Winter is definitely on its way. We've had several light frosts now, and my garden is looking a little the worse for wear. Bean and zucchini plants are looking very much like they have done their dash - i picked the last two zucchini a few days ago, and had to throw one out, as it was sadly frosted. I've also picked the last few cherry tomatoes from the glasshouse. Happily my lovely big crop of leeks are ready to eat, as are my parsnips. However i am also making a concerted effort to use things from the freezer - things such as my big stash of pesto, frozen in conveniently sized batches. I also need to start using up berries (red currants, black currants, gooseberries, raspberries and strawberries), and i am determined to start cooking a few more meat meals, rather than leaving all the cooking of meat to the husband. So, although this blog has been almost exclusively vegetarian thus far (along with its stint of veganism), expect a few meat-based recipes in the future.
Anyway, in the interests of this blog i continue to peruse cookbooks galore, along with magazines old and new, for useful, seasonal recipes. The other day i was browsing through an old Nigel Slater cookbook and came across the PERFECT recipe in terms of using things from my winter garden, from the dregs of my summer garden, and from the freezer. Summer garden items - tomatoes (last few) and zucchini (one); winter garden - leek and parsley; freezer items - pesto and broad beans. The only thing i needed to buy especially were some fresh green beans, which i allowed myself, as my local vege man told me they were still South Island grown beans, from somewhere near Nelson.
Pantry items included the potato and dried haricot beans, although actually i cheated and threw in a drained can of cannellini instead, as i hadn't been organised enough to soak dried beans overnight.
Speaking of dried beans - i'm thinking that as well as doing a few meat recipes this winter, i'd like to do quite a few recipes centred around dried pulses and grains. My cooking tends to veer in that direction over the colder months anyway.
But back to the recipe in hand; i've included Nigel Slater's recipe for pesto ('pistou'), although we're getting a bit out-of-season for basil now. However you could substitute watercress or rocket for the basil, which would make a lovely peppery pesto and would taste excellent in this soup. And of course you can substitute any number of nuts for the pine nuts - walnuts being the most seasonal at present. My frozen pesto was of the basil and parsley variety, made with walnuts.
As with almost any soup, you can omit any of the ingredients you don't have to hand; probably the very best time to make this soup would be late summer as the only thing not in season then would be the broad beans.
For those of you who don't have school-level French (or better), 'au pistou' simply means 'with pesto'. This is a different style of soup from the ones i usually make - i tend towards the thick-and-smooth style blended soup, whereas this one is a watery broth with lots of chunky vegetables. Being a fan of the bean, i was attracted to the "beaniness" of this particular recipe.
SOUPE AU PISTOU
From Nigel Slater's 'Marie Claire Cookbook'
For the pistou:
3 cloves garlic
4 stems of fresh basil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the broth:
1 large potato
110 g dried haricot beans soaked overnight and simmered until tender for about 1.5 hours
1.7 litres water
salt and freshly ground pepper
230 g green beans
110 g shelled broad beans
1 large tomato
big bunch of parsley
To make the pistou, crush the peeled garlic cloves in a mortar or food processor. Add the fresh basil leaves and the pine nuts and pound or process until you have a thick paste. Stir in the Parmesan, then slowly stir in the olive oil.
For the broth, pour a little olive oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Add the cleaned and chopped leek and leave it to soften on a low heat. Meanwhile, peel the potato and cut it into 1 mm cubes and add to the pan. Turn the heat up and add the cooked haricot beans and the water. Season with a little salt and simmer, covered with a lid, for 10 minutes.
Snap the green beans into 4 pieces. Chop the courgettes into small dice, and add with the green beans and broad beans to the pan. Skin and chop the tomato, add to the broth and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and add a generous handful of chopped parsley.
Ladle the soup into bowls and stir a tablespoon of pistou into each one.