Pistou: a summer soup

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I’m a bit of a Rick Stein fan (I blame years of subtle brainwashing from my friend Claire who shares an obsession with her mum) though I have to admit I have never actually tried any of his recipes, I seem to catch re-runs of his shows and find myself drawn in as he gets over-excited about new places and cuisines.

I caught one such show the other night featuring his take on the Provençal classic soupe au pistou (sort of a French minestrone). It’s a light, summery soup perfect for this time of year – I gave it a whirl and it was a hit. I am not usually the sort who is satisfied with a mere bowl of soup for tea and admittedly this was accompanied by an entire loaf of sourdough with butter between two of us, but the soup itself definitely held its own and I had lots of admiring snapchat comments, so I thought why not share the discovery?

With beans and courgettes growing in the allotment it’s should be a cheap and seasonal dish with plenty of protein from the beans for midweek lunches and quick teas. I’m posting this on a Sunday as it’s the perfect thing to batch cook today (I think it would work in the slow cooker too though I’m yet to try so let me know how you get on) and enjoy through the week.

The pistou sauce is made separately and either stirred in or added to serve. As the name suggests it’s similar to pesto, minus the nuts. Pistou is Provençal for “pounded” because that’s traditionally the sort of rough love they gave the veggies. But they also served it cold so I’ll be giving the rules a wide berth here.

I added the pistou to serve because I had 5:2 victim Chaz coming for tea on a fast day the following evening. It came in at 164 cals minus the sauce and was perfectly tasty on its own (I added bouillon to make sure of it).

I swapped parmesan for emmental in the pistou because it’s veggie, Tesco’s own hard cheese is too (v cheap). Some versions use Swiss or hard sheep’s cheese anyway. If you leave out the pistou it’s also vegan, use gluten-free spaghetti if you’re that way inclined.

Disclaimer: this is actually based on Jamie Oliver’s version (a few tweaks so you have exactly what I made) because it’s way shorter and easier which is what Kings and Greens is all about. So apologies Rick but thanks for the inspiration! Although easy, it does take a LOT of chopping to get the veg as small as they fail to state in the recipe but it invariably appears in pictures (Jo – you may want to download the entire Taylor Swift album to see you through).

This is a great option for 5:2 disciples dining with partners/friends/kids, because you can add the pistou and bread for them without having to faff about making separate meals (then weep silently into the bowl at the sight of those delicious carbs).

Makes 8 generous bowls.



  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I used lazy garlic)
  • 3 potatoes, chopped (I used 6 small Jersey royals)
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley and thyme
  • 3 courgettes, chopped
  • 250g baby green beans
  • 1 x 400g can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 x 400g can borlotti beans, drained
  • 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp bouillon/vegetable stock
  • 75g broken up wholewheat spaghetti

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Pistou sauce

  • 5 garlic cloves
  • Small handful fresh basil leaves
  • 60g grated parmesan/emmental/alternative
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (I used more because this didn’t make it enough of a paste; just keep adding until it is)


1. Heat the oil in your biggest pan over a medium heat and add the onion, leek and garlic for 5 mins. Add all the other ingredients except the pasta then cover with water, season well and simmer till the vegetables are tender. Add the pasta and simmer till cooked, adding water if the soup is too thick.

2. For the pistou sauce, combine the garlic, basil and sea salt in a mortar and pound with pestle until puréed, add the parmesan and olive oil to make a paste. Serve the soup with a dollop of pistou.

Nutritional info (per serving minus the pistou)

  • Calories 164
  • Fat 1.1g
  • Carbs 29.3g
  • Protein 8.5g
  • Fiber 8.3g
  • Vitamin A 6.4%
  • Vitamin C 36.8%
  • Calcium 2.1%
  • Iron 2.5%

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