Summer garden soup with lemon basil and pistachio pesto

This light soup features the freshest vegetables currently available from the garden. It is designed to be served à la minute, the vegetables barely being cooked to capture and retain the essence of the quintessential flavours of summer, with freshly picked home-grown vegetables and herbs from garden to plate in under 30 minutes.

Why are you posting about soup in the middle of summer you may ask? As a typical Brit, I am unnecessarily preoccupied with the weather. The UK mainland is currently experiencing an enviable heatwave and the hottest July since 2006.  Here in the Outer Hebrides, it is the antithesis: low cloud, rain / smir, mist / fog and wind.  Visibility is currently about 300m. I was supposed to be in Orkney for work this week, but this has not been an option due to the fog causing flight cancellations. We have also now had no mail for 3 days as the mail plane is also cancelled.

I’m not prepared to put a gloss on life here by suggesting the weather (and life here generally for that matter) is always amazing but I do usually resent leaving the island during the summer as there is no place better to be – when we have the weather that is. Once again, I feel so sorry for visitors that arrived in the last week as we have seen the sun for only about 1 hour since we returned from our mainland trip one week ago. In fact, we are trying not to feel sorry for ourselves as radio commentators talk about how glorious the weather is (almost) everywhere and how hot it is while I walk the dogs in the usual fleece and waterproof jacket. I am glad that we will not have more visitors until the weekend and hope the improving forecast is accurate.

In fairness, we had amazing summer last year while the rest of the UK was deluged with rain and floods.  Unfortunately, the relocation of the jet stream to its more usual position further south this summer means the weather is perhaps much more as we should expect it to be here.  That said, it is probably, on balance the worst summer we have had (in terms of sunshine and warmth at least) since we moved here.

Instead of wallowing in self pity (or vacating the island until the murk lifts – not that I can get off by plane!), I decided to celebrate the garden successes I am having with a summery soup and accompanying fragrant pesto. The success of some crops is surprising given the weather, but welcome and the harvest looks and tastes like summer, even if the sky and temperature indicate otherwise. I really enjoy cold soups, but given our current temperatures, a warm soup seems more appropriate.

summer soup garden

Summer garden soup

The vegetables were freshly picked, cleaned and prepared and given the gentlest possible cooking.  I used whatever was in prime condition for picking: chard, garlic, spring onions, chervil and parsley from outside, courgettes and flowers (I know, technically a fruit) and very tasty fine beans from the tunnel.

summer soup


A splash of olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 onion, finely sliced

3 small courgettes (and flowers if available)

a handful of fine beans

a big bunch of chard (about 250g)

4 spring onions

a bunch of chervil

a bunch of flat leaf parsley

1 litre of vegetable stock

salt and pepper


  • Wash, clean and roughly chop the veg (except the onion, finely chop it).
  • Add the oil to a large pan, then the onion and cook gently for a few minutes until translucent then add the crushed garlic and cook for another minute before adding the fine beans, courgette (not flowers), thicker chard stems and stock.
  • Simmer gently for about 5 minutes, add the chard leaves and cook for a further minute before stirring in the spring onions, herbs and flowers. Season to taste and top with some pesto.

summer soup 3summer soup 2

Lemon basil and pistachio pesto

One thing that has been a raging success this year is my basil.  I am growing 5 different varieties (Mrs Burns, Cinnamon, Red Rubin, Sweet Genovese and Italian Giant) and all have been producing well.  I therefore have been spoilt for choice and wanted to make a pesto with a distinctive tang.

Basil - Mrs Burns

Basil – Mrs Burns

basil - cinnamon

Basil – Cinnamon

Basil - Giant Italian

Basil – Giant Italian

Although I used 3 types of basil in this recipe, the variety Mrs Burns is extremely refreshing and lemony and I wanted the citrus zing of this variety to predominate, with cinnamon (more almost anise-like) and Italian Giant adding depth and complexity to the flavour of the pesto, each complementing the vibrant pistachio nuts included. This pesto also works really well with fish and we enjoyed it with baked brown trout.


50g Mrs Burns or lemon basil leaves

10g cinnamon basil leaves

10g Giant Italian basil leaves

50g fresh grated parmesan

50g pistachio nuts

2 cloves garlic, peeled

200 ml good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp salt

a few turns of pepper


  • Put all ingredients in a food processor, pulse then blitz for a minute or so, until smooth.
  • Store in a jar in the fridge, keeps for about a week.

Nasturtium, basil and rocket pesto - green and glorious

39 thoughts on “Summer garden soup with lemon basil and pistachio pesto

  1. So beautiful and fresh. Fresh veggies are so much sweeter and more delicious than anything else. What great flavor combinations! It’s been so hot here in NYC I went for a cold gazpacho, white and pink, this week.

