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a soup to carry you through winter

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What’s to like about winter? A low-slung sun. A bluer sky than blue. The last golden leaves to cling. Grass  that crunches under foot. Children’s boots and mittens.  Hot cocoa. The glow of candles near your bath. Longer hugs. And soup.

This is winter’s version of pistou, a Provençal vegetable soup, and I believe it is very possibly the finest winter soup I’ve ever made. It is, in fact, so fine a soup I’m going to be adapting it to different  kitchens and circumstances. (Slow-cooker and pressure cooker versions will follow before winter’s done with us.) It’s gob-full of vegetables, heavenly hearty, and will warm you to your chilly toes.

This makes an enormous potful. We took half out to our mom and the half we have remaining is enough to feed a table full. There’s quite a bit of chopping involved, but sharpen your knife and trust me…it will be so worth your time.

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Provençal Vegetable Soup

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Extra-virgin Olive Oil – 5 Tablespoons

3 plump, moist Garlic cloves

Onions - 4 medium, cut in ½ – 1-inch pieces

Leeks - 3 medium, white & tender green parts only, rinsed, quartered & thinly sliced

Bouquet Garni: several fresh or dried bay leaves, fresh celery leaves, thyme sprigs & parsley - either tie together or put in a wire mesh tea strainer

sea salt

Carrots - 8 medium, scrubbed & cut into thin wheels

firm, yellow-fleshed Potatoes (Yukon Gold) – 1 lb. (500 g)  peeled & cubed

Celery ribs - 4 ribs with leaves, cut into thin pieces

Butternut Squash or raw Pumpkin – 2 lbs. (1 kg), peeled & cubed (yield: 1 qt. or 4 c.)

Farro or Spelt – or substitute Barley - 1 cup, rinsed & drained

can peeled Italian plum Tomatoes in their Juice - 28-ounce (750 g) can

Tomato Paste – 2 Tablespoons

small White Beans – such as navy or flageolet (see NOTE)

Cranberry Beans (such as Borlotti) (see NOTE)

mixture chopped Kale & Spinach *

freshly-ground coarse Pepper

freshly-grated Pecorino Romano cheese – ¾ cup

freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese – ¾ cup

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NOTE: If using fresh beans, 1 pound of each in their shells. If using dried beans, 8 ounces (250 g) of each  – pick them over, making sure you have no little pebbles, rinse the beans, place in a large bowl & cover with boiling water;  allow to soak for 1 to 2 hours. Please note the different instructions – step 2 below – based on whether fresh or dried beans are used.

* – a bag of frozen chopped kale & spinach works great for this. Add as you’re ready to serve – each time you heat up a new potful of soup, add a handful or 2 of this mixture and you’ll have bright green in each bowl.

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1. In a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot, combine the oil, onions, leeks, bouquet garni and salt to taste,  then stir to coat. On low heat, sweat the onions & garlic mixture – cooking with the lid on for several minutes until what’s in the pot is softened and fragrant. Drop in the carrots, celery, squash, potatoes, farro (or spelt or barley), the tomatoes with their juice, along with the tomato paste. Add four quarts (4 liters) cold water. If you are using DRIED BEANS – add only 3 quarts cold water at this time. Cover the stock pot and bring to a simmer. Gently simmer for 30 minutes. Taste for salt & add as needed.

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2. I didn’t use fresh beans, but if you have them, add at this time and continue to simmer until the beans are tender. Perhaps 30 minutes more.

If, on the other hand, you’re using dried beans, I suggest you cook them separate from the other ingredients and add to the big pot when the beans are just tender. Several reasons for doing it this way, but the main one is this: It’s difficult to judge the age of dried beans – and the longer they’ve been on the shelf, the longer they will take to cook. If you’re cooking them along with all the vegetables, those will be overcooked by the time the aged beans are ready. Add one quart of the bean-cooking liquid into the soup pot along with the beans. This will add depth of flavor and a heartiness this soup loves.  (To cook the beans, place in good size pot, cover with water, add a pinch or salt and simmer until tender.  Add the finished beans to the pot with 1 qt. of their liquid.)  Again, taste for salt & add as needed.

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3. Remove the bouquet garni and bring the pot to a boil. To thicken the soup, cook at a hearty boil for 5 minutes. Taste for salt one final time. You can add the chopped spinach & kale now, or do what we do which is portion out the amount of soup we’ll be having for the meal and add the greens only to this amount. A golden soup like this is prettier for the fresh green. Ladle into warm bowls & garnish with freshly-grated cheeses.

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For a simplified, printer-friendly version, click here

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This recipe was adapted from one by Patricia Wells, featured in her newest (and very lovely!) : The French Kitchen Cookbook 

71 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for sharing ! Love your blog – both the recipes and the photos. Looks delicious !
    Michal

    November 25, 2013
  2. That is a truly fine looking winter vegetable soup you have here, Spree! I think this shall have to be my next pot of soup, in fact. I love the particular variety of vegetables and legumes you used and the topping of the grated hard cheeses is perfect. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

    November 25, 2013
    • Betsy, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours too!!

