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Veggie Soup with Almond Pesto

So you may have noticed that we haven’t posted for a while, in fact I think Lorna’s been given a fairly hard time by a few GF&H followers, what can we say, other than we’re sorry… but we’re happy to have you wanting more. We certainly have the will and desire to post much more regularly, but sometimes it just gets busy.

Is summer over? I asked myself when I started to think about posting a soup recipe. Well, I guess officially yes, although with New York it’s always tricky and you never know when the last of the hot days are going to catch you already in your woollen layer and make you pay. Also recently we’ve braved an earthquake, a visit from hurricane Irene, and a week of almost constant rain, and yet today it was again truly flip-flop weather.

So as New York is not quite done with summer, but definitely verging on autumn, I decided to go with more of a broth style soup. It’s quite light, but the veggies still give it that comforting substance and the addition of the pesto topping gives it a rich flavour punch, as well as being a last nod to the wonderful basil holding out for a final few weeks in my window boxes – aah the best of both seasons!

Adding the pesto at the end really does make all the difference to this recipe, it’s still a great soup without it, but with it’s really special. And yes I know, making your own pesto may seem like a bit of a pain (you can of course use bought), but the soup uses the stalks from the basil for flavor so you’ll have the leaves, you’ll need the rind from the parmesan so you’ll have the cheese, there’s garlic in the soup, so really the only extra ingredient you’ll need to buy is the nuts – cool huh? Classic pesto is usually made with pine nuts and you can definitely use them in this recipe, but my eldest daughter is allergic so I tried using almonds instead and found I could hardly tell the difference, I have a feeling almost any type of nut would work.

Veggie Soup 
Makes about 10 cups (just over 2 litres)

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1 bunch of kale or half a savoy cabbage, chopped
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 bunch of basil stems, leaves removed, held together with kitchen string
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt (if using regular salt just under a teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper
8 cups of vegetable stock
1 butternut squash (approx. 1.5 pounds) cut into small cubes
4 small red potatoes cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 approx. 3 inch Parmesan cheese rind
Basil Pesto (recipe below) to finish soup

In a large soup pot heat the olive oil over a medium to low heat, add in the garlic and onion and sweat them for about 4 minutes. Then add the kale/cabbage and cook enough just to wilt it before adding the thyme, basil stem bunch, salt & pepper and stirring well. Then add the stock, squash, potatoes, tomato paste, and cheese rind. Turn the heat up to bring the soup to a boil, then once it’s reached boiling point, reduce the heat back down and leave it to simmer for a further 2o minutes. Once the soup is finished remove and discard the basil stems and cheese rind, ladle the soup into bowls and top each one with a small spoonful of pesto.

Almond Pesto
1 1/2 cups tightly packed basil leaves
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup slivered Almonds (or pine nuts)
2 garlic cloves
Just under 1/2 cup of olive oil

Combine all all the ingredients expect for the olive oil in a blender or food processor, blitz until fine then slowly pour in the olive oil with the blender still running until you have a smooth paste.

Bon appetit – Melani.

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