One of the rather pathetic realities of the fact that so many of the restaurants in France are disappointing these days is the almost tearful joy in finding one that’s everything you would have hoped for, often from your childhood or teenage memories. Such a place is Le Bistro du Paradou near Arles.
I’ve mentioned the restaurant and this soup in the introduction to the book, and like all great dishes it takes me back to the evening I ate it. I remember the large green tureen it was served in and the wonderful scent of basil, olive oil and garlic. I also recall the animated chat round the table with my friend John Illsley, his wife Steph and my wife Sas about the French and about the realities of his band Dire Straits writing ‘Sultans of Swing’ in a council flat in Deptford.
S E RV E S 6 – 8
- 100g dried beans, such as flageolet, cannellini or haricots, soaked overnight in cold water
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 leek, halved lengthways and finely sliced
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme sprigs and parsley stalks)
- 675g courgettes, cut into small dice
- 450g tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
- 2 medium potatoes, cut into small dice
- 100g fine green beans, topped, tailed and cut into 3–4 pieces
- 100g frozen peas
- 75g orzo or spaghetti, broken into small lengths
- Salt and black pepper
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
Drain the soaked beans. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan, add the garlic and cook gently for 2–3 minutes. Add the beans and 1.25 litres of water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30–60 minutes, or until just tender. Add half a teaspoon of salt and simmer for another 5 minutes, then set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in a large pan. Add the onion, leek and carrots and cook gently for 5–6 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the beans, their cooking liquor and the bouquet garni to the pan of softened vegetables. Add the courgettes, tomatoes and potatoes and another 1.25 litres of water, then season with 2 teaspoons of salt and some pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Add the green beans, peas and pasta to the pan and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Remove the pan from the heat, take out the bouquet garni and stir in the pistou. Check the seasoning and serve in warmed bowls, with some extra grated Parmesan cheese and a little jug of extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on top.
Extracted from Rick Stein’s Secret France, published by Penguin Random House UK.
Text copyright © Rick Stein, 2019. Photography copyright © James Murphy 2019.
We know it can be tricky to find the perfect recipe to make mum for Mother’s Day so we’ve put together this list of fantastic recipe ideas from some of our favourite cookbooks. Whether you’re looking for a cosy soup or a sweet treat, or something in between, we’ve got you covered!
I created my first version of this tart when I was living in France with Douglas for a couple of months, relishing the crispy pastry, creamy cheese, juicy flavourful tomatoes, fresh herbs and spicy cracked pepper. Back then I used a lovely soft salty white French cheese riddled with herbs and garlic. Naturally, I’ve created a new version of this, and it’s still amazingly good.
Braised in a beautiful balsamic sauce, these slow-cooked beef cheeks are so meltingly tender you could devour them with a spoon! Eight hours of cooking ensures that the braising liquid turns into a luscious, gravy-like sauce. I encourage you to enjoy it spooned over creamy potato mash or fluffy cooked grains such as quinoa or bulgur wheat.
This sticky date pudding is one of my favourite things to make during the colder months. What makes this dessert really special is the hint of ginger and cardamom in the coconut butterscotch sauce. I bet you can’t wait to grab your spoon and dig in! Just remember to get your dates on to soak a bit beforehand. If you don’t need this to be vegan, you can use regular milk, cream and butter.
This recipe has been a fan favourite for over a decade. Cut it into slices for the kids or into tiny squares as a treat with your cuppa. It also freezes well, so you can stash a few squares away for when no one is looking.
This hearty soup is a proper hug in a mug. The ricotta and Parmesan topping really fulfills the 'lasagne' promise, but if you don’t want to bother you can just top it with grated cheese and it’ll still be a winner. The super-cheesy garlicky toasties are a good addition to any tomatoey soup — or just eat them on their own!
I have been making a banana bread with chocolate and tahini on repeat for a while now, and every time I’ve eaten it over the last year or so, I couldn’t help thinking that the particular combination of intense chocolatiness, sweet, texture-softening banana and the rich earthiness of tahini would make the perfect warm pudding.
This is not exactly the same as perhaps the most precious recipe in my repertoire, My Mother’s Praised Chicken, which found a home in my eighth book, Kitchen, but it owes a lot to it. A family favourite, it’s a simple one-pot dish which brings comfort and joy, and it is my pleasure to share that with you.
Sausage rolls will always be über-cool, no matter what anyone says. They're always the first to be nabbed at morning tea, classily dressed-up with a generous splurt of store-bought tomato sauce... crispy, juicy little taste bombs.
With fragrant spices, tomatoes, cashew butter and yoghurt.
With red pesto-layered filo, Cheddar and cottage cheese.
With cajun spice, mango, sweet cherry tomatoes and lime.