  2. So, how long have you lived on the island? I guess I assumes you were a native…
    Summer got a late start here, but is trying to make up for lost time…ridiculously hot, and someone turned off the sea breeze…ugh. Your soup sounds perfect for the first cool nights, which *should* be about a month away. 🙂

    • We have been here 6 and a half years Marie, we are native to Scotland (central, between Glasgow and Edinburgh), but not Uist, indeed, if our parents lived but were not born here and then we ourselves were born and grew up here, we would probably not be considered to be local! Ties and heritage mean more here. We just wanted to live here for a while, having visited for many years. We have no family connections here and just appreciate the island for how different it is from some places we have lived. Anyhow, hope you get your sea breeze back soon!

  3. Great pesto minds think alike. 🙂 I think my recipe would last a week in the fridge, but I finished it off by day three. It’s great on lightly toasted bread. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  4. My Basil is in the ground, in raised beds. It is faring badly in the heat, and needs lots of water daily. It doesn’t look as plump and fragrant as yours! The TV series about the Islands is finally on BBC2 down here, and I am taping it on the hard drive, I remember your recommendation.
    I really hope you are able to shed your fleeces and jackets, at least for a while. Since I have been following your blog, I do find myself looking at your region on the weather forecast. Not good at present.
    Fan on in the bedroom tonight in Norfolk, not gloating, just information.
    Regards as always, Pete.

    • I keep my basil in a cold frame or it would freeze to death, but it is happy there. It’s a temperamental plant, doesn’t like it too hot or cold or dry, and pests love to eat it! Hope you enjoy the TV series, which does feature some of our fine extreme weather. High pressure forecast towards the weekend, we will see. No need for a fan here, but at least we can sleep comfortably. Enjoy your fine weather while it lasts!

  5. I bet both the soup and pesto were superb. I’m impressed that you used stock, as some people would be so mindful of their precious crops that they would insist on cooking without. A vegetable soup in N Italy springs to mind. Horrors! Especially as the veg were cooked to an nth of their lives.
    – Do hope you get some decent weather soon!

    • Really enjoyed both thanks. Crops are precious, but so is good stock. I also make boullion out of fresh veg to save the flavours as in instant summery stock. Good weather today, but the mist has rolled in again, fingers crossed it clears in the morning.

  6. Garden procedure looks great. Getting a return of your investment (of time anyway)!

    Lovely recipes Tracey. Ridiculously healthy too! Sorry to hear the OHs are under the gloom of low cloud. I’ve take the (rare) opportunity to make good the pledge in on my ‘About’ to make everyday a BBQ day, except when going out of course ;)….

    • Thanks Phil, time and graft, but that’s long forgotten when the produce arrives. Good luck with your BBQs, I hope to have another before the summer ends 🙂 Forecast good for the weekend, but mist keeps rolling in, so we will see….

      • Thanks! And sorry for the terrible typos/autocorrects in that last message. The dangers of typing on the iPhone in a hurry…Not sure what I originally must have meant by Garden Procedure? Produce? 🙂

      • I got it – and know the feeling, once blogged lichen instead of kitchen 🙂 predictive text even more sensitive on Android Swiftkey, although since my brand new HTC One died during the recent Android Jellybean upgrade, I am now moping around with no phone. ‘Just pop into your nearest branch with the phone’ my carrier said. Round trip 300 miles, 2 ferries and a day. I don’t think so! Hopefully it will be back and healthy next week! Thanks!

      • You’re kidding? Nightmare! Otherwise a good phone though? Think I need to untangle myself from the Apple’s marketing web a bit. Love the Mac/iPad but hate feeling I’ve been sucked in! How times change; they were once seen as a welcome alternative to ‘mighty’ Microsoft. Now??

  7. I’d just love these. I don’t have your access to anything so fresh but it’ll be on the menu with the best that Leeds market can produce (and recently I did get – very cheap – the best tasting peppers I’ve had since leaving Romania). I don’t understand this ‘soup is for winter’ thing. They’re good for me anytime.

    • This originally referred to the soup being either hot or cold. This was censored by WordPress. This is the second time today that this has happened. Who the devil is WordPress to set itself up as a custodian of morals, taste or acceptable language? – Americans who litter our tv screens with four letter words in just about any film about anything.

  8. Just finished a fabulous bowl of soup using the stock of yesterdays chicken soup with added tomatoes, beans and peas from the garden; it’s 25 degrees outside and I loved it all the same. great pesto recipe, but three types of basil!

  9. Smir?

    Your herbs and vegetables look impeccable. Don’t you guys have any bugs? Sorry to hear thing are so gloomy, but your garden seems to be thriving judging by its produce. Soup and pesto look glorious. You do have a block of Pecorino for noshing on later, right? Ken

    • Rain as exceptionally fine drizzle, you can’t see or feel it but get soaked very quickly, very grey days usually. Good news is the weather has improved massively, see latest post on razorclams. Very few pests at the moment, been too cold but I notice the butterflies laying eggs now, only a matter of time. Thanks.

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