A light, spicy twist on a traditional summer vegetable soup. French ‘pistou’ is a distant relative of the Italian pesto, but my version reflects the Vietnamese influence on modern French food.
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
2 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
4 tbsp tomato purée
2 carrots, diced
2 courgettes, diced
200g/7oz green beans, cut into small pieces
2 litres/3½ pints boiling water
100g/3½oz dried pasta (a small variety like orzo)
1 x 400g/14oz tin white beans (e.g. haricots blancs, cannellini), drained and rinsed
200g/7oz fresh or frozen peas
1 tbsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
For the pistou, crush the ingredients to a smooth paste in a pestle and mortar (or use a food processor).
For the soup, heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and garlic and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent.
Add the thyme, bay leaves, tomato purée, carrots and courgettes, then cook for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are al dente (tender but still a little crunchy).
Add the green beans with the boiling water and bring to a boil, then add the pasta. Cook for 10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.
Add the white beans and peas. Remove the sprig of thyme and the bay leaves, then add the salt, sugar and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately in bowls, with a dollop of Vietnamese pistou on top of the soup.
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