Every couple of weeks during the summer and early autumn, we make a big pot of soup with fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden. Whatever is in plentiful supply at the time. That way none of our surplus veg go to waste. We usually squirrel some portions away in little freezer tubs, ready for the colder months, when the raised beds aren’t quite so varied and generous in their yields. On a dark and icy winter evening, after a long day at work, it’s good to know there’s a warming bowl of home-made soup waiting for us if we need to get dinner on the table quickly. A reminder of seasons past and still to come.
This recipe is one of the soups we make most often. We normally cook it in big batches in an old preserving pan. It’s a rustic and hearty potful that celebrates much of what our veg patch has to offer this season. We have come to simply call it Garden Soup. It freezes well and also makes for an excellent pasta sauce if we fancy a slight change.
The soup is absolutely delicious topped with a generous spoonful of carrot leaf pesto. It was only when we grew carrots for the first time that we realised their feathery foliage is edible. The overall flavour is quite mild, but with a lemony tang and a hint of parsley (which makes sense as they belong to the same plant family). On their own the leaves are quite dry, but blending them with plenty of olive oil in a pesto, compensates for that. Including a squeeze of lemon juice emphasises their citrus tones and adding cashew nuts and parmesan brings slight sweetness and saltiness. Once the carrots have finished, a simple grating of parmesan and a trickle of extra-virgin olive oil is also a fine accompaniment.
Garden Soup and Carrot Leaf Pesto
For the Soup
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 large onions, peeled and chopped
- 225 g rainbow chard, leaves and stems divided (leaves shredded, stems chopped)
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced roughly into ½ cm cubes (leaves reserved - see below)
- 2 medium courgettes, diced roughly into 1cm cubes
- 1 large potato, peeled and diced roughly into 1cm cubes
- 2 large sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
- 10 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves picked
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 230 g freshly podded borlotti beans (use tinned, or dried and rehydrated, if you don't have fresh ones)
- 800 g of tinned plum tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 500 ml chicken or vegetable stock
For the Pesto
- 100 g cashew nuts
- A generous handful of young carrot tops, trimmed of any brown, wilted leaves or tough stems and roughly chopped
- 30 g parmesan cheese, finely grated
- The juice of 1 small lemon
- 150 ml extra virgin olive oil (a slightly peppery one works well here)
Melt the butter in a large stock pot over a medium-low heat. Then add the onions and let them cook gently for a few minutes.
Add the rainbow chard stalks, carrots, courgettes, potato and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes until softened.
Meanwhile, toast the cashew nuts in the oven at 180°C for about ten minutes until golden brown inside and out. Then set aside to cool.
Add the rosemary, oregano and garlic to the stock pot, season everything with a little salt and pepper and cook for another minute.
Increase the heat to high and add the borlotti beans, tomatoes (breaking them up a little with a spoon as you stir them in), tomato purée, and stock. Bring to a gentle simmer and leave to putter away for around 20 minutes until the soup has thickened, the borlotti beans are cooked through, and the flavours have had time to meld.
While the soup is bubbling away, make the pesto. Put the toasted cashew nuts (make sure they are completely cool) into a food processor and pulse a couple of times to chop them into small pieces. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse for a few more seconds until you have a thick paste. Stir through a little more olive oil to loosen it if needed. Spoon into a jam jar, cover with a thin layer of olive oil and pop into the fridge until you want to use it.
Finish off the soup by stirring the shredded rainbow chard leaves into the stock pot and leaving for a couple of minutes to wilt and cook through. Then add extra seasoning to taste.
Serve the soup hot, in deep bowls topped with the carrot leaf pesto and perhaps a hunk of bread on the side.