This soup is SO delicious – and makes everyone so happy when they eat it. The name comes from the 13 vegetables in the soup, and that wonderful warm, happiness feeling, but really it is from Provence in France. There it is a summer soup, but the addition here of potatoes, pumpkin and sweet potato gives it that wonderful warmth for winter and early spring, and introduces truly wonderful textural combinations in every mouthful.
My parents believe firmly that vegetables are the path to health, and so a normal meal at their place may consist of many vegetables. The record number of veggies at this time is 12, yes TWELVE, at once on a plate. But with this recipe, I think that I claim the prize. Thirteen in one sitting. Not bad.
The basil and garlic pistou gives the soup extra flavour and colour as well as a wonderful aroma, so don’t leave it out! The soup can be cooked and the pistou made 1 or 2 days in advance and kept chilled until time to reheat gently.
13 Treasure Happiness Soup | Provencale Vegetable Soup
275 g shelled fresh broad beans (if in spring) or 3/4 cup dried haricot or cannellini beans, soaked overnight, or even a can of haricot or cannelloni beans
pinch each of dried thyme, sage, rosemary
2 cloves garlic
1 Tblspn olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large leek finely sliced
1 celery stick, finely sliced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 small potatoes, finely diced
1 slice of peeled pumpkin, finely diced
a 7cm slice sweet potato, peeled and finely diced
115 g french beans
2 small zucchini
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
handful spinach leaves, cut into thin ribbons
1 handful peas
1.5 litres water, or vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
springs fresh basil to garnish
1 or 2 garlic cloves
15 g basil leaves
4 Tblspn grated parmesan cheese
4 Tblspn extra virgin olive oil
few pine nuts or cashew nuts
If using dried beans, drain the soaked beans, place in a saucepan and cover with water. Cook for 10 minutes and then drain well.
Place either the partially cooked beans, the canned beans or the fresh broad beans in a saucepan with the herbs and one of the garlic cloves. Add the stock or water to cover by 2.5 cms. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer over a medium low heat until tender – about 5 minutes for canned beans, 10 minutes for fresh beans or 1 hour for dried beans. Set aside in the cooking liquid.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or casserole. Add the onion and leek and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. Add the celery, carrots and the remaining garlic clove. Cook, covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, French beans and remaining water or stock, season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Add the courgettes, tomatoes and peas, with the reserved beans and their cooking liquid and simmer for about 10 – 20 minutes until all the veggies are tender. Add the spinach to the hot stock and let wilt. Simmer for no more than 5 minutes more. Season the soup.
Serve with a swirl of pistou in each bowl, and garnish with basil.
To make the Pistou
Put the garlic, nuts, basil and parmesan in a food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides once. with the machine running, slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube. Alternatively, and for a better taste (I think), pound the basil, cheese, nuts in a mortar and pestle, and slowly stir in the oil while mixing.