Tuesday 12 February 2013

Swede as ....

I made it through my first cookery lesson with nothing more major than cutting half my index finger nail off and creating so much washing-up that apparently it took four hours to clean up after me! Apart from that I think it went pretty well but we are in the process of fine tuning the details to make sure that they run even smoother in future.

One of the main vegetables that seemed to cause my students concern was the humble Swede.  No-one seemed to know what to do with it, when it turned up relentlessly in their veg boxes.  So I thought I would test out a few new recipes and see what I could come up with. First of all, I have to say that Riverford Swedes are in a class of their own. If you remember Swede as a dark orange-fleshed, cabbage smelling mush, then please give them another go.  I don't know if it because Riverford's Swedes are organic, or it is just that they are really fresh compared to others that I have had in the past but they really are quite delicious in comparison.  They have a much paler flesh and a much more delicate flavour - less turnipy, more creamy. Also, happily they have a much more subtle aroma and I even had the kids eating them.

There is actually mass confusion as to what Swedes actually are and opinion are split again North and South of the border but they appear to be a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, possibly first cultivated by the Swedes.  They seem to crop up quite a lot in Scottish recipes with not only "Neeps and Tatties" (Swede and Potatoes) but also "Clapshot" (pretty much the same thing with some butter and chives) or could it just be that their peak season coincides with Burns night.

I tried making some classic Swede and Carrot mash, which really was quite yummy. Swedes love butter and freshly ground black pepper and so do I. Next I made a Swede, Leek and Bacon Gratin. Bacon and swede are a fantastic combination but you could leave it our for a vegetarian option. Finally I made some Swede soup, which was really surprisingly delicious. Swedes are also a must in Cornish Pasties, great chucked into a curry or a stew and lovely addition in with your roast vegetables. So give the humble Swede another go and I think you will be pleasantly surprised. 

Mashed Swede and Carrot
Not really a recipe as much as a combination of two ingredients.  Boil cubes of peeled Swede and Carrots  in plenty of boiling water, until tender. Mash with lots of butter, a little salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Swede, Leek and Bacon Gratin
Serves 6

500mls Double cream
100mls Milk
2 garlic cloves peeled
1 nice big sprig of rosemary
150g smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons
2 tablespoons olive oil
Knob of butter
1 Swede, sliced paper-thin
3 Leeks cut in rings, washed and well-drained
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, garlic and rosemary over low-medium heat being careful not to boil over. Gently boil for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Fry the bacon in a little oil until really crispy. Add the leeks and a knob butter and cook until soft and just beginning to caramelize   This could take up to half an hour but is an important stage.Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Arrange i/2 your sliced swede on the bottom of a gratin dish. Top with the sauteed leeks and then top with the remaining swede. Press the layers down with a spatula to condense.

Pour the infused milk over and cover the dish with foil.  Place in a preheated oven at 170 degree C. Bake for 1 hour or so until a knife can easily be inserted all the way to the bottom.  Uncover and bake for 15 additional minutes until gratin is golden around the edges. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Roast Swede Soup

1 swede, peeled and cut into cubes
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely sliced
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
Small bunch fresh thyme, leaves only
1.25 litres/2 pints vegetable stock or water
142ml/5fl oz carton double cream
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Place the cubes of swede in a roasting tray. Drizzle over two tablespoons of the olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well and roast in oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and tender, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, stir in the onion, carrots, celery and thyme (either finely chopped or whole bunch tied with string).  Gently fry the vegetables for 10-15 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Add the roasted swede to the pan and pour over the stock or water. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring gently to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add the cream and purée the soup with a hand blender or in a liquidizer until completely smooth. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. 


  1. The rumbledethumps I made for Burns Night are also good for using swede - roughly mashed with potatoes, some shredded kale or cabbage mixed through and grated cheese on top.

  2. Yes I forgot Rumbledethumps. I love Swede and Kale. Yum!

  3. Swedes ('Neeps!) are lovely. I also had some delicious ones on Burns Night at The Haberdashery in Crouch End. Must eat them more often.


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