Tomato and sweetcorn soup with basil and pesto croutons

Sophie Grigson's superb soup tickles the taste buds, but the croutons add another lip smacking layer of flavours and textures
By Sophie Grigson
Tomato and sweetcorn soup with basil and pesto croutons
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4-6
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Effort: easy

Ingredients

main

  • 75 g leaves basil
  • 60 g pecorino or parmesan, or a mixture of the two
  • 60 g pine kernels
  • 3 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 125 ml olive oil

For the soup:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 ears of sweetcorn
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 fresh fillets of anchovy fillets, roughly chopped (optional, but a good idea)
  • 800 g canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 bouquet garni, (thyme, bay leaf and parsley sprigs tied together with string)
  • 1 litres vegetable stock or water
  • handful of basil
  • black pepper
  • 3 tbsp crème fraîche, to serve (optional)

For the pesto croutons:

  • 1/2 stick of French bread, sliced into rounds about 1cm thick
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp pesto

Method

1. To make the pesto, put the basil leaves, cheese, pine nuts and garlic into a food processor and process to a paste. With the blades still running, trickle in the olive oil, to give a creamy sauce.

2. If using fresh corn, stand the ear upright on the work-surface and slice downwards with a sharp knife to take off the corn kernels.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a moderate heat and fry the onion, garlic and chilli until softened.

4. Add the anchovies and fry for a few minutes longer until they have collapsed down. Now tip in the tomatoes, tomato puree, sweetcorn, and bouquet garni. Bring up to the boil, and then simmer until reduced by about a third. Now add the stock, salt and pepper, and bring up to the boil. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.

5. Set the oven to 190°C/gas 5. Brush both sides of the slices of bread with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Keep warm until needed.

6. When the soup is ready, remove the bouquet garni, liquidise about half of it for a slightly chunky, knobbly soup, or the whole lot for a smoothish consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning, then gently reheat.

7. Shortly before serving, shred the basil finely and stir into the soup.

8. Spread the croutons with pesto, and top each one with a small dollop of crème fraîche (if using). Serve the soup immediately, with the pesto croutons.

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