As the summer months approach, more and more people are looking for fresh and healthy recipes that incorporate the fresh veggies from their gardens. If you have spent the last few months preparing your garden and planting delicious summer vegetables, it’s now time to reap the benefits and tuck in.
While you might start to feel a bit tired of salads and vegetable soups, there are countless other healthy summer recipes that you can make to use the bounty of your harvest. Why not look to France for the sophisticated – yet very simple – summer pistou?
What is Summer Pistou?
Some might call it a soup, some might call it a stew, but no matter what – no one can deny that it is a fresh, healthy and light dish that utilises plenty of vegetables and beans. Originating in the Provence region of France, this is one of the most ideal recipes for gardeners who want to show off their harvest while eating delicious meals.
While everyone has their own preferred recipe for Summer Pistou, the basic ingredients list will often look like this. Feel free to add any summer vegetables that you like, or omit any that you do not like.
- 2-4 tablespoons of high quality extra virgin olive oil
- 2 leeks, finely sliced
- 1 large courgette, finely diced
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 2 stalks of celery, finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 litre of vegetable stock (homemade is best, or made from bullion cubes)
- 400 gram tin of cannellini or haricot beans, drained
- 200 grams of green beans, chopped
- 3 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 small packet of basil
- 40g freshly grated parmesan (plus more for serving)
Optional (for toppings):
- crème fraiche
- additional basil
- additional Parmesan
- gruyere or provolone
The Method for Summer Pistou
- Heat your olive oil in a large casserole, and fry the leeks, onion, carrots, celery, and courgette for 5 minutes, until they are soft (but not browned). Add the minced garlic and fry for 1 minute more.
- Add the vegetable stock, along with three-quarters of the tinned beans, the green beans and half of the tomatoes. Simmer gently for 5 to 8 minutes, until all of the beans are tender.
- While the Pistou is simmering, blitz the remaining ¼ tin of beans, the remaining tomatoes, the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and most of the basil (hold some back for garnish) in a food processor or with a stick blender until nice and smooth. Add the parmesan and stir with a spoon.
- Stir this bean/tomato/cheese mixture into the Pistou and cook for another minute. You are ready to add garnishes and toppings.
Adding toppings and garnish to your Pistou
When you are ready to dish up the Summer Pistou, ladle into deep bowls and top with an additional sprinkle (or even more!) of high quality Parmesan cheese. Add a few basil leaves, or chiffonade your basil (slice finely into strips) and dot it around the bowl. If you want to add a hit of acid at this point, serve with an additional lemon wedge.
For a slightly heartier serving suggestion, you can always top your Pistou with Gruyere (or even Provolone) and some garlicky homemade croutons, and then place under the grill until the cheese is browned and bubbling.
Another nice way to serve your Pistou is to add a dollop or two of crème fraiche and a drizzle of olive oil.
It’s time to serve your Summer Pistou
Summer Pistou is one of those rare dishes that works just as well for lunch as it does for an elegant dinner. If you are serving for lunch, consider plating up a smaller portion and serving with a simple sandwich, or some focaccia and olive oil.
If you are having Summer Pistou for a dinner meal, consider serving these accompaniments:
- A simple (yet elegant) salad of rocket, chicory, tomatoes and fennel, lashed with high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Ciabatta, focaccia or sourdough bread with salted French butter, perfect for dipping into your Pistou.
- A selection of French cheese, charcuterie, olives and cornichons on the side, turning the Pistou into a full Gallic spread!
Your Pistou will keep in the fridge for a few days, and is suitable for freezing. Bon Appetit!
Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing quality gardening supplies to gardeners across the UK