A classic dish from Southern France, Soupe au Pistou is comfort in a bowl. Similar to the Italian Minestrone, the vegetables that go into this soup can be substituted to suit what you have on hand.
200 g dried cannellini beans (or 1 x 400 g tin cooked cannellini beans)
2 brown onions (only 1 if you are using tinned cannellini beans)
1 leek, white part thinly slices, green part left whole
1 celery stalk, thinly chopped
20 g unsalted butter
2 tbs olive oil
1 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1ltr chicken stock
500 ml water
200 g green beans, trimmed and cut in half widthways
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1 bunch basil, leaves only
80 ml olive oil
1. If you are using dried cannellini beans place them in a large bowl and and cover generously with water. Soak for 5 hours. Drain the beans and place them in a saucepan and again cover generously with fresh cold water. Take just one of the onions and cut it in half (skin on). Place in the saucepan with the beans along with the tough green tops of the leek. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the beans are cooked. If you are using the tinned cannellini beans ignore this first step and begin at step number 2.
2. Make the pistou by pounding the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle until you have a rough paste. Add some of the basil laves and the olive oil. Continue to pound the mixture, adding more basil leaves as room becomes available in your mortar. Once all of the basil is used and you have a reasonably homogenous looking mixture place the pistou in a bowl and set aside. It will begin to oxidise immediately and the top will darken in colour. The flavour will be fine but if you don’t like the colour you can add a small amount of lemon juice to stop the colour changing.
3. In a large saucepan saute the remining onion, celery, leek (white part only) in the butter, oil and a good pinch of salt for about 10 minutes or until the mixture has softened.
4. Add the cannellini beans, tomatoes, carrot, stock and water and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the green beans and simmer for another 5 minutes. Season well salt and a couple of decent pinches of freshly cracked black pepper.
5. Ladle the soup into bowls and finish with a small dollop of the pistou. Serve with crusty bread.