      November 25, 2013
  3. Love the look of this soup, with the combination of beans and the fresh kale and spinach. Have you frozen any yet? I’m cooking for one …

    November 25, 2013
    • I’ve frozen it but not yet thawed it! I’ll get back to you in a few days! But I can’t imagine a reason it wouldn’t freeze (and then thaw and reheat) very well!
      : ) I wouldn’t try to rush the process though – for the best results I’d haw in the fridge if possible. Still, I’ll get back to you….

      November 25, 2013
  4. I love how rustic that soup looks!

    November 25, 2013
  5. Oh yummy delish my kind of potage madame Spree, I have saved it to my iphone so when I am shopping in the Burgundy supermarches very soon I will have the list to hand! Is it snowing with you yet?

    November 25, 2013
    • I’ve know for some time, you and I would be very happy eating at the same table Lesley! (and oh would I love to be shopping the marches of Burgundy!) no snow here yet…just brilliant and beautiful chill weather! We’ve been awfully lucky! When you off to Burgundy?

      November 26, 2013
      • Indeed we would and will do one day – I know! Leaving On the 8th Dec – a long trip this one will email you when I get there. One month in Loire tho first then onto Burgundy., it will be colder than here !!!

        November 26, 2013
  6. Beautiful organic photos of your lovely soup. I love “soup weather”. Thanks for sharing this great recipe.

    November 25, 2013
    • Thank you Teresa. I think my appetite must crave each of the seasons…I’m so glad when each rolls around.

      November 26, 2013
  7. Looks delicious! Thanks for sharing!

    November 25, 2013
    • Thank you for leaving words for me! : )

      November 26, 2013
  8. Winter is definitely when soup is very welcomed in our house. The soup is not only delicious sounding but I love the warming color as well.

    November 25, 2013
    • Thank you Karen…I picture you with snow on the ground, smoke out your chimney and steaming soup in your bowls. It’s getting to be that time for you. Happy Thanksgiving Karen!

      November 26, 2013
      • I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving as well.

        November 26, 2013
  9. Gorgeous photos! I adore Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, usually this goes on bread rather than in the soup, though I might try this next time.

    November 25, 2013
    • Oh you must try it on your soup! : )

      November 26, 2013
  10. There’s no question as to whether I will try this soup; You Bet I will!!!

    November 25, 2013
    • And you will like it sooo much Ronnie! : ) Have a wonderful holiday!

      November 26, 2013
  11. Hearty. Heavenly. Hungry! May your season be filled with warmth and joy of every kind, my lovely!!
    xoxo
    Kathryn

    November 25, 2013
    • (I’ve meant to tell you Kathryn, what a cute picture of you!) I wish you every earthly blessing friend! xo

      November 26, 2013
  12. Such a beautiful soup. It’s (almost) enough to make me welcome winter!

    November 25, 2013
    • Yes, you’re right Michele, it’s almost enough! : ) Thank goodness there’s more than just a bowl of delicious soup to speak for the season!

      November 26, 2013
  13. Here I am looking for inspiration for dinner and I find your lovely soup. I actually have all the ingredients! I just might make this today.
    Thank you for the inspiration :)
    May add the smell of the earth after the first few drops of rain to your list about winter? it is one of my favorite things about winter

    November 25, 2013
    • Ahh! I love that addition Sawsan! We get so much rain here that I hardly notice that smell, but you’re so right! You’re welcome for the inspiration…I’ve often found it at your place! : )

      November 26, 2013
  14. Exactly my kind of soup. I can taste it just from the recipe and from looking at the pictures, which–as always–are aesthetically pleasing while effectively conveying to your audience the essence of the dish you are presenting. Brava!

    November 26, 2013
    • Aw, thanks for your kind words Joe!

      November 26, 2013
  15. It’s getting SO cold here – I can’t make myself cycle – this is what I need… looks delicious!

    November 26, 2013
    • This’ll warm your bones Nick! It’s been chilly here too, but we’re lucky for a time – it’s been beautifully so!

      November 26, 2013
      • Just been out cycling for two hours in 2 pairs of socks and toe covers and still my feet were numb for 30 mins after my ride… I’ll be making something similar with kale tonight – if I blog it all credit to you… Thanks! :D

        November 26, 2013
  16. This looks absolutely delicious! Perfect combination of hearty beans and veggies and cheese – yum!

    November 26, 2013
    • Thanks for leaving the nice words! As soups go, this combination really is pretty wonderful. Glad to have made you hungry! : )

      November 26, 2013
  17. Wonderful pictures, wonderful soup….good to see you back:)

    November 26, 2013
    • Thanks so much Roger. It feels awfully good to Be back, even tho it is very part time right now.

      November 26, 2013
  18. Don #

    Those with pumpkin patches are always looking for good recipes in which to use those pumpkins! Sounds and looks delicious (and nutritious)!

    November 26, 2013
    • a man with his own pumpkin patch! imagine!

