gruyere cheese, letting everyone help themselves.
Leave out the cheese and its a vegan supper, use rice instead of pasta and it’s gluten free.
I’m not entirely sure what the correct translation for coco blanc or coco rouge is, if you know, please leave a comment and let me know, in fact, why not leave a comment in any case!
Soupe au pistou, David Lebovitz
Soupe au pistou recipe, 101 Cookbooks
The winner of Celia Lindsell‘s Lavender bag giveaway is Ann Snelling. Congratulations and thanks for commenting.