A festival of summer veg in a bowl, stimulated irresistible with a garlicky dollop of herby pistou on top
I didn’t get to eat any soupe au pistou while cycling from Marseille to Nice last spring, while researching my new book, One More Croissant For The Road, which is being issued next week. Perhaps it was a whisker too early for the fresh beans required, perhaps the dish being too rustic for the restaurants of the Cote d’Azur, but it built me sad, because, as the American gourmand Waverley Root observed, it’s one of the finest soups known to man.
Much like the Italian minestrone, but with its own Gallic peculiarities, it’s the perfect style to showcase the season’s freshest produce. Properly speaking, pistou is the sauce that goes with the soup- closely related, as we shall see, to the more familiar pesto, but with its very own complement of controversies to navigate.
In her forthcoming book Provence( Octopus ), my friend Caroline Craig describes soupe au pistou, her great aunt Edmee’s department at home, as” a gala and symphony of summertime veggies “. And, candidly, I couldn’t set it better myself.
Unusually, perhaps, given that this is a vegetable soup, many recipes are fairly laissez-faire when it comes to what to use- provided, as Craig makes clear,” they’re harvested at their optimum sweetness “. Indeed, Root reports that his cook, who hails from Frejus and” constructs the best pistou I have ever savor”, says that” it does not matter what vegetables you put in pistou, as long as there are plenty of them “.
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