      November 27, 2013
  19. This is SO my kind of soup and I find chopping veggies very restful – is that odd?!

    November 26, 2013
    • I feel Exactly the same way Tanya…it’s like one of the most soothing things in a normal day…a good sharp knife and a bunch of veggies and I’m a very contented woman.

      November 27, 2013
  20. Perfect winter soup! I’ll be sure to make a double batch of this to eat right away and a couple pints to freeze. Lovely photos as well. Thanks Spree…xx wt

    November 26, 2013
    • Thank YOU Wendy! This is that perfect freezable soup I think. Would love to hear if it turns out you liked this soup as much as we do! (actually it’s closer to ‘love’ around this house.) Happy Thanksgiving friend! xx

      November 27, 2013
  21. Nothing could be lovelier than a heart-warming bowl of healthful yumminess from you, spree! The photos were so enchanting, I especially love the Bouquet Garni photo, perhaps you should make a calendar with food photos and recipes:) I’d love to have one in my kitchen! xx

    November 27, 2013
    • I’ve wondered about that whole calendar thing Smidge…nice of you to raise it! : ) I’ll probably do that next year (for 2015 that is.) I know you’ve already had your Thanksgiving up north and your house is all decked for Christmas with shimmer and feathers and lovelies all around! (Love your garland idea!! And will comment on several of your posts at the first chance I get! ‘Til then, blessings on you and yours for the season upon us! xx

      November 27, 2013
      • I’d like to go on the waiting list for multiple copies of your calendar when it is published next year. I’m thinking Christmas presents to be sent all over the world.

        November 27, 2013
  22. There’s so much to like about this soup, Spree. The mix of vegetables, 2 types of beans, the herbs, and finishing it with the greens together make this soup a great way to fight a wintry chill. This is a great post, well photographed and you included some helpful tips, too. In particular, the one concerning cooking the beans separately is a real soup-saver. Until I discovered that trick, I ate many a bowl of soup with great tasting beans but everything else was just about mush. I hope you and your family have a great Thanksgiving.

    November 27, 2013
    • We’re ready for a second batch already John…that’s how wintry chill it’s getting to be here. (and I know THERE!) And about the beans, right? Why didn’t our mamas tell us about that? (Or why don’t cookbook authors? Well, maybe your mama did, and maybe I’m just reading the wrong authors, but like you it took me several batches of muddled soup to figure it out.) Thanks very much for the kind wishes John. It was wild and crazy and fun and delicious…for days before and days after. I so hope it was for you too! For sure the “delicious” was!

      December 3, 2013
  23. Deb schneider #

    Love everything about this post :)

    November 29, 2013
    • We should share a bowl of this one wintry day! : ) xo

      December 3, 2013
  24. I can’t even tell you how much I love soups. They satisfy the soul. AND, after eating all those healthy veggies, you can eat dessert guilt-free…

    November 30, 2013
    • I’m so grateful to hear that Movita!

      December 3, 2013
  25. settleandchase #

    So comforting and delicious.. you’ve captured the wintery light so beautifully too..when’s your book coming out?! :)

    December 1, 2013
  26. Sounds so good and looks just perfect. Nothing like soup this time of year. Your creativity is a joy, as always.

    December 2, 2013
  27. What a delicious soup with the butternut and farro…it sounds terrific.

    December 4, 2013
    • Sorry for the double comment.

      December 4, 2013
  28. Looks very hearty and tasty. Perfect for the winter. Can’t wait to try this recipe!

    Katie
    The Soupy Stovetop

    December 9, 2013
  29. very interesting blog , i follow you and will read you , and hope you the succeed, thanks for accepting me as a reader .

    December 15, 2013
  30. Aahh, and to warm the cockles of your heart! Soup, my favourite food, especially vegetable soup of any kind, from any culture. Your clear, crisp and colourful photos just adds to the enjoyment.

    December 15, 2013
  31. Drool-worthy!!! Came across your blog while referring some food blogs :) Happy to connect….

    See ya sometime @ http://www.cookingwithsj.com

    December 18, 2013
    • Oh thank you so much! I missed your comment, so please excuse me for replying so late!

      January 12, 2014
  32. That just looks like the perfect bowl of goodness that it is. I make a similar one to this but hadn’t thought of adding the squash, which is a bit slow of me considering I have so many around the house :) And the depth of colour you have got there too is so tempting. Oh, and I just love your description of “juicy / moist” garlic cloves – so true!!
    Here’s wishing you a super New Year my friend x

    December 27, 2013
  33. This not only looks great but also includes several items that show up in my CSA box: Your blog looks like a great resource for using some of the stuff I have no idea what to do with! Thanks for posting!

    January 7, 2014
    • Thanks for your comments Jackie! Two years ago we loved our CSA. Then last summer we decided to grow our own fantastic vegetable garden. This year it’s back to our CSA!

      January 9, 2014
  34. this looks amazing and… you’re right it’s good enough to carry us through the winters :)

    March 20, 2014
  35. It looks delicious and has lots of vitamins, thanks for sharing with us.

    May 28, 2